Jiri Kalfar is a ground-breaking Czech designer, combining high fashion with a passion for environmental awareness and sustainability. His designs celebrate freedom of the soul, even in times we don’t feel that free. We talked to the designer about his collection and hopes for the future.
Cover photo: © Jiri Kalfar
Congratulations on your latest collection! It’s all about a blank canvas, ready to create a new world on. What would a new start look like if it could be anything you wish?
Jiri Kalfar: “Anything that people like to wear and feel comfortable in, but in a conscious way. Upcycled or vintage, cruelty free and organic. We could just start where we left off, but more conscious and caring. The new look would be more humane and less vain.”
Adapting during lockdown
How did the past months change the way you look at fashion?
JK: “Dramatically actually. I have never been into fast fashion nor trends. Rather, I viewed clothes as an “universal language or form of expression”. An opinion, if you put it that way. But in the last few months I could listen to the silence and really found out that fashion nowadays is often empty screams and noise, rather than silent joy.”
“Fashion nowadays is often empty screams and noise, rather than silent joy.”
How has the lockdown influenced your design and development process?
KJ: “Of course it has. But thankfully I’m lucky to have a great team who has been with me for years now. So we could find a “rhythm” and structure – even during lockdown. We don’t use many external people or factories and everything is made in our studio so it was easy for us to adapt the manufacturing to “home office”.
Since we use mostly organic and vegan fabrics, we have had no problem with supply chains; there is smaller demand. We use local manufacturers too, so it has been organized in a way that we could continue almost as normal. We just took it slower. In a situation like this, it’s important to step back and take it day by day.
“In a situation like this, it’s important to step back and take it day by day.”
That being said, we’re just at the beginning of the second wave here in Czech Republic. Therefore, we are currently going back to the structure we infiltrated during the lockdown in April and May.”
If you’ve got the chance, would you ever return to showing at LFW or NYFW?
JK: “Of course, yes. I am a showman and I love showing. I am kinda terrible at marketing, possibly because I just don’t enjoy trade shows or social media but I really enjoy showing. I think it comes from me being a ballet dancer originally.”
You incorporate sustainability in every collection. It seems to be at the heart of what you do. What sustainability-related achievement are you most proud of?
JK: “What makes me proud is passing on the knowledge and experience that I have gained. Because we have been sustainable from the very beginning, even before it became a trend, lots of clients found out about my brand because of that. I think maybe we helped them to understand that sustainability doesn’t necessarily mean boring or bland. Rather, it’s a conscious choice. Which clients might now do more and more often. Not only in buying clothes but in general – looking for local suppliers, cruelty-free products or simply buying a little less.”
How do you encourage your customers to become more sustainable?
JK: “I think it’s all based on trust. What they see is what they get, I can tell them the story of each product, who held it before it became garment, how many hours we spent on it, that only a handful was made … and I’m only a small designer, so with each product I give my name and my eponymous label as a warranty.”
How would you describe the style of your latest collection?
JK: “Free. And trust me: it’s actually challenging to create a collection which you want to be free, yet can’t be shapeless and needs to have a structure! I thoroughly enjoyed working on this collection. Maybe because of the silence I spoke about earlier on. Maybe that is what this collection is, silent.”
What’s your favourite item from your latest collection?
JK: “Oh, I can’t choose my favorite. They all mean something special to me. I have them hanging on hangers in my studio and I love how they just look great together as a collection. Really like a blank canvas.”
What can we expect the upcoming years from your brand? Will things change tremendously after the pandemic?
JK: “I get this question a lot these days but to be honest, I cant answer it. Even if I want to. The world is changing and right now it can go both ways, back to what it was, just fast fashion damaging the planet, in which I’m not interested. Or we can all come out of it stronger and better, creating more positive and conscious trends and society. That I do hope for …”
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