Local fashion is ‘about the thinking, not the things’
Prague has yet to be mentioned in the same breath as Milan or Paris when speaking about fashion cities. Sure, we’ve got Gucci, Burberry and a host of other internationally acclaimed fashion houses, but not much to call our own. At least once a year though, Prague’s burgeoning underground fashion scene comes out much to the delight of the trendy locals.
“Before this, there was nothing,” said Jovanka Vlčková, project manager of Code: Mode, Prague Free Fashion Weekend. “People didn’t know something like this in Prague – it was the same clothes, same shops.”
Code: Mode brings together a host of Czech fashion, jewelry and accessory designers, puts them together in one place, and opens it up to the buying public, free of charge. Though the annual event is extremely popular now, the first one got off to a bumpy start. It was held at the Roxy/NoD Gallery back in April 2006 with only 30 vendors. Due to some bureaucratic issues, including problems getting a copyright for the tag line Prague Free Fashion Weekend, the event was skipped in 2008, with a massive return in 2009 to the industrial spaces of Karlín Hall and a new name, Code: Mode. About 6,000 people visited over the weekend, and Nikolaj Rýfr, Code: Mode’s graphic designer, said the vendors were a bit underprepared for the influx.
“That year, about 10 to 15 vendors sold out Friday and spent Friday night sewing to have something to sell Saturday,” he said. “In 2010, vendors were much more prepared, but then so many more people attended, nearly 15,000.” He adds that there is a lot of word-of-mouth advertising and activity in social media, and people are always asking when the next one will be. “We put a lot of work into it and are lucky to have such positive feedback.”
At the recent Code: Mode held in early August, they tried something new. Code: Mode Summer on Střelecký ostrov saw 15,000 visitors happily snatching up original products in the middle of the Vltava. Already on the first day, crowds of girls were pawing their way through the racks of shirts, skirts and dresses designers had on display. As they hold the “maybes” up to themselves, asking their friends’ opinions, helpful designers are well-prepared with a mirror. Tables laden with all forms of colorful jewelry catch the eye, and who can resist stopping and having a peak at the purses and bags?
“When it comes to vendors, we choose the best, but a lot also depends on space,” Rýfr said. “Karlín Hall has room for 120, here [Střelecký ostrov] we have room for 90, but we usually have 300 requests from designers, so we choose based on quality and variety.”
Organizers seemed to have chosen wisely. Vuchu Style displayed soft-colored rope chokers and earrings made from bits of tulle. The slinky dresses of Lenka Zlatohlávková were sure to be a hit with the clubbing crowd, while Playbag had an excellent collection of purses, courier bags and briefcases in styles appropriate enough for work, but with a little personality thrown in. Daisy Vintage Fashion offered up sparkly, shimmery glam while DaDiva had the comfy casual look down. Infantil was on hand with their fun T-shirts for the youngest fashionistas and for those who truly like to accessorize, Jane Bond offered crazy headbands adorned with butterflies and flowers. Dangerous-looking necklaces made from the tips of colored pencils, bottle-top earrings and pins with funny sayings – the variety and styles were endless.
Ilona Fiurášková heads up Acid Designs, making and selling industrial-style bracelets and earrings. The cuff-style bracelets are either sand-brushed steel or made from the parts of washing machines, and the ultra-cool look offers many options. It’s her third time participating in the event, and she’s quite pleased with it.
“All the young designers get to meet, there’s great organization, and it’s just a good time,” she said. Which is great for Vlčková to hear.
“The goal, for me, is when the designers are happy. They make good things and can offer them to the public, who like to buy it,” she said. “I’m happy to see that the people who come are interested in this type of event.”
Vlčková started Code: Mode simply because no one else was doing it. “I like nice original clothes,” she said. “I travel Europe and find it everywhere, but in Prague, nothing. I knew some designers and wanted to do it.”
Odd Room Designers have participated in the past three events, as well. The designing duo of Kristýna Javůrková and Iva Burkertová combines to make a wide range of women’s clothing suitable for young and not-so-young alike. Javůrková has an idea why the event is so popular.
“People are interested in uniqueness, something different. People know us personally as we do a lot of shows, and that makes the clothing more important,” she said. “People like to buy something face to face.”
As for Czech design, Vlčková has seen changes since she started Code: Mode.
“What’s at the event is young but growing up fast, and every event is more interesting.”
Javůrková believes there are still opportunities for expansion and innovation.
“Trends aren’t changing much. Designers realize people are buying the same thing and are afraid to change,” she said. “We like to experiment and be free. We visit fashion shows and bring ideas home.”
She said it was tough in the beginning because people didn’t quite catch on, but when they saw the whole collection, they understood and liked it. “It’s not just a collection but a whole philosophy.”
And a philosophy that aligns completely with Vlčková’s thoughts on Code: Mode.
“We make it with love and passion,” she said. “It’s about the thinking, not about the things.”