Agnes Hamerlik is a nouveau-couture brand which revolves around the luxury that exists within each individual, inspiring the flow of connection between body, material, and identity. Focused on redefining beauty, exposing the perfect imperfection in each piece with unfiltered rawness. Empowering the forgotten craftsmanship. Ultimately, she is an interdisciplinary artist and designer born in Poland. Opposed to accepted fashion and beauty standards, the collections revolve around the Japanese aesthetic of “wabi-sabi”; which focuses on a worldview centered on the acceptance of transience and art of imperfection; learning to see the invisible. Agnes is currently based out of Chicago and New York. Her showroom is located in St. Louis, where she is part of the Inaugural Class of the St. Louis Fashion Incubator.
HFL: How would you describe the Agnes Hamerlik brand? How did the initial start of your brand emerge?
Agnes: My mission statement:
Nouveau-couture brand which revolves around the luxury that exists within each individual, inspiring the flow of connection between body, material, and identity. Focused on redefining beauty, exposing the perfect imperfection in each piece with unfiltered rawness. Empowering the forgotten craftsmanship.
Often referred to as unorthodox, forward, and experimental, the Agnes Hamerlik brand expresses creativity and poetry through an unfiltered rawness executed through reinvention, deconstruction, and metamorphosis. Opposed to accepted fashion and beauty standards, the collections revolve around the Japanese aesthetic of “wabi- sabi”; which focuses on a worldview centered on the acceptance of transience and art of imperfection; learning to see the invisible.
Ambiguity, decay, irregularity, asymmetry, purity; the garments crafted show the use of indulgent textile manipulation, the juxtaposition of oversized and modified shapes, and the portrayal of an aesthetic dedicated to finding opulence in the unconventional.
The Hamerlik brand advocates an individualistic style for all its customers; inspiring a non-commercial flow of the connection between the body, material, and our identity.
Initially what inspired me to start my brand was a very visible disconnect between fashion and art. I’m looking for the missing bridge between luxury and maintained individuality. The appreciation for craftsmanship and opulent design. The need to break from trends and the hierarchy of what fashion dictates to consumers. The self-expression that is communicated through fashion.
HFL: What is your creative process?
Agnes: My design process is very intimate/personal. I’m fully dedicated to my creative vision and there is nothing more valuable to me. Fashion is a living art and I’m fully in it.
The design process certainly never starts and finishes the same way, which is something I cannot quite explain. I’m always hoping to find something in the smallest or slightest nuances of my daily existence. I rarely look for big inspirations, and rather something that intrigues me starts as a potential thought, feeling dream, or form of reflection. I always look for more potentially unusual and accidental reasons to start a new collection. I’m not looking for any clearance, finished thought, or a specific object. This is a lot of fun for me because I never know what could come next in my design process. It could be a new emotion, a little fragment of some random image, thought or piece of music. I believe in the interaction, cooperation of two, give and take; the combined effort of elements that come together in my head. I love constant change. One moment I think something is finished, the next day I see everything in a different light. For every new collection, I try to work on things I have never worked on before. In this process, new and unexpected discoveries stimulate my creative drive.
Yet if you have total freedom to design or create, you won’t get anything interesting or innovative. I give myself restraints and limitations in order to push myself, to create something unique. It might sound like self-imposed torture, but it’s the only way I can make a new, strong and unique creation.
A pattern is always needed in order to make a garment, but the starting point must be something I’ve never seen before. It’s not two-dimensional, but a sample; working and manipulating a toile until something new is created. I work with patterns like a sculptor stemming from my multi-disciplinary background as an artist. The final 10 percent of the design process is choosing the fabric where it becomes a real thing. I have the highest integrity when it comes to constructing my garments by utilizing classic couture techniques used by prestigious fashion houses.
HFL: What is your take on the fashion industry? As well as where it stands locally in Chicago?
Agnes: As fast fashion and trends (weakening the power of creativity) dominate our industry, even in the luxury sector, there is a small appreciation for luxury or handmade goods that go against the grain. There is this idea that individuals have to be exact replicas to one another, expressing their individuality but through trends.
For much of my career, I have designed for cultured women who appreciate craftsmanship and unique and timeless designs with a spirit of the avant-garde and unexpected. My clients are independent women who want to be known for their nuanced understanding of fashion and art, and who are willing to invest in quality over quantity. I hope I bring respect to this dying art of dressmaking and exquisite handmade items.
The educated customer is my customer.
HFL: What advice would you give someone starting up their own design business?
Agnes: To any designer or aspiring student wanting to start their own business, I always say remain true to yourself, your aesthetic, and your creative vision; practice your own craft. Get inspired by other designers, but don’t duplicate and create a replica, halting the creative process. Be adventurous, and never stop breaking the rules of creativity and what the industry dictates.
Don’t forget about your education. My training with master craftsmen helped me stand out by captivating an audience through my love for art, the creation of my own textiles, experimenting with new fabrics, and through the understanding and appreciation of unparalleled craftsmanship – be passionate about your work!
Observe, be sensitive, and take an advantage of the beautiful city you live. Nurture your dreams, stay true to yourself, listen to your heart, and most of all live what you love. Another unbelievable aspect is having the ability to cherish the people you meet along your journey. This helps me to keep my mind open, find new opportunities, and keep challenging myself because I know it’s worth it. I’m not afraid to take a chance.
HFL: What designers inspired you?
Agnes: The list is too long…
It’s like asking a mother who her favorite child is. I admire a lot of fashion designers. Each of them have different qualities.
I believe there is a place for everyone in the fashion industry. The problem is finding your niche. I’m looking forward to learning from the best. I respect all designers, locally and internationally, and their ability to create and offer something unique and inspiring every season. I don’t see anyone as competition, I strongly believe that we as designers can learn from each other and inspire one another. I definitely have a strong work ethic, motivation, drive and love for what I do followed by respect for all designers.
Your work should speak louder than words.
HFL: What does style mean to you?
Agnes: Style is much more than the latest trends — it is how you feel and who you are!
Written by: Geena Woolridge
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