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Standing on the shoulders of the Czech Republic’s historic jewelry and glass industries, these ten designers and studios showcase innovative combinations of traditional craftsmanship and cutting-edge technologies, and even manage to throw in a mix of poetic concepts. Culture Trip brings you ten of the best Czech designers that you should have on your watchlist.
Jewellery brand Zorya is the collaborative effort of Daniel Posta and Zdenek Vacek. The designs combine the team’s experience in the industry with an innate feel for materials, detail, creativity and craftsmanship. As a result, Zorya pieces are strong, elegant and fragile all at once, just like the brand’s main inspiration and namesake, Zorya – the Slavic trinity goddess who simultaneously represents virgin, mother and old woman. Their 2012 Virus Collection was inspired by the biological and chemical processes behind a viral attack. The collection is divided into two parts; the first a spatial study using chemically grown, crystal-covered strands; the second a collection of chains mingled with baroque pearls and rough diamonds. These pieces comment on the values and aesthetics of luxury, emphasising the transformation from an ephemeral substance to a visually stunning object.
Product and furniture designer Lucie Koldova established her own studio in Paris in 2012, having moved there in 2009 following her graduation from the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design, Prague. Prior to the opening of her own studio, Koldova worked with Arik Levy Studio as a furniture designer. Koldova is inspired by the cultural diversity of Paris and works for international clients on product, conceptual space, urban and object design projects, but she also creates limited edition pieces for galleries. Using a combination of classic craftsmanship and cutting-edge technology, Koldova’s furniture pieces, glass sculptures and lights push both design practices and materials to the limits. The main materials in her work are wood and glass, as shown in her designs Capsula (lights) and Wrap Tables. She focuses on these materials and their qualities, contrasting them with experimental combinations of colour and proportion.
Jewellery maker Vera Novakova has been working as an independent designer since 2001, following her graduation from the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design, Prague, where she had studied studio metal and jewellery. She creates original, limited-edition pieces and has exhibited at several prestigious shows including the international exhibition of Contemporary Jewellery d’Auteur, Schmuck 99, in Munich. Novakova has a novel approach to jewellery design, using a combination of traditional materials and processes alongside experimental forms. The resulting collections, such as Sepiserie, made of patinated silver, are visibly innovative, and yet resemble conventional jewellery pieces. In a unique move, Novakova underlines the importance of comfort in her designs, ensuring that they are not only visually striking, but also easy to wear.
Studio Pirsc Porcelain was founded in 2005 by Daniel Pirsc, whose aim was to develop a completely new way of manufacturing porcelain in the 21st century. Studio Pirsc Porcelain specialises in small-batch production pieces with a focus on innovative production technologies. However, the studio still maintains a level of craft skill and concept in all its designs, giving rise to projects that are instilled with a sense of personality and wit. Pirsc’s Crosses demonstrates an innovative vision for porcelain in interiors; as a three-dimensional wallpaper, it provides a flexible and highly variable interior design solution. In fact, the studio often goes even further, employing its choice material in a variety of contemporary design applications and creating innovative and iconic designs. Pirsc and the studio have numerous international clients, are annually nominated for the prestigious Czech Grand Design award and exhibit worldwide.
Renowned interdisciplinary designer and academic painter Blanka Matragi has had an extraordinarily diverse career. Her practice spans fashion design, sculpture, glass, ceramics and textiles among other business ventures. Following early success as a fashion student in 1976 when she won the Young Fashion Designers in Librec Competition, Matragi began designing custom costume garments for celebrities and film productions, and in 1982 she opened her own salon, Blanka Haute Couture. Matragi’s success can perhaps be measured by her 25th anniversary retrospective exhibition in 2008, which received 82,000 visitors in just three weeks. Matragi is known for her stunning, experimental and unique designs across multiple design specialisations, with works such as a glass op-art dress sculpture and ‘Chandelier Couture’. She shows no sign of slowing down, as seen by her 30th anniversary exhibition, Timeless (2013) consisting of 52 haute couture garments inspired by architecture, Czech cubism and outer space.
Jakub Polanka is one of the most successful Czech fashion designers today with his seasonal and conceptual design collections emphasising elements of style rather than following current trends. Polanka’s designs are about the process of making, not the results. This direct inspiration from the act of creating instils his work with a sense of freedom and poetry. Though Polanka has mainly focused on women’s clothing, he recently designed a men’s collection for Czech brand Pietro Filipi. He has also collaborated with some of the foremost world fashion brands including Hermés and Louis Vuitton, and worked as a trend forecaster for the Peclers Paris Studio. Polanka has won numerous awards for his designs including the Czech Grand Design Award (2009) and the Elle Style Award for Best Fashion Designer of the Year.
Product design studio LLEV was launched in 2004 by Eva Polachová and Marcel Mochal. Their mission is to create objects for everyday use that are both pragmatic and a vital part of a sensitive society; what makes them unique is the way they perceive product and graphic design as a service to society. Every LLEV design has its own unique story and usually contains a hidden conceptual meaning. Experiments with a variety of design products including glass, furniture and jewelry from natural materials ensure that LLEV’s projects, such as Decci, show the studio’s ‘hand-made design’ style that has become their trademark. The glassware design is an observation of the world combined with the designers’ own intuition; defined by their volume, the set of glasses and a decanter allows the user to measure how many ounces they have poured and drunk.
Independent designer Martin Zampach lives and works in Prague. Educated in product and industrial design, Zampach has worked for international companies such as design studio CuldeSac (Spain) and the Art Lebedev Studio (Russia). He opened his own studio in 2008 and has focused on freelance work since 2010, developing projects for Czech and international companies as well as his own independent collections. His independent projects such as Czech Lap (2011) are functional products made mainly of glass. Czech Lap is a glass plate inspired by nature, formed by melting the glass onto a prepared mould creating both the form and the surface texture. This piece was manufactured at Atelier Zampach, the designer’s family studio. Zampach is also the founder of acclaimed design blog DesignEast.eu, a site which promotes and publishes quality design from Eastern and Central Europe.
Antipearle jewelry designs exist “somewhere between punk and luxury.” Created by Czech designer and photographer Markéta Dlouhá-Márová, these seemingly oversized pieces with their outwardly sharp edges are lovingly handcrafted. In collections such as Jaws and Frutti di Marre, Dlouhá-Márová carefully selects precious metals and combines them with river pearls, hand-picked from the Pacific by the designer herself. These designs bring pearls back into modern jewellery design, adding a slightly macabre feel through the protruding spikes and sharks’ teeth. Dlouhá-Márová’s unique approach to jewellery design has brought her wide respect on the Czech jewellery market within a fairly short period of time, with rising demand for her to create a men’s collection. She has also won several prestigious awards including Jewel of the Year at the 2012 Designblok exhibition.
Fashion designer Klara Nademlynska creates womenswear collections distinguished by clean lines and a use of high class materials. Her limited edition collections combine feminine tailoring with hand-made finishing and detailing, drawing on skills she learnt at Prague’s Secondary School of Fashion Design and Manufacture. After working in Paris as a designer and pattern modeller, Nademlynska presented her first collection in Prague in 1994 and launched her line in 1998 from her own shop in central Prague. Nademlynska expanded her company with a partner in 2004, establishing Klara Jeans and Klara Sport and followed with her first ‘bijouterie’ collection – a line of necklaces, in 2005. Her ready-to-wear collections, represented by top model Tereza Maxová, breathe elegance and a natural flair for texture and fabric composition.