MORE ABOUT THE SOULISTKY PROJECT FEATURED IN THE ARTICLE / The key ideas of Project SAPIENCE are concentrated in the visionary side project Soulistky (Soulists), which had its premiere last year at Designblok in Prague, Czechia, and this year was presented to an international audience through the Fashion Open Studio on the occasion of the Fashion Revolution Week 2022 in April. What does it actually look like when the customer is actively involved in the production of their clothes? This is what Barbora decided to find out in her studio where she invited five women, interesting personalities in the field of Czech culture, who, for a stretch of time, became part of the creation and co-authors of their unique models. These women actively and energetically took on their new role and were involved in the whole process of production, from the choice of the cut and fabric to the sewing itself. The result is five completely different models, each created to suit a different occasion and, above all, with an emotional investment that will never fade. The unique products that have emerged from the SAPIENCE patterns bear the imprint and stories of each woman. The makers jointly outline this new concept in the short film that accompanies the project.
INTERVIEW WITH BARBORA PROCHÁZKOVÁ, THE FOUNDER OF PROJECT SAPIENCE
Project SAPIENCE allows anyone to create an original piece of clothing on their own, using only a sewing machine and your instructions. You’ve taken an unconventional path of bringing fashion to customers. What is the vision that started this project?
In the course of my studies, I began to search purposefully for a meaningful sustainable way to continue in fashion. I had matured in my views, my thesis was around the corner and suddenly it wasn’t all fun and games (not that it was up until then). Having made the decision to reach the end, I wanted to graduate with something I could develop and stand behind in my professional life. My thoughts revolved around the fact that there was no need for more clothing brands; instead, I wanted to bring a tool to the fashion world that would push those interested towards independence and self-sufficiency that mass-produced fast fashion isn’t very fond of. And it was the cuts that offered an affordable alternative to buying clothes in shopping malls. I figured that change and ideas had to come from our circles, which, to put it hyperbolically, bring trends. It’s also largely an educational tool through which the participant gets a first-hand taste of what it takes to make clothes. They may then be able to better evaluate the price of products on the shelves.
What aspects influence the creation of your cuts? What requirements does the design have to meet?
I always try to keep the design timeless and variable. I actually only have a few pieces in my closet that I like to wear over and over again. So, two things are important to me: I design in such a way that the resulting form works both in its basic format and is functional for the everyday wearer, and also that it offers room for more artistic renditions and creates something stunning. A small example – the Cecile dress, if made of linen or cotton, looks pleasant for summer, interesting and harmless. But the same Cecile made in satin, supported by an underskirt with hand detailing in the form of tiny beads will be, in my opinion, a divine wedding dress that really is nothing to be ashamed of. One cut, therefore, inherently offers an infinite number of variations. The only hindrance is creativity itself and also experience regarding more difficult pieces. But that can be worked out with practice. The second essential point is that the design should carry some piece of me. A detail, an idea, a little bit of authorship that sets the creation apart from the cut-pattern companies that already exist. Sometimes the idea is stronger, other times less so, but I look forward to when the pattern catalogue contains 20 designs. There the line will be clearly visible. My goal for the future is to create a solid foundation of designs that will succeed as a full wardrobe.
You point to a great deal of creative freedom in both fit and choice of material. At what stage of the creative process do you feel most free?
I think all of them, actually. It all stands and falls with me, so freedom is everywhere and nowhere. But each of the phases is completely different and interesting in a different way. I love it when inspiration strikes and the first vision of a new pattern appears, creating and prototyping it gives me excitement and fulfillment, something completely new is created under my hands. Equally appealing to me is the freedom of playing with the finished cut myself and sewing my own original pieces for fun. Testing out different techniques, materials and using the pattern to its fullest. I also egg myself on a bit redarding the transformation and, depending on my mood, I sometimes want to show my followers just another interesting approach to think about, other times to offer them a spectacle and take the cut to a completely different level. My favourite cut to do this with is the Peony rope cocktail dress, which is also featured in the video. This is my little secret space for designer self-expression that makes it possible for all the technicalities that every cut and development requires to be sidelined.
In your latest project Soulistky, you guide five amateur female artists through the entire production process. Do you see this concept as a new take on made-to-measure fashion?
Yes, absolutely. I see this concept as the visionary vision of Project SAPIENCE, which is unprecedented (as far as I know) and for me, personally, starts a small revolution. The main idea was conceived in 2019 when SAPIENCE got awarded in the Fashion Design category in the Diploma Selection competition at Designblok. Back then, I presented only two looks there – a dress and a jacket in eight different concepts – starting from their quite basic versions, to a strong artistic overlap into fashionart. I was demonstrating creativity and variability, which I also find sustainable. The cut can be circulated and changed over and over again. As the winner, among other things, I gained a fashion show at the next edition. Already that evening, I was thinking about how to put on another show in the spirit of SAPIENCE’s values and the idea came immediately. To reach out to women, interesting personalities of the Czech cultural scene, who don’t get to sew but have a relationship with fashion, to sew their own model together with me from the patterns and through their reach and actions inspire other women and motivate them towards the possibility. And so former Dolce Vita editor-in-chief Danica Kovářová, Shotby.us photographers, actress Eva Josefíková, and fashion journalist Veronika Ruppert became part of the process. I don’t know of anyone who has implemented this approach before me, it’s very original and truly individual work, and to some extent it’s also challenging because you’re guiding someone who knows nothing about it through the professional process, you’re teaching them as you go along. But it’s extremely interesting and profound. Over time, it’s been lovely to see how each of them has dealt with the design nature of the work in their own way. The patterns gave the models a basic form but then they thought about the garment according to their own needs, moods, aesthetics. For example, with Eva, who has a little girl, we upgraded the cut to create a knot so she could carry Lotta around. It was just a beautiful creative and individual work.
Do you plan to continue this concept and expand it for more interested parties?
100%. The concept is clear and can exist as long as we want. I also see the whole Soulistky side project as a kind of mission that is not dependent on trends or seasons, it’s more of an artistic endeavor that expresses an attitude and a new statement of DIY dimension. I’m constantly kind of struggling with why to produce anything at all. The out-of-the-box and unprecedented added value that touches the soul of the co-makers is one of the reasons that stands out for me. Plus, it can only be realized in small quantities, so, finally something on a human scale that thus becomes elusive and is the essence of the whole Project SAPIENCE. I won’t reveal the other interesting women I’m in talks with about collaborating, even for these women it’s a kind of invasion of privacy and time, I’m not rushing anywhere, there will be a sequel. And if there is someone who is interested in such an experience, let them contact me in return.
How did your family influence and support your plans to become a fashion designer and start your own business?
In my case, definitely a lot. They have never stopped me and, on the contrary, supported me, despite the fact that both my parents are in the artistic field and therefore know how difficult it is to make a name for yourself, make a living and what you are getting into. My mother teaches art history at the Secondary School of Arts and Crafts in Uherské Hradiště and my father has been working in natural history illustration for 30 years, so they could hand out experience. I appreciate all the more now in retrospect that they gave me full freedom in my decision and we celebrated the acceptance to the Academy of Arts, Architecture, and Design in Prague to the studion of the great Liběna Rochová with the whole family. And they still support me to this day. I was really led to sensitivity to art, nature, all living things and also ecology since childhood. All the frequent trips, exhibitions, rescuing animals, proper recycling, care for folk costumes, etc,. left strong roots and a solid foundation in me, which I later somehow naturally discovered in my own work and especially in the choice of themes, whether it was charity projects, collections for people in wheelchairs or the path to Project SAPIENCE. I’ve always been a bit out of the “glittery fashion mainstream” and I’m glad for that.