In the unpleasant cold of April, there is a varied line at the Andaz hotel in Prague. Corsets, Christian Dior handbags, vintage costumes, sequins, leather harnesses… The eyes are already fading from this parade, but the main fashion rendezvous awaits you on the first floor of the newly opened hotel.
This is where the parade of students from the UMPRUM clothing and footwear design studio begins, led by the first lady of Czech fashion, Liběna Rochová.
Early Sunday evening, as part of Mercedes Benz Prague Fashion Week, seven students selected over the years with Rochová presented a collection of eight models inspired by Czech legends, including that of Bruncvík or Princess Libuše.
“Each student chose a part of the story and told it in the form of clothing,” says Rochová, explaining that since they created images of clothing here with an emphasis on large forms of clothing, creativity and fairy tales, unlike the classic show.
Julia Sadloňová, Alexandra Gnidiaková, Barbora Kotěševcová, Magdalena Rajnohová, Jan Smejkal, Hana Valtová and Vojtěch Bašta spent three months under the tutelage of a teacher who regularly participates in similar events with her students during her thirteen years at UMPRUM .
What does a Fashion Week presentation mean to students?
It is important for them because they gain experience of the professional world and work with professional teams. This is a motivation for them, because if they take part in a competition, like the Van Graaf show on Monday, which incidentally one of my pupils, Tomáš Němec, won, they can attract the attention of the media . It wasn’t like that, but it’s getting better and better.
Thanks to this, customers also notice them and they start building a clientele. It’s slower, the Czech environment is a bit specific, because unfortunately clothes are a bit unnecessary here and Czechs are known not to dress much, although of course there are exceptions.
Does the buyer from Prague come from abroad?
Mounted. Now, for example, there were people from New York and Los Angeles, there are also journalists or photographers.
You often say that students should try to make their way to the main fashion weeks abroad. But how do you navigate your way to such events?
It’s very complicated, fashion is a specific medium. It is necessary to make a collection which naturally costs something, it is tens of thousands. You have to have good PR, you have to pay for the show… It’s a million dollar investment. It’s a paradox, I hope that will change, because time is starting to wish for the solitaries. Some small applied art galleries are also beginning to attract creators.
But to participate in fashion week, you need an investor who will pay for your participation. It is quite common around the world. To be able to establish themselves in the world, young creators need not only talent, but also an investor. They pay for their participation in a foreign fashion week, they notice it there and the wheels are already turning. When he’s lucky. He must be in the right place at the right time.
Can such investors be found among the Czechs?
At all. Exceptions are, for example, when an investor entered Kara or Pietro Filipi. And it ended as it ended.
You often insist on the fact that dynamism is absolutely essential for young creators. Is it possible to recognize something like this on entrance exams?
When someone has talent, you will know it right away, but talent is not enough. He spends about twenty or thirty percent. It takes diligence, obsession, being in the right place at the right time. I have already prepared questions over the years, from which I will know during the interviews if they have the necessary zeal.
At the same time, it can change in two years, break, because you never know what life situations are going to happen. When something like this happens, I try to help them, not throw them overboard. Because the students are not only future designers, but personalities in their own right, and I take them that way. I have respect for them, which of course must be reciprocal, I take them as partners. It is then beautiful to see how they grow and how they develop.
Do you stay in contact with them even after you graduate?
Certainly. I recently had dinner with two former students, others visit me regularly.
But how can the reader be maintained?
It’s in the human. I have a textbook that I read to students at the beginning of each school year that they have chosen an area that sometimes does not want healthy personality development, and that if they want to live a normal life, it is not not possible because they must be obsessed with work. And then you will not miss it, because you will be completely obsessed with it. Although general awareness and aspiration for new things is obviously necessary.
In one of the last interviews for Forbes, you said that creating ready-made collections kills creativity. Can it be avoided?
When you make clothes, you make big compromises and you kill creativity. And creative freedom was more important to me. I’m not a clothing retailer, I’m a creative person. Of course, I wanted to be recognized abroad, I was the first Czechoslovak brand to shoot abroad, but at what cost? I always wanted to do the things I stood for.
How do your students view clothing? Are they going downstream or trying to break the established cycle?
I try to get them to do it, but of course they have to decide for themselves. We work with fashion companies, for example, so they can see how much work is behind it and know how it’s going in the brands. At the same time, I lead them towards sustainability, because I also try to work like that.
Above all, I want them to design consciously, think about it, do excellent craftsmanship, and behave sustainably. And I support those who think that.