This week I am happy to feature an interview with the lovely Kasia. I wanted to feature Kasia because she has an incredible and unique international perspective – on life, family and of course fashion. Her style is modern, clean and above all chic. It was a pleasure learning more about Kasia, and I hope you all enjoy getting to know this wonderful woman. Here she is!
Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?
I am a young lady, nearly thirty years old. Cosmopolitan, but not an internationalist, open minded, but very critical, a lover and hater of human nature, appreciator of big schemes and the little things in life. I am someone who is aware of the huge responsibility I bear as a mother of two – not wanting to be a cradle to the grave society member under the emblem of the plastic water bottle – as young Rothschild “graciously” put it.
You have a very interesting background – you are Polish, and live in Shanghai. How does your ethnic background mix with your current surroundings?
I am Polish, but colored with Italian and Asian influences. It is a very privileged situation, increasingly common in our era – to be someone else in a place when everyone is different, and thrive under a mutual respectful relationship where all the parts benefit, where, at the end of the day, among many truths and lies there is this “idem sentire” for everyone: happiness. As we all struggle for it.
You are a mother with two young children! How do you balance raising a family in Shanghai with your other interests? And how has being a mom changed your style, if at all?
I became a mother very young. I was very happy and knew I wouldn’t have any regrets. Having children changes you. It softened me and filled me with compassion, it forced me into a responsibility unimaginable before, making me happy and whole at the same time. I allow myself a true expression of my feelings in the lines above – as a third wave feminist I believe I can create my own female identity more than ever. Children are part of me, essential to my happiness.
Raising a family in a nearly twenty five million people metropolis is a huge challenge as a matter of fact! There are so many positive sides to it, but there are many negative trade offs as well: a lack of nature and the huge amount of pollution, and long distances to run everyday. I try to balance the negative aspects with a healthy home environment, quality family and leisure time and a sense of oasis at home, when lights go dim and it’s time to retreat from the busy day.
Motherhood has certainly influenced my style, not necessarily in a positive way sometimes, as a huge amount of tasks and a perennial lack of sleep don’t elevate such things as style to a top place in our agenda. I didn’t even think about style in post natal days, style temporarily disappeared from my world. But when I look back I see, with a lovely surprise, that it wasn’t such a disaster after all. It all boils down to the fact that my style is rather simple, no frills thing and my wardrobe very vast, but rather uniform, it made it easier for me to stay true to myself. But now, when the children are a little grown and my agenda has changed a lot – social life and work are finally a huge thing again, and so-called style is.
Living in Shanghai since 2005, you must have witnessed the huge increase in the popularity of luxury goods there. What have been some of your observations?
My second degree has culminated in a thesis entitled “Brands in China: An analysis of the emerging leader in consumption of luxury goods and services through social, economic, demographic and cultural prospective”. My research has been vast, taking a long time because of both the whopping amount of data to process and almost overnight changes in some patterns (caused by government policies for instance). The research still passionately continues after almost four years from my graduation at Fudan, as I hope to come back to work, in a field much related after my recent maternity break.
As for my observations…well, China is the high echelon of spending on any kind of luxuries, whether it be property, cars, racing horses, rare wines, jewels or artworks. Luxury fashion is one of the branches and analyzing it we find both mature and sophisticated consumers, wary of logos and bling, and very entry level consumers, who often don’t understand the luxury, but are able to perceive the perks of owning something that mass media and social circles regard as “elitist” (so many definitions of this very word).
In between we have masses who consume so called luxuries on daily basis, mostly able to afford it without credit, shopping abroad more than they do at home, hungry for more with every bite they take.
Savoir fair, clean aesthetics and so on are not always paired up, but no need to stress, there is space for everyone.
Tricks of big fashion houses (recent LVMH announcement of no more store openings or Hermes iconic bags scarcity for example) are just that – tricks. Well designed publicity hoaxes, only further fueling the demand, because Chinese (and not only) love the allure of “exclusivity” It’s sometimes funny how luxury doesn’t seem luxury in China… It’s everywhere and on everyone. Time is a real luxury.
