Fashion Designer Klaudia Trzcielinska / Choosing (to) Fox

We’re hungry for the stories of success. Ideally, an overnight success. Down deep, these stories interact with our desires to quit our ‘safe’ jobs that we’ve spent years studying for and follow our passion. We yearn to move to the farm, to become yoga instructors, photographers, nutritionists or designers. 

In his book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” Cal Newport defends the conventional wisdom against the “follow your dreams” narrative-obsessed culture arguing that it is the skill and ability (which usually take years to cultivate) – not the passion – that determines person’s success.

Klaudia Trzcielinska is a former financier and Fox in a Glove is her passion project. The transition from spreadsheets to stitches didn’t happen overnight; she chose the risk and uncertainty that came with growing a clothing brand over the comfort of a City job after juggling both for a while. I don’t know if Klaudia has read Newport’s book. If she did, she’d probably say he could do with adding a chapter on the value and importance of throwing yourself into something that gives you great pleasure and fulfillment, if you are lucky to stumble on such a thing. 

Don’t be fooled by her crocodile-printed two-piece suit though: Klaudia is all about how that eye-popping item was stitched up. The crocodiles are just a bonus, they’re there to make us giggle.   

3 June, 2019

text by VIKTORIJA BENAITYTE

photos by KAROLINA HUBNER

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Has creativity always been on a horizon? 

I grew up behind the Iron Curtain, in a small town in Poland. There wasn’t much visual inspiration. And no, I never thought of doing anything creative. I had no idea about creative careers. I happened to be good at maths (or just had very good maths teachers) and so I went to study economics and applied statistics.

 

What happened next? 

I moved to London and ended up working in the City (London’s historic financial district). Which was fine, I was perfectly happy. I did spend a lot of time in clothing shops, especially vintage ones. Mainly looking at the “engineering” side of garments – how they are lined, how finished. But I never thought it was out of the ordinary.

This is when I fell in love with vintage clothing – rummaging through vintage shops I discovered that you can do anything you like with clothes. The look was not as important, you can create it, I was more interested in how things are finished.

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What was the light-bulb moment then?  When did you start making clothes? 

It started with a present – a sewing machine for my birthday. I had no idea how to use it, so I signed up for a sewing course. It was a revelation! I fell in love with sewing immediately. To create garments, I needed more knowledge - how to draw patterns and how to make clothes out of them. So I did a few short courses at Central Saint Martins and London College of Fashion. During this time I made a lot of dresses for my girlfriends. And they kept getting compliments and ordering more. I started dreaming of making dresses full time… This is when Fox in a Glove came to life.

 

People often dread change. How did you feel? 

Change is scary. And I am no exception. It took me 1 year to decide and hand in my resignation letter.

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Did you ever think – “I can play safe, I can do both”?

I think only superwoman can do both. I was working part-time for a year or so and realised that I wasn’t giving enough to either of the jobs. I needed to decide and I plunged into Fox.

So I chose the Fox.

 

…and is it what you’ve hoped for?

The job is full of riddles to solve, it keeps me engaged and fulfilled. But growing a fashion brand from zero is very hard. You compete with huge established brands which have experienced teams, large marketing budgets and shops on the high street. As you pointed out – people dread change. As a new brand, you need to convince people to change – to stop shopping where they’ve been shopping for years and buy from a new brand instead. In spite of this, Fox is growing. Each step forward is a great joy.

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What are the advantages of having a small brand?

A small brand is like a small ship – if you decide to turn it, it’s so much easier than turning a massive Titanic-size ship. If you decide to make pink jumpsuits – you can do it immediately. So changing the feel of a collection or a supplier is relatively easy. If I decide tonight that Fox would be great at making male flamboyant playsuits – the playsuits, lookbook and new website could be ready in as little as 6-8 weeks.

Running a small and nimble fashion brand also means a lot of control over the quality of the clothes. The collections are made in a family-owned and –run factory, which I visit often and together with the experienced seamstresses. We discuss details, the fit and finishing of the clothes. I learn so much from those ladies.

 

You are sitting in front of me in a two-piece crocodile printed suit. 

My absolute favourite comment is a giggle. 

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Is there a part of you that sometimes wants to just blend in and disappear? Dress in a way that you don’t get noticed?

Dressing is all about having fun and I like to look fun. My ambition is to make people smile with whatever I’m wearing. And this has happened. So the answer is no, I don’t really want to disappear. I want to make passers-by giggle! 

 

So who’s Fox in A Glove for?

For style foxes, not fashion sheep! 

It is not for the girls who follow trends – it’s not for the fashion sheep. Fox in A Glove doesn’t really deliver trends because they don’t last. 

It is for someone with guts; someone who is already comfortable within themselves and doesn’t expect a piece of clothing to make them that way. Also, the Fox girl doesn’t take herself too seriously. 

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And I imagine that the Fox girl really hates fast fashion? 

If a woman likes independent designers, she is unlikely to shop at Zara, Topshop or Boohoo.  So yes, Fox girl most likely is not into fast fashion.

My worry is that fast fashion is corrupting the taste of the next generation. If a girl has always been shopping at Zara or Boohoo, she will not know what proper clothes feel like. She won’t know, for example, that a cotton dress will keep her cool in warm weather, whilst keeping her warm in colder temperatures. Polyester dress won’t do this. 

 

Does the consciousness about clothes transcend into the other areas of your life? If so, how? 

Absolutely. Having met other designers and makers, I saw how much love and effort go into the product. And so I always support small, local businesses like coffee shops, bakers and hairdressers.

I’ve noticed an admirable trend. We work incredibly hard, but still many of us, after a long day at work, find time and energy to seek small, quirky, independent cafes, restaurants or hotels for our holidays. I hope this trend (fashion, may I say!) will keep on growing.

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What’s your relationship with the place that you live in? 

London is the love of my life. It’s always inspiring and you can never have enough of it.

Although I’ve lived in London all of my adult life, it doesn’t yet feel fully explored. If, like a cat, I had more lives, I’d love to live in New York and Berlin. Berlin has a wonderful music scene – my sort of music, and I’m very intrigued by New York, I’d love to sniff it all out.

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What book, film and song sum you up most accurately? 

I enjoyed Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Times” tremendously. I think people are sometimes afraid of this book; it is crazy, silly and messy, it’s about art and what art should be. 

As for the film, it would have to be Billy Wilder’s “Sunset Boulevard”. It’s a very sombre depiction of us, of how we dream and how beautiful it is even if it all gets crushed in the end. I think the process of following your dream is fascinating in itself, how successful we are isn’t what matters the most. The process is what fills our lives. It is what “In Search of Lost Times” is also about. 

When I came to London, I discovered clubbing and Orbital – they don’t take themselves too seriously like other electronic music bands do, they are punchy but with a healthy dose of humour. “Oi!” Is the song I love working to. Unfortunately, Orbital only play sit down gigs now - that’s quite sad, don’t you think? Although, I heard the last one wasn’t a sit down :o)))