Karolina Laskowska — young British lingerie designer, with a completely unique style, crazed about corsets, harnesses and experiments with combining accessories with outerwear and amazing capacity for work. Things that Karolina have been creating were popular even in time when she was studying in university. It induced her already at that time to build a brand and to open her own online store. And in 2014, almost immediately after graduation Karolina won Press’ Best Brand award at the Lingerie Edit and New Designer of the Year at the UK Lingerie Awards.
I really wanted to interview Karolina and learn first-hand about how she works, where she draws inspiration from and what her plans to the future.
Karolina, I know that many people think of you as a phenomenon, because you created your brand and the name, in time, when you was studying at the university. And you’ve recently got the New Designer of the Year nomination at
the UK Lingerie Awards 2014. It’s great! Yet, I think that everything you have achieved is a logical result of your very hard work.
Please tell me how much do you work? What is your ideal work-day?
It’s quite difficult to specify an exact amount of work that I do – it varies from week to week! Since graduating from university, I try to stick to working in my studio from 11-6pm every day, with computer and admin at home before and after. If it’s a particularly busy time though I’ll often work longer hours and sometimes weekends. An ideal work day would probably involve the last stitching stretch on a custom order – there’s something very satisfying about finishing garments, particularly when they’re one offs that I’d already devoted a lot of time to!
Do you have a team or do everything by yourself? I think that business issues, site support, maintenance of social networks themselves require some knowledge, skills and time. How do you get to do it yourself? What is new, unusual, interesting you learned while dealing with the things ‘near your brand’?
I mostly just do things by myself, there’s no ‘team’ as such! I have some extremely supportive family and friends though, so they’re always happy to give me a helping hand when I struggle with something. Regarding the business knowledge etc – I’d say that’s mostly learned through trying things, making mistakes and learning from them. Many things are also from my friends in the industry who’ve been incredibly supportive what I do – particularly brands like Kiss Me Deadly, Ava Corsetry and Sparklewren. I dread to think how many times I’ve pestered them with business and technical questions! I’d say that one of the most interesting things that I’ve learned through my brand is that it’s near impossible to predict what kind of designs people will like most, and what they will buy – I’ve seen my favourite pieces get completely ignored, whilst ones I’m not particularly attached to fly out of the shop!
When did you first start to think about what to become, was it anything related to fashion? What exactly did inspire you to create lingerie? And what keeps the fire burning now?
At school I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life – I applied to an Art Foundation course to delay making a decision for another year, but I’d been leaning mostly towards either Law, Psychology or Linguistics. It wasn’t until I accidentally came across this blog post during my Summer holiday that I’d even considered going into lingerie: “The Most Gorgeous Lingerie You’ll Never Wear” – I couldn’t get over how beautiful the designs were, and when I read that this was the work of a student on a course that specialised in pretty knickers – well, it was a lightning bulb moment! I knew that it was exactly what I wanted to do, even if up to that point I hadn’t even considered the possibility that it could be a career. I’d been a little obsessed with pretty underthings (particularly corsets) up til that point, so it did just seem to be the perfect course for me. I suppose what keeps the fire burning now is the fact that I enjoy what I do so much – being able to play with gorgeous laces and silk every day is the perfect job.
Please tell me about your course at the university? Was it difficult for you to enter? How did you prepare for examination? What did you study and what has the course given you?
Creative degrees in the UK don’t require any examinations – you submit a personal statement (explaining why you want to study and your experience), after which the university either invites you for an interview or not. You bring a portfolio of your work to the interview, tailored to show your work that’s most relevant to the course. You can actually see the portfolio that I applied with here (University: Contour Fashion Application Portfolio) – though it seems very far away now, given that I was only 18 when I applied! Everyone on the course studied the same things – there were lots of different modules that covered almost all areas of contour wear. Pattern cutting, construction, computer-aided-design, illustration, embellishment… There’s so many things that I’m struggling to remember! There’s more information about the course here.
How did you work on your graduation collection? What has inspired you to choose the fabric and color? Will you put anything of it for sale on your website?
As with all of my university design projects, it all started from a sketchbook. My original area of inspiration actually started off being the colouring and patterns within orchids and boxes of macarons! When I found the vintage kimono silks for sale, the patterns were simply perfect and I had to use them. It was more chance than anything – the patterns and colours just fit my sketches so well.
Unfortunately none of that collection will ever go on sale as the designs no longer belong to me as they were part of my studies so I am not allowed to sell them.
Tell me please about the most difficult and/or interesting lingerie you’ve created.
I’d say my graduate collection was probably the most challenging lingerie I’ve ever created – largely due to the time constraints and the pressure involved. We didn’t have much time at all for that project – only a few months to pattern cut, toile, conduct market research, fabric research, sketchbook work, production packs, technical illustrations, sewing the final garments (which took especially long for me as there was so much hand sewing involved!). However I would say that as a consequence it was the project I’ve learned the most from – because I was so forced to push myself and take risks and to try new things.
Your brand logo looks very interesting and unusual. How did you come out with it?
It wasn’t me that came up with it actually – it was a graphic designer called Anna Gordon. I asked her to create something clean and modern, but inspired by the feminine floral shapes within lace.
I found out on your brand’s site that you like bespoke orders. Why? What is the process of creating such things? How do you manage to combine your client wishes toghether with your perception of the item?
I enjoy bespoke orders because it’s a chance to focus on every last detail on a single item, as well as the opportunity to create something unique and new – after all, sewing the same harness thirty times in a row isn’t exactly the most exciting task! That said, I will be having to cut down on the number of custom orders that I accept this year, as they just take so much time. Usually I either have clients who have a very specific idea of what they want, in which case I just follow their instructions to the letter, or I have clients who totally leave me to create something brand new – which is a bit riskier but usually ends up with the most exciting possibilities and designs!
What are the main principles in your work? And plans for the future?
The main principle is kinky sexy pants of joy! ;) Creating beautiful things but keeping a sense of fun! The plans for the future are to keep doing what I’m doing – designing gorgeous lingerie and expanding the business. My next main aim is to outsource some of my production so that I can focus more on designing new things and growing other sides of the business- I spend too much time sewing at the moment.
Karolina, tell me please about yourself, your life? What do you like? What makes you happy?
Well, the obvious answer here would be lingerie – my life revolves around it! I don’t just enjoy designing and sewing it, but I collect it an wear it. Luxury lingerie and exquisite vintage pieces are my absolute weaknesses – especially corsets.
Can you give a piece of advice to those who are just in the beginning?
To have confidence in yourself and to never undervalue your own work – both areas that I struggled with right at the beginning!
You can buy all beautiful lingerie made by Karolina Laskowska directly on her website — karolinalaskowska.com
PS: Karolina kindly provides all Garterblog readers with 15% off discount code ‘garterblog-15’ which will be valid till 17th February!