Helena Bohle-Szacki. Fashion – Art – Memories

Helena Bohle-Szacki in the 1960s
Helena Bohle-Szacki in the 1960s
Fashion


In December 1965 the following report appeared in the weekly newspaper DIE ZEIT: "Who would have thought it! The state fashion house 'Leda' in Warsaw is showing its latest creations in Berlin. What's more, in the Europa-Center! Just a year ago, such a fashion show would have been regarded as the product of an exuberant imagination, as a fantasy of clothing retailers who were eager to make contact with the East. This is the first collection presented by the Pole Helena Szacka in the West, in Berlin".[2] The title of the Spandauer Volksblatt read “Decorous elegance from Poland”.[3] Other, thoroughly positive articles emphasized the "slightly Parisian-oriented flair" of Polish fashion and noted with a certain satisfaction the obvious influence of the Courrèges style with a futuristic touch[4], that set the fashion tone in the West in the early 1960s. That said, the distinction between East and West was never completely airtight, so that many trends and tendencies in Western fashion were also noticed and adopted in Poland.

Needless to say, the first fashion show from Warsaw in West Berlin was a political issue. It was as if the Iron Curtain which apparently finally and forever divided the political world of that time had lifted a little. The 37-year-old Helena Bohle-Szacki held a renowned position in the state-regulated fashion industry. She had not yet thought of becoming a freelance artist, nor of leaving Poland for good. Many years later she did not really appreciate her fashion activity: "Fashion as a means of expression was never enough for me, in the fashion industry I was not an artist, I may not have been a bad designer, but I was just a designer in the clothing industry."[5]

Was this an unjustified modesty? The clothes she designed won awards in the 1960s (the gold medal in Munich, a silver at the Poznan Fair), were praised and, last not least, were very popular (when they were approved for production). Of course, at that time the fashion business functioned completely differently in Poland than in the free West. Private fashion houses did not exist and state-owned clothing companies had to contend with shortcomings in domestic industry, not to speak of bureaucratic aesthetics. There was a lack of suitable fabrics and everything else needed by the fashion industry. On the other hand, everything – or almost everything – that was produced found grateful customers. The infinitely receptive market was extremely frugally supplied. And furthermore: a kind of resistance to the grey reality of a communist country often became evident in fashion.

Helena Bohle-Szacki began her fashion career as a graphic artist and – as she herself emphasised – this was an occupation she followed of necessity. After graduating in graphics from the Akademia Sztuk Pięknych w Łodzi im. Władysława Strzemińskiego / State College of Fine Arts in Lodz (ill. 2 and 3) she found it difficult to find a job. For understandable reasons, the advertising industry scarcely existed, industrial design was in its infancy, and graphic artists were only used to a very limited extent in publishing. Helena Bohle-Szacki, for example, drew images for fashion magazines whose appearance was rather bleak. After that she tried her hand as a fashion journalist, became a fashion lecturer at her alma mater and finally began designing clothes. First she worked in the central laboratory of the clothing industry, then successively in the three state fashion houses. In the 1960s these were the most famous: Telimena, Moda Polska and Leda.

 

[1] Conversation 1 with the author, Berlin 1993.
[2] „Die Zeit“, 3.12.1965.

[3] „Spandauer Volksblatt“, 28.11.1965.

[4] „Rheinische Post“, 2.12.1965.

[5] Conversation 1, at the specified location

Mediathek
  • Helena Bohle-Szacki's apartment in Berlin

    ill.1: Helena Bohle-Szacki's apartment in Berlin

    Helena Bohle-Szacki's apartment in Berlin
  • Helena Bole's study book, Staatliche Hochschule für bildende Künste in Lodz

    ill.2: Helena Bole's study book

    Helena Bole's study book, Staatliche Hochschule für bildende Künste in Lodz
  • Helena Bole as a student, 1950s

    ill.3: Helena Bole as a student, 1950s

    Helena Bole as a student, 1950s
  • Sketch for the Telimena fashion house, drawing by Helena Bohle-Szacki, 1960s

    ill.4: Sketch for the Telimena fashion house, 1960s

    Sketch for the Telimena fashion house, drawing by Helena Bohle-Szacki, 1960s
  • Summer collection, Leda fashion house, 1966

    ill.5: Summer collection, Leda fashion house, 1966

    Summer collection, Leda fashion house, 1966
  • ill.6: Helena Bohle-Szacki (2. l.) and her models, Leda fashion house, 1960s

    ill.6: Helena Bohle-Szacki (2. l.) and her models

    ill.6: Helena Bohle-Szacki (2. l.) and her models, Leda fashion house, 1960s
  • Plakat zur Veranstaltung in der Topographie des Terrors am 27.2.2018

    Abb. 7: Plakat zur Veranstaltung in der Topographie des Terrors

    Plakat zur Veranstaltung in der Topographie des Terrors am 27.2.2018
  • Helena Bohle-Szacki, The Way, ink on paper, 1973

    ill.8: Helena Bohle-Szacki, The Way, 1973

    Helena Bohle-Szacki, The Way, ink on paper, 1973
  • Helena Bohle-Szacki, untitled, ink and paper on cardboard, 1976

    ill.9: Helena Bohle-Szacki, untitled, 1976

    Helena Bohle-Szacki, untitled, ink and paper on cardboard, 1976
  • Helena Bohle-Szacki, Composition 1, ink and paper on cardboard, 1976

    ill.10: Helena Bohle-Szacki, Composition 1, 1976

    Helena Bohle-Szacki, Composition 1, ink and paper on cardboard, 1976
  • Helena Bohle-Szacki, Composition 2, ink and paper on cardboard, 1976

    ill.11: Helena Bohle-Szacki, Composition 2, 1976

    Helena Bohle-Szacki, Composition 2, ink and paper on cardboard, 1976
  • Helena Bohle-Szacki, Composition, ink and tissue paper on cardboard, 1984

    ill.12: Helena Bohle-Szacki, Composition, 1984

    Helena Bohle-Szacki, Composition, ink and tissue paper on cardboard, 1984
  • ill.13: Helena Bohle-Szacki, Wasteland, ink on cardboard, 1989

    ill.13: Helena Bohle-Szacki, Wasteland

    ill.13: Helena Bohle-Szacki, Wasteland, ink on cardboard, 1989
  • Helena Bohle-Szacki, Dark Tree, ink on cardboard, 1987

    ill.14: Helena Bohle-Szacki, Dark Tree, 1987

    Helena Bohle-Szacki, Dark Tree, ink on cardboard, 1987
  • Helena Bohle-Szacki, Further East II, ink on cardboard, 1990

    ill.15: Helena Bohle-Szacki, Further East II, 1990

    Helena Bohle-Szacki, Further East II, ink on cardboard, 1990
  • Helena Bohle-Szacki, Threat II, ink on cardboard, no date

    ill.16: Helena Bohle-Szacki, Threat II, no date

    Helena Bohle-Szacki, Threat II, ink on cardboard, no date
  • Helena Bohle-Szacki, Opening, ink on cardboard, 1989

    ill.17: Helena Bohle-Szacki, Opening, 1989

    Helena Bohle-Szacki, Opening, ink on cardboard, 1989
  • Helena Bohle-Szacki, Imprisoned, ink on cardboard, 1998

    ill.18: Helena Bohle-Szacki, Imprisoned