A CARRIGALINE based business woman and designer felt her mum looking over her when she competed in one of the world’s most prestigious fashion contests last weekend.
Kasia Nita, a student of Mallow College of Design and Tailoring and was selected from 130 hopefuls from 30 countries to be part of the Frankfurt Style Awards last weekend.
She wasn’t a winner on this occasion but the opportunity has opened many exciting doors for her which she would have found hard to imagine when she arrived in Cork back in 2004.
Kasia comes from a small town in Poland called Opczno, and after living in Holland for seven years she came to Cork that year with her then young daughter Marta.
Having only poor English she worked as a cleaner in factories before progressing to study at the Crawford College and she now owns alterations business, Stitch N Time, in Carrigaline.
“Even as a child I had wanted to come to Ireland, after seeing pictures in a book when I was in primary school. It didn’t take long to feel comfortable with Irish culture and I love the landscape and the sense of fun. My English wasn’t good, and so at the start I was a jack of all trades including kitchen porter, cleaning houses and on shift work in different factories to support my daughter,” she said.
But the ambitious and talented young woman had always been interested in art and graduated with a degree in Fine Art and Design from Crawford College in 2015.
“Although I love painting, I have always been fascinated by the works of fashion designers such as Iris Van Herpen and Alexander McQueen and so I enrolled in a diploma course in the Mallow College of Design and Tailoring. I won an award in my first year and that encouraged me to continue.
“My mother had a small home business making made to measure clothes and it was very much a part of my childhood. From her I learned the fundamentals of design and a love for the physical work. Last January I bought ‘Stitch N Time’ in Carrigaline which provides made to measure clothes and alterations.”
Kasia, who lives in the city centre, admits that attending college and running a business at the same time has been challenging, but says she has a great team, loyal customers and tutors.
The awards have a design concept every year and this year it was HEIMAT 4.0.
“This is a German word which roughly translates as ‘homeland,’ a reliable place that someone can return to even after many years away and feel a sense of belonging. Heimat 4.0 questions what this means in a globalised, digital world?
“To come up with a design I had do figure out what Heimat means to me. My parents are now longer alive and I left Poland when I was 23. When I return there I don’t feel like I really belong. I love Holland and Ireland but I do not feel something that could be referred to as Heimat.
“So I decided that Heimat is about my relationship with my daughter (now aged 25) and friends which are so important to me. Also as I get older, I realise that I can rely on myself and trust myself to make the right decisions and there is comfort in that.
“It is also about my relationship with the natural world which now gives me a sense of belonging. So in the end I decided that Heimat is not directly related to a specific place but is a feeling that I carry around with me.”
Kasia said that ‘feeling’ was hard to convey in a dress and she spent an incredible 250 hours working on her dress that got her selected.
“The top part of the dress reminds me of a desert landscape and represents the past. The bottom part of the dress is more flamboyant and the different layers of fabric were designed to represent the ocean and also travel and change.
“I designed the back to represent a river connecting the desert and the ocean, and also connecting the future and the past. I suppose everyone is looking for the balance between stability and tradition and adventure and change.
“I genuinely didn’t realise how long it would take to make the dress. I had to find someone who could precisely laser cut the small pieces of the dress and the multiple layers of satin and taffeta have thousands of beads which were all sewn on by hand. It probably took over 250 hours in total.
“But it’s a brilliant feeling when you have put so much of yourself into something and then it is accepted for a competition. Only 10 designers won in the end, but I was happy to just be there. Sitting there in Frankfurt watching my dress on the runway, I felt close to my mother and I know she would have been proud of me.”
Her dress will now travel around the world including Paris and Milan as part of the Frankfurt Style Award roadshow.
“From a business point of view this was also an invaluable experience and a chance to make contacts in the trade. Already I am in talks to co-create a collection for a Berlin show next year and I am also hoping to work with a contact in Ireland on a specific collection for several trade shows in Europe in 2020.”