Can you share how you approach your style, and how you select items?
Scott Schumann said he found the most chic people are making tough choices in the fitting rooms, not in front of their wardrobes in the morning. When I read that I was stuck, because that’s precisely how I am. And that’s funny because I do not necessary consider myself the most chic person around, definitely not a fashionable person. I simply like clean aesthetics with maybe some bon ton to it. I am a guilty shopper (we have way too much more than we need), listening to my instincts, but sometimes calculating, too. I imagine passing my best pieces to my daughter one day. As many of my things are made to measure – I hope she will be my size twin.
Shanghai is an amazing place – I have my own trusted seamstress, I know several pattern makers, my little, most chic boutiques, where I can take as many things as I want and send them back after trying them on at home, I have friends who are designers that offer me the amazing insight in the rich world of fashion in many ways… My second home is Milan – again one of the most chic cities. So fashion and style in my life are as ubiquitous as lack of good manners in today’s world.
What are some of your favorite items in your wardrobe? What do you wear the most…and what do you “treasure” the most?
I found myself treasuring the things with relatively little material value most often. My made to measure cashmere suits, my mother’s velvet trousers and her suede shoes from the ’70s are examples. I found myself coveting much less must-have pieces and instead genuinely enjoying and taking great confidence from the use of things that really suit me, and that essentially are just the background (without the noise) of the picture of the woman I am.
If you could go back in time to when you first started building your closet – what is the advice you’d tell yourself? Any changes?
Not really, I have always wanted the classics, as they never fade. But not because they never fade – just because I like them.
What’s a piece of advice about style/shopping and building the perfect wardrobe that you yourself learned over the years?
I haven’t actually ever received any shopping advice nor a styling tip that would be meaningful to me… We didn’t talk fashion at home at all, although I perceived the importance of the good looks since early age and always had this certain “I know what I want and I know what I don’t” thing in me.
My best friends on the other hand, are not necessarily a bunch of fashionistas, but people with strong personalities who indeed express themselves through their wardrobe choices a lot, but we never ever discuss it, nor anything else related, really. In my environment, although a big deal of attention goes into it, it is rarely a subject itself. The best piece of advice I have assimilated is the most banal one: “stay true to yourself”. And also – that’s something you learn on the way through life – “clothes do not make the man”.
You are a travel lover. What are some of your favorite destinations, and places to stay?
My favorite destinations are Hong Kong, Tokyo and Thai beaches for the decadent leisure offerings. Kyoto is a place that stuck to me a lot. I’d love to visit LA, I’m fascinated by its dark side (as long as I don’t have to deal with it) – Raymond Chandler style.
The world has become so small and so easy to travel through. But I often think that some of my mythical places should remain my fantasy forever, as their bare reality often shadows my beloved ideas of them. Think Casablanca. Or the Santa Claus Village.
What are some of your other passions and hobbies?
I love cinema, theatre and opera. I love every form of expression there is, the more classic the better for that matter.
One of the things I lament in Shanghai is a relatively poor cultural offering, taking into consideration how huge and how historically sophisticated in many ways this place is. But art as I was born into, is not necessarily the number one kind of art here. This has made me explore the local art scene and Asian cultural milestones in a way that couldn’t be better – a genuine immersion.
Chinese Opera is among my favorite discoveries. I sometimes think my iPod I wouldn’t survive the party challenge. Plus, I read a lot, I am very interested in society and politics, history and critical geopolitics. I am restless in my research of a better life through better nutrition, environment and body care. I am a crazy devoted Bob Dylan fan, lover of Japanese arts and crafts, vintage science fiction buff, a foodie and a happy cook myself.
Finally – please share something surprising about yourself!
I always have a song in my mind and a dime for everyone!
I had a wonderful time getting to know Kasia – it was a real pleasure to hear all of the wonderful anecdotes and pieces of advice she had to share. I truly envy Kasia’s position to be able to experience so many cultures and geographies as part of her daily life. Her wisdom and maturity shows that she truly appreciates and thrives in such an environment. Thank you Kasia for sharing some of your life here with us today!