A Conversation with Designer KAROLINA ZMARLAK

By Eden Herbstman

Spring 2014 

I first met designer Karolina Zmarlak during the photo shoot for her F/W 14 look book held in a penthouse at the Standard East Village. Floor to ceiling windows wrapped around the penthouse, and on this particular weekday afternoon, the city was coated with fog and rain drops splattered along the glass. In one of the windows stood a statuesque model, her back toward the camera, looking out at the gray downtown skyline. Clothed in sleek leather pants paired with a wool jacket infused with python that would make any observer do a double take- the setting made for a dramatic shot. But each of Karolina’s pieces brings the drama and sophistication for any type of setting…rain or shine.

This is one of the Polish born designer’s most daring and experimental collections yet, introducing new fabrics and textures complimenting her perfectly executed garments. Diamond cut leather, painted eel, double faced leather, and python infused wool are some of the exotics incorporated into this collection. This fashionable cocktail of materials may sound intimidating, but Karolina creates a chic and modern product that stands out without being overwhelming. Sticking to a predominately black palette with neutral tones as a balance, her muted color reinforces how her technical details highlight her clothing. Using motifs from the past, present, and future Karolina creates a timeless feel through her durable yet chic pieces.

Eden Herbstman: What is different about this collection compared to your past collections?

Karolina Zmarlak: There are more exotics. I wanted to take the idea of 1920″s glitz and glam, but make it modern. I don’t like things that are conventionally “pretty.” I like things with a darker edge and a bit more masculine. My challenge is how to take the concept of a classic party glamour and turn it into something with exotic details.

EH: How was it working with these new fabrics, and integrating them into your design process?

KZ: It was a lot of personal discovery. I place an emphasis on technical details, so the integrity of the fabrics is important to me. I”ve started to work more with double faced leather, which allows for reversibility, and it is a completely different sewing process. That has been a big deal for me, and learning about new products is always intriguing.

EH: What makes your brand unique?

KZ: In each collection there are pieces that are 100% reversible. The double faced leather we use on tops and jackets can be worn inside and out. This requires the craftsmanship to be absolutely perfect. The leather is also very light, which makes the pieces transitional. It is not specific to a season, it can be worn year round as well as day to night. I think the convertibility and reversibility of the pieces makes for an unique approach. Practical is the key word.

EH: Can you describe how your mood board maps out the inspirations that went into the clothing?

KZ: The mood board consist of images from Blade Runner, Gerhard Richter paintings, Oscar Wilde, and some 1920″s girls to name a few. The thing that connects all of these ideas is Vangelis. He composed the music for Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner. The aura of the Man Ray woman, and 1920″s lux meets masculinity, all of these things play together, and then the fabrics become the focus.

EH: Do you have a foundational idea you try and implement into your designs?

KZ: I want there to always be the foundational idea of how one personalizes and communicates oneself through each garment. That shows through the clothing”s reversibility, but in a lux way.

Karolina Zmarlak is a Polish born designer based in New York City with a graduate degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology.


Official Website for Karolina Zmarlak 

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Written by Eden Herbstman

Photography Courtesy of One PR

Design by Mina Darius 


Karolina Zmarlak, Photography Courtesy of One PR

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