Fashion is about more than just pretty heels

agata-mayerArticle and design by Agata Mayer, Editor-in-chief

2014, Washington D.C., The White House – First Lady Michelle Obama brought some of the biggest names in fashion to celebrate their talent during the cocktail party, which was totally off the grid. The main purpose of this event was to bring members of the fashion industry, such as designers, industry insiders and publicists and enlighten, educate and mentor the next generation of fashion leaders. It should be noted at this point that Americans spend over $350 billion a year on clothing and accessories, and there are plenty of jobs to be had, with 1.4 million Americans employed in fashion and retail. Well, the fashion industry had always a major impact on the economy.

2014, London, The White House – The Duke John Zylinski hosted a major fashion blowout for an army of designers to celebrate their talent on the catwalk and during the garden cocktail party.  It’s common knowledge that becoming an esteemed fashion designer is not the kind of thing that happens overnight or even to every eager and passionate college design major. But the Duke had some sound advice for the young designers who were invited to his palace. He was discussing with the students the glamorous and un-glamorous sides of the fashion industry. It has to be added that £6.2 billion has been spent across the UK over the last five years on impulse-buys such as clothing and accessories and the average British woman will spend £500,000 on fashion over a lifetime, in accordance to Daily Mail.

Did you detect a slight similarity between them? Of course you did!



The Duke, John Zylinsky at his palace

The concept of fashion education workshops and events has been on the table since at least a few years. Both sides spent many months planning and researching their new business ideas, but the British side spent even more time. The Duke wouldn’t have done this without Katarzyna Kwiatkowska – Działak, the CEO of Fashion Culture Project and a very dear friend to the fashion world.
One day, 3 years ago they just met and decided to work together, after considering fashion as a business and an art. They thought that thanks to its global nature and role in pop culture, fashion will be seen as a useful symbol for national creativity. They weren’t wrong!

The descendants of many aristocratic families still support the national culture, tradition and education or they perform an important function in politics. It’s also generally known, that the aristocratic families took care of their image. They adopted prevailing trends coming from other courts and even countries, or they just simply determined their own styles. I know that John is passionate about the 18th century. It was a specific period, when various historians consider the industrialization of society to be the starting point of fashion. Time, when changes in dress ceased to be the prerogative of small elites and became adopted by the majority of urban people in western Europe. For instance, women’s fashion was dominated by Paris, while men’s fashion was set by London. But in John’s line it looked completely different. The Duke was raised by his grandmother who charmed him with the magic of pre-war manners and elegance. It speaks for itself. He was the first person in his lineage interested in ‘fashion’. His family house has a huge history. It was a place for the whole exile elite. John’s grandmother was a person to whom he promised that he would rebuild the family palace, which on numerous occasions transform into a place promoting broadly understood Art. I know that not only fashion is close to his heart, but also Ballet and enterprising women…such as Katarzyna Kwiatkowska-Działak. But more about that, later.
Born in Ealing, West London, the Duke John Zylinski has been supporting fashion initiatives continuously since many years. Every year he opens the gates of his residence ‘The White House’ for the Fashion Culture Show and brings together promising designers. The main objective is to establish and strengthen contacts between European countries, to promote promising talents and to provide them with a wider audience.

katarzyna-kwiatkowska-jan-zylinski-by-piotr-apolinarskiThe Duke John Zylinsky & Katarzyna Kwiatkowska-Działak at the White House, London

I was wondering how it feels to be an aristocrat in today’s era of the perdition of moral values and ethics, in comparison to John’s childhood, therefore I caught a flight to London to meet the Duke in person. Unfortunately, questions concerning his family tree or how he sees symbols associated with tradition, honor, bravery and the bonds of brotherhood nowadays, in hands of fashion designers as an act of performance and their own statement “in a multibillion-dollar global industry” have to wait.
John threw himself into work and couldn’t participate in the meeting. Instead of that, I met Katarzyna Kwiatkowska – Działak in John’s private residence, lovingly designed and built by him. The whole property is breathtakingly beautiful, and not surprisingly, the neoclassical Louis XVI house had been used by TV crews and high profile clients including Victoria Beckham, Britney Spears, Leona Lewis, Kelly Rowland, Rihanna, Lady Gaga; world-famous designers such as Christian Dior or Roberto Cavalli; magazines such as Vogue, GQ, Guardian, Marie Claire, Vanity Fair, Korean Elle for their fashion photo shoots.


Katarzyna Kwiatkowska-Działak – a real Lady of a thousand faces and passions told me everything about their collaboration, difficult beginnings, bad and good sides of being in this branch and about the concept that stands behind the Fashion Culture Project. She was born and brought up in Warsaw, Poland where she graduated in Journalism and PR. After over fifteen years of assisting, organizing and directing many fashion shows, events and live concerts, in 2008 she decided to move to London, where now she supports talented fashion designers from the most prestigious European fashion schools. She proved that people who think that the fashion industry is all about catwalks, red carpets and who wore it best, are wrong. Garments that we see in the magazines as a finished product, required a very long and complicated process that is based not only on passion and creativity, but also on specific knowledge. Her project was described by many international and influential specialist periodicals as “the must-to-visit place on the map of Europe”.
“Fashion is really about passion and creativity, just like music or dance or poetry” – claimed Katarzyna. When I asked her what Fashion Culture is, she answered immediately: “Promotion art through fashion and fashion through art“. What can be more simple?
At the beginning it was a bridge between international fashion colleges in both Poland and the UK. But now the project is in its fourth season drawing in people from the world of culture, visual arts, fashion and photography.  After due consideration she added: “Fashion can be a powerful instrument for social change. It allows us to think about who we are as individuals and as a society”. The designers who participate first in the contest, then in the show represent a wide spectrum — from mass brands to high-end glamour to the more intellectual.
“Every season one pearl is discovered by our jury. Last year we represented Erïk Bjerkesjö, Swedish designer who was awarded by Cracow School of Art and Fashion Design and got an invitation for Cracow Fashion week organized in March 2015 in Poland. This outstanding artist has received many honors & awards globally” – said Katarzyna.



Kwiatkowska – Działak, a master of both high and low sartorial styles, will be hosting the 4th edition of Fashion Culture Project at the White House palace this September. She is going to transform the White House into a venue again for an elite judging panel for selected outstanding students from University of the Arts – London College of Fashion and Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design (UK); Polimoda (Italy); Flanders Fashion Institute (Belgium); ESMOD (Germany), ASP (Poland); Beckmans Designhögskola (Sweden); The Cracov Schools of Art and Fashion Design group – SAPU Fashion Design Department (Poland) and for many influential representatives from the wide circles of art, culture and diplomacy.
Dear reader! Save the date and see you in London!