Risk was founded in 2011 by two friends, Antonina Samecka and Klara Kowtun. The company reflects their tastes, their ideas and their way of life; everything that matters to them, really—from culture, great designs, through the enjoyment of wearing them, all the way to support for local craftsmanship and respect for planet Earth.
“Our production is laid out with maximal environmental efforts in mind. We partner up with other companies like ourselves—ones that believe in sustainability, use renewable energy, minimise water use and CO2 emissions, care about good work environment. We’re 100% in sync about the role of ethics in fashion, but as designers each of us has her own unique specialty,” Klara says. “I love good old precision tailoring, which few people really want to deal with nowadays, but which makes our designs look great on actual people of different sizes and heights, and not just on touched-up perfect figures”. Antonina’s passion is translating cultural stories into clothing collections, she also believes in the idea of comfort clothes. She always strives for Risk garments to cheer you up, bring back good memories and, better yet, cultural references—just like soul food! “To us, clothes are made up of three things: the components, the make, and your experience when you wear it,” says Antonina.
Our obsession about perfect design is visible in all aspects of our work. We love hearing that something is just “not possible,” and then coming up with something that’s never been done before. If something is challenging, it’s bound to be interesting. We really enjoy prototyping, designing our own buttons, zippers and prints. Our colours are selected with light, Slavic skin tones in mind because if a garment works well with a pale complexion, it will play nice with a tan too. We often design fabrics, including their composition, completely from scratch; many of our partners modify them specially for us to make them more environmentally friendly. They begin using ecological yarn, changing up their production processes. If we use ready-made fabric or knitwear, we only choose those which are durable and can be used to design clothes that you want to keep on wearing forever. We make efforts to make them as good for the planet as possible; we use biodegradable fabrics, sustainable rayon, wool and linen, but also biodegradable polyester, cupro, certified Tencel (EcoCert, Ecolabel, USDA) and organic cotton (GOTS). Our fabrics are made in Poland and other European countries, the yarn comes mostly from Austria, Portugal, Spain and Turkey. We are obsessed with details, even the thread matters to us. To make very elegant clothes, whom we want to give some stretch for comfortable wear, we use thread that is twice as expensive as typical. The same thread is used for national football teams’ jerseys.
As designers, each of us has her own unique specialty.
How do we do it?
How do we do it?
Good garment construction is something we’re crazy about. Instead of using a still mannequin, we fit everything on people. And they don’t stand still during tests—they walk, jump, slouch, bend down, do everything that you are likely to do in daily life outside of the tailor’s studio. Our testers are between 158 and 180 cm tall and they represent very different body shapes. We know that we’ve done a really good job when a constructed garment looks great on everybody. The result? When usually, you can try on 10 different things and maybe one or two will fit, at Risk 10 out of 10 are a good fit. Okay, maybe 9 out of 10. ;)
How do you feel?
How do you feel?
“We always say that we don’t just design clothes—we design the experience of wearing said clothes,” Antonina says. We have tricks up our sleeve to make your figure pop, to make the whole thing look stunning while you feel as if you wear a comfy tracksuit which doesn’t limit your movements at all. Poland is choke-full of incredible artisans who work for the biggest fashion brands from Europe and the US. “Our team of constructors, technicians and technologists includes people who were in this business before I was even born,” Klara Kowtun points out.
But how comfortable you feel when wearing Risk isn’t just the result of our approach to constructing garments, there is another secret factor at play. Antonina’s skin is ultra-delicate, and all fabrics have to pass her test. “Whenever designers bring me new samples—whether cotton, Tencel, cupro, viscose or wool—they know that even the most beautiful weave, the best quality won’t ever make it into our collections if it’s scratchy,” Antonina says. We keep on looking for new fabrics which are comfortable and help your skin stay nice, just like the aforementioned Tencel and cupro.
We love hearing that something is just “not possible,” and then coming up with something that’s never been done before.
What inspires us to make a collection sometimes is fabric, and sometimes it’s our views (like the Jewish collection or the fairytale Dreamworld print, inspired by maps of the world), but our favorite thing is telling new stories about what surrounds us locally and what is closest to us. The winter snow in Warsaw, which I consider the most beautiful in the world, Polish wildflowers from our childhood, or folksy patterns from Łowicz in the Mazovia region. We know that what we’re familiar with, what we can feel locally, what is very personal, is exactly what gives us ideas that nobody in Paris or New York is able to come up with. They just don’t we what we can see. This is why so many people say things about our clothes like “this is just like me” or “I’ve never seen anything like it!” ;)
Our boutique is located in the same building as our design studio. In downtown Warsaw (6A Szpitalna Street), but not in a main road – it’s in a courtyard on the grounds of a former chocolate factory. You’ll spot something new every time you come in, and not just clothes, but also mysterious stories by Piotr Płoski (Studio Smallna), who created our store’s interiors. There is, among others, a steampunk “counter” made from the door of a French factory building, a gargantuan revolving lighting fixture made out of vintage lamps, a nose of a Cessna plane which flew in from the US and radar transmitters from an airport in France. The upstairs bedroom, where you can lie back and relax with a cup of tea or a glass of bubbles, can be reached through a geometric, Escher-esque staircase. Dropping by must be quite addictive, considering how many people pay us a visit every week.
And they don’t only come here for shopping. We regularly host concerts, sewing and design workshops, meetings with people of the art world, culture, science… Among our guests were philosopher prof. Tadeusz Gadacz, set designer Boris Kudlička, writers Tessa Capponi-Borawska, Agnieszka Drotkiewicz, Sylwia Chutnik and Marek Bieńczyk, the band Trio Strio or Łukasz Borowicz, a conductor at the National Opera.
Our favorite thing is telling new stories about what surrounds us locally and what is closest to us.
How we began?
How we began?
It was a simple idea. “We worked for ladies’ magazines. When editing the fashion section again, we noticed how a new, underappreciated classic joined the ranks of the trench coat and the little black dress. It was the gray hoodie. Both of our wardrobes had a couple of them. That’s when we decided to fuse the classic hoodie with all of these garments that you expect to be uncomfortable: the suit, the pencil skirt, the tailcoat or the floor-length evening gown,” Antonina reminisces. “We used to sew everything from blended sweatshirt fleece in a specific shade of optic gray. This required us to find extremely skillful partners—tailors and constructors—who have never made chic clothes from stretchy fleece and needed to come up, together with us, with completely new ideas for combining comfort and glamour. The right sewing factories were crucial, ones open to our needs and willing to invest in the adequate equipment. Back then, factories in this trade specialized either in sportswear or in couture, and we wanted both of these skill sets. Together with local knitting factories we designed completely new knitwear compositions, able to flow like silk, wool and other quality materials that we wanted. All of this taught us to approach problems with a ‘nothing is impossible’ attitude,” Klara Kowtun explains.
“The best thing we ever made from gray fleece? A collection inspired by the style of Leopold Tyrmand. It premiered at an exhibition about this writer, which we curated for Warsaw’s Museum of Literature,” they both recollect. It was noted by western editions of Vogue (it was before the times of Vogue Poland), and the promotional video by Kuba Łubniewski with music by Marcin Masecki won the best art direction award at Mercedes Benz Bokeh Fashion Film Festival in Cape Town. Our soaring Tyrmand-esque fashion show, staged on a slackline hung high above ground, was followed live by 1500 spectators.