Jewish Journal


June 2, 2012

How Jewish is your track suit?



There are two of them. One is Jewish the other is not. They used to create artsy track-suit-like dresses and skirts. Now they embroil David’s stars all over their projects. And not only that….

- The brand ‘RISK made in warsaw,’ established by Antonina Samecka and Klara Kowtun, is centred on a grey hoodie. Everyday we wear high heel shoes, skirt, etc. We realized though, that we each have at least seven hoodies in our respective wardrobes, and we feel comfortable wearing them– says Antonina Samecka, the Jewish part of the duo. Once The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee contacted them to see if they would like to contribute to a Jewish fashion show they got very excited by the idea. - Initially the committee wanted models to go on streets wearing Hasidic clothes taken from the Jewish Museum in Krakow. Boring! We wanted to show that we are modern—leave the seriousness and pomposity at the door. We wanted to show that you can play with the symbols and you can play with being Jewish – and that’s why we founded RISK FOR JOINT.

Communicating Jewishness?

- We wanted to show that being a Jew is cool and sexy, that it is modern and does not need to be fossilized or isolated – Samecka says. In the early 1990’ Jean Paul Gaultier showed a haute couture collection ‘Chic Rabbis” inspired by Jewish orthodox clothing. His sumptuously ornamented apparels, beautiful as they looked, were far from everyday wear. Samecka and Kowtun went a different direction an chose to display the easy-going part of being a Jew. Their aim was clear: show that the religion is relevant and sexy. - It might sound silly, but in Warsaw being a Jew is trendy. In some way it upgrades you and distinguishes you positively – this is how Samecka sees the situation in her milieu. - There is a café in Warsaw, it is called Chlodna 25. We sit there, we drink wine and than somebody says ‘I’m Jewish’. So we ask ‘What does it mean for you?’ ‘Actually nothing. I do not obey shabas, I do not eat kosher—it’s this attitude that goes well with wearing the RISK’s collection. It does not “dress up” people who wear it. Rather, it just gives a Jewish touch to the clothes that are already pretty artsy and underground.

Manifesting or playing hide and seek

When you first see the projects you may think that it is all about some kind of hidden manifestation. - Of course not! – Antonina protests. - We are not hiding anything here. The embroidery is made in fluorescent colours and it is impossible to miss it. It is not that we wanted to create a fashion-statement shouting ‘I am a Jew’. We wanted to observe the Jewishness of today and comment on it – she explains. Indeed, some of the clothes are very explicitly citing certain Jewish symbols: Mezuzah, Hamsa or Menorah and obviously the David’s star are omnipresent. However, if you are not familiar with them, you just cannot understand these references. - We wanted to take it with a grain of salt but at the same time avoid scoffing at Jewishness – this is how the authors of the collection see their work. They are just playing with the convention, countering the seriousness and dramatic thinking about Jews.

‘You wanna get your face smashed?’

Hidden or not, it seems to be a contentious issue to manifest your religious affiliation overtly. - When I was starting to work on this project, a couple of my friends told me that no one would wear the clothes, unless they wanted to get their faces smashed’. Samecka was always courageous though. Her grandma was terrified when one day she put on a David’s star and went to attend classes at her high school. Nothing bad happened. Why then, should people not show their Jewishness. - I do not want to use the word ‘mission’ but it is hard to frame it differently. I wanted to play with the Jewish symbols in a way that Jews understand but the general public (and people interested in criticizing Jews) may not. She underlines that the collection has nothing to do with hiding the symbols.

You had me at shalom

Moreover, the manifestation might have an additional appeal she thinks. - Imagine a situation: a Jewish woman is sitting with 10 men. She likes 5 of them but if she knows that one of them is Jewish it is obvious that she will focus on him, not the other four. This is how it works. It is even more true for Jewish men… You just feel a bond that is stronger because of nationality – says Samecka. This is how the duo came up with the ‘You had me at shalom’ T-shirt. The letters are large, it is not possible to miss them. After all, you do not want to miss an opportunity to meet Jews in a new environment.

Apart from the fun part and lively colours to attract attention, the collection engages in more serious issues as well. - The military stripes on a skirt is our commentary to the women in the Israeli army.

It is mostly about playing, but it enables people to wear symbols they normally would not wear. You put all that symbols on you but people do not recognize them – not a blunt statement, but a subtle way to reflect. - We are not talking about the conflicts or problems that Jews are facing, but it is a type of commentary, like a cartoon. It is not just a track suit with a David’s star embroiled.

The collection has its premiere tonight during the 7@Nite> event in Krakow. What is next? When asked about possible buyers of her products Samecka hesitates - Our brand has a lot of customers and I think they will be the first who will be interested in this collection. Even if they do not understand the symbols, they will like it’ A missed opportunity? Samecka does not think so - I believe that most of the collection will be bought by ‘local Jews’, which means friends and the friends of friends. Even though they claim not to be a closed Jewish clique, probably the informal channels will help to spread the word. - If there are some proposals to continue, we would love to. The constraint and limitations we met while crafting the collection have been very inspiring. For now though, we invested a lot, and whatever is going to happen, well, we will see after the first show.

The collection RISK FOR JOINT will be available on-line at midnight CET at http://www.shwrm.pl/ The project has been prepared by RISK made in Warsaw together with Monika Błędowska and Marcin Franczak.

(in www.ejpg.eu -> Lifestyle/ Fashion you can find photos of clothes)

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