Peek-a-Boo Fashion

Fast Lane

Czech designer Monika Drápalová’s witty style

What’s Czech fashion designer Monika Drápalová’s wish for the style-wearing public? “Lighten up and have fun with it!”

Not a typical response from a designer who splits her designing time between France and the Czech Republic and one who believes her biggest challenge is bringing designs to regular people. But Drápalová is a creative force whose collections not only offer a touch of romantic whimsy, but also garner awards and positive response from across the continent. She most recently won the Czech Grand Design Fashion Designer of the Year 2008, awarded by the Academy of Design in the Czech Republic. She also collected kudos at last year’s Designblok, winning best collection for “Magic Legends.” She’ll be showing at this year’s Designblok event as well.

“I see the function in the clothes; I’m not an arty designer that only makes something for the studio,” Drápalová says. “I see how people behave, their character, and get inspiration from that.”

Graduating in fashion design from the Academy of Arts Prague; Drápalová’s initial professional work was designing costumes for a variety of films, television programs and theaters. She also participated in a number of international competitions while still studying, including ones in Switzerland, Italy and France. She opened her first Prague studio, Atelier Modrá in 1998, and followed up with a second studio in Lyon in 2001. Since the birth of her daughter two years ago, Drápalová spends most of her time in Prague. From 2003 to 2006, she was the fashion director of the couture collection for Karloff Paris. Her work is about evenly split between couture and her own designs, which is the way she likes it.

“I like the balance, you have the fantasy (of couture,) then you need to do something simpler for everyone,” she says.

Her recently designed new clothing “system” is creating a buzz and she’s having fun with it as well. Called Cache-Cache (French for hide and seek) it’s basically one piece of clothing that can be worn nine different ways.

“The individual can hide or show anything she wants; you can remove sleeves, put them on, have a casual shirt for day and add sleeves for evening,” Drápalová explains. “You can play, change the silhouette, and combine colors – sleeves black, dress white; you have many combinations from one set of clothes.”

What is difficult to explain is easily pictured. A jacket gets pulled down and now it is a jacket and a skirt. That same outfit can also be transformed into a short dress or a trench coat. Creative people are all over it; but Drápalová does admit that some explaining needs to be done.

“For some people, it’s sometimes too complicated – not everyone likes it,” she says. “It’s difficult, when you have a collection like this, to sell it, to explain. People have to try it on.”

Original but simple is how Drápalová likes to describe Cache-Cache, which debuted in her Spring/Summer 2009 collection. That mantra can be seen in many of her original lines dating back to her Autumn/Winter 2000 collection “Modrá.” Characterized by black and white; Modrá offered a stylish and sporty look. Contrast that with her 2007 “Spoil Me” Spring/Summer collection. Here the look is all girly, offering fanciful dresses and other fun looks. Drápalová doesn’t lay claim to any color, but always starts with black and white.

“I choose colors intuitively for each collection, black and white are always the base, then I add color,” she says. “But I don’t have any specific colors and there aren’t any colors I don’t like.”

What she does like, is taking a piece of clothing and seeing its potential.

“I’ll take a t-shirt, put it down, then change it into a skirt,” she says. “I want to put freedom into what you can do to it (the clothing,) I don’t want to make new forms, but change the form into something else.”

This probably is why her Cache-Cache collection is so distinctive. Drápalová has created the freedom for women to experiment with their clothing; plus go from the office to a cocktail party without changing. Do something simple, like throw the sleeves in your purse, and you’ve gone from a professional outfit, to one with a bit of flair for the evening.

“It’s simple, but chic and gives you flexibility and freedom,” Drápalová believes. “I think it’s magical to have something simple and transformable, but it is difficult to do it with style.”

Her Fall/Winter 2009/2010 collection features a new range of Cache-Cache styles. She’s also embarking on another new venture: Her first collection for men.

“I never thought I could do it, men are very specific,” she says. “But they (men) responded well to this system (Cache-Cache) and I felt the time was right. For men you have to be classic but modern.”

Besides her first foray into a man’s closet; Drápalová says her next task is bringing Cache-Cache international, finding a partner and taking it to the next level. But for now, she’s staying focus on the essentials.

“I try to make basic clothes, but with a touch of originality in the details,” she says. “If you are willing to play with it, you’ll have fun wearing it.”