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The Wsiura Store: Polish Rebel at the Hot Spot of Berlin Fashion.

Grześ and Dawid (Photo: Mor Shauli)

Wsiura is nonchalant, rebellious, defiant and at the same time deeply rooted in what is going on in world fashion. The store was opened in Berlin by two Poles and is now one of the city's hottest fashion spots. Its exclusivity is based on the rejection of anything that is predictable and boring or associated with wealth and celebrities. Wsiura has emerged from the ashes of traditional luxury and creates a new kind of luxury.

Photo: Mor Shauli

The store, [which takes its name from the Polish word for a crass, badly dressed woman; translator’s note], was opened in 2017 at Sanderstraße 22, between the two bustling multicultural districts of Neukölln and Kreuzberg. It is the brainchild of the designer Grzegorz Matląg and Dawid Mayser, who had initially planned to become a specialist in the Iberian language and culture. In 2007, Matląg set up the Maldoror brand, which was to become one of the most important enterprises in the history of Polish fashion. He took the name from the blasphemous poetic novel The Songs of Maldoror, which was written in the 19th century by the scandalous Comte de Lautréamont,who was later idolised by the surrealists Magritte, Breton and Dali. The Maldoror collections shown in Poland alluded to skinhead style, fetish clothes, the Biblical harlot, medieval images of the Holy Mother and to Diamanda Galás's bloody Plague Massperformance. The brand moved to Berlin in 2013 and has been based there ever since.

Photo: Mor Shauli

Dawid Mayser was born in Stalowa Wola but started his education in Kraków. “After high school, I was admitted to Jagiellonian University to study medicine or biotechnology, but I ended up studying Iberian Philology at the Pedagogical University. I studied for one year, and then I went to Spain,” explains Dawid. He studied fashion marketing at the Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) in Madrid. He returned to Poland in 2007 after the outbreak of the financial crisis had begun to cripple the Spanish economy. He soon emigrated to Berlin, though, and has been living there for 6 years now. Before setting up Wsiura, he worked for corporations in the field of fast fashion. “I wanted to leave the fashion business as a result. If I had not started working with Grzegorz, with whom I share a similar approach to fashion and who always goes against the trend, I am sure I would now be doing something else,” says Dawid.

Grześ and Dawid (Photo: Mor Shauli)

There is a strong link between Wsiura and the lifestyle of its owners. “We usually sell items by the designers known to us from our Berlin life. To give an example, we met Vava Dudu in the toilet at Berghain [a cult techno club; Editor's note]. And our customers are usually associated somehow with a broadly understood techno stage—they are fans or musicians. Sometimes we go to parties where half of the guests are wearing clothes from Wsiura,” Mayser laughs. Here, at Wsiura, you can really feel the atmosphere of the artistic, partying and open-minded side of Berlin.

Dresses for sluts.

Wsiura has clothes with labels from fashion houses such as Lolita Lempicka – Paris and Fiorucci. There are vintage items by Thierry Mugler, Versace and Jil Sander, designs from the first men's collections by Margiela (Line 10) as well as clothes from the Maison Margiela Artisanal line. Then there are the genuine Japanese kimonos. Some made of Ramie nettle fibre. Others crafted from snow-bleached fabrics. “The material is spread out on snowy mountain slopes. The fabrics are in fact bleached by the ozone produced in reaction to the sunlight,” says Grzegorz. “It is not easy to date kimonos because they are often made using techniques which are several hundred or even several thousand years old,” he adds. Wsiura also has post-Japanese designs by Maldoror. One especially popular line features dresses made of the narrow obijime straps and obiage tapes that are normally used to hold and shape the obi sash twisted around the kimono. The Maldoror dresses are only available in black. “They are parts of traditional funeral clothing; people in Asia get rid of them, and I turn them into elegant dresses for sluts,” says Grzegorz. They are suitable for evening wear and at the same time both subtle and fetishistic.

Photo: Mor Shauli

Wsiura artists 

Photo: Vava Dudu

Wsiura has a star and her name is Vava Dudu. This artist, performer, DJ and singer of Haitian origin is based in Paris and London and creates clothes which are also works of art. Lady Gaga  wears a trench altered by Vava Dudu in the music video Bad Romance. Peaches is another singer who performs in her clothes. Garments designed by Dudu are pop-style, multicoloured and result from the process of destruction; they are usually crafted out of ready-made items. The designer often writes meaningful slogans on them. “Vava has got big breasts, and she likes to show them off. She often cuts holes in T-shirts to reveal the bust. She has recently created a T-shirt and filled the area around the chest with the vulgar words that can be heard on French streets shouted out by the proletariat,” explains Grzegorz. Vava Dudu has her studio at the rear of the store, next to the Maldoror studio. When she shows up at Wsiura, her fans flock into the shop. Wsiura is probably the only boutique that offers Vava's designs in regular sale.

Photo: Vava Dudu

Wsiura also collaborates with Maldoror’s friend, Paulina Plizga. She was born in Silesia in Poland and started her career at the turn of the 90s in Paris. You can watch her first shows, or rather her extraordinary performances at www.youtube.com/user/polynetta. Plizga now lives in a historical waffle manufacture in Roubaix, near the French-Belgian border. She crafts most of her designs herself; she often makes her own fabrics, too. Plizga's clothes belong to the world of art.

Zuzanna Czebatul (Photo: Mor Shauli)

A sex swing downstairs

The Wsiura store has two floors. Upstairs, you can buy clothes and accessories, as well as designer objects, books and zines. The publications are displayed on a grey cubist structure which is part of the Collar installation by Zuzanna Czebatul. The entire structure, supplemented with jewellery busts, was shown at the Heidelberger Kunstverein in 2011. Born in Międzyrzecz, Czebatul is now one of the most interesting individuals in the world of art. In 2015, she was listed by artnet.comas one of the 50 most exciting artists in Europe. Before that she worked as a bouncer in Tresor, a legendary techno club opened in 1991 in Berlin.

Zuzanna Czebatul (Photo: Mor Shauli)

Among the things displayed on the grey cubes you can find sunglasses inspired by the ones worn by the characters of the 1999 Matrix film. The design is now being widely interpreted by global fashion houses, such as Prada or Alexander Wang. At Wsiura, you can buy the original vintage model with the Matrix company sticker. They cost 20 Euros. The remains of Czebatul's installation also display a vase designed by Bas van Beek (the former designLAB Rietveld Academy manager is now the Netherlands' leading deconstructivist designer) and underpants by W.&L.T., a reminder of the 90s brand owned by Walter Van Beirendonck, who is one of the so-called Antwerp Six. The abbreviation W.&L.T. stands for Wild and Lethal Trash.

Photo: Mor Shauli
Grześ on the left (Photo: Mor Shauli)

Downstairs, in a basement resembling Berlin's darkrooms, there is a sex swing. The plaything is made of an iconic chequered bag, the type used by stallholders in the post-Soviet and post-communist countries.

Grzegorz and Dawid even do a little gardening in this gloomy, humid basement. They grow plants which favour darkness, such as nettles and potatoes. The walls of bare and grimy bricks are lined with sports, military and fetish clothing, among which there are many artistic designs, for example the outfits made of tree protector straps which once belonged to the Barcelonian performer Maria Basura.

With a ribbon and in harness.

At Wsiura, the line between fashion, art and porno has been blurred. Here you can buy clothes by Versace or Yohji Yamamoto; you can listen to techno music and buy sunglasses for 20 Euros; you can use a sex swing; you can admire garden weeds; you can view top art.

Photo: Mor Shauli

One of the most interesting artistic events that has taken place at Wsiura was a dance and music performance by Frédéric Gies. He is a dancer and choreographer associated with Berlin and Stockholm. Gies developed ‘technosomatics’, an auteur dance technique based on techno music. “Technosomatics (...) is based on the individual and collective exploration of the endocrine gland and the chakras through techno club dancing and, in reverse, exploring club dancing while focusing on glands and chakras,” appears on the website of the Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, where Gies has recently held a workshop. At Wsiura, he performed the Ribbon Dance, a project created together with the visual artist Anton Stoianov and the DJ and Berghain resident Fiedel. Gies wore a harness and a jockstrap designed by Maldoror during his performance.

Photo: Dawid Mizera

Grzegorz and Dawid have created their own small empire and a place which perfectly corresponds with Berlin—a city of sexual and moral freedom, a city where freedom and diversity are valued more than anywhere else. They have based their efficient business on their own lifestyle, passion, ideals and art. They have not set in motion any complex marketing and PR machinery. They simply sell and show what they think is genuine. They are uncompromising in their decisions.

Translation Elżbieta Pawlas/Solid Information Solutions; Proofreading Linda Wilharm

Marcin Różyc
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Błażej Zalesiński
Błażej Zalesiński24.10.2018, 10:10
Ach ten Berlin

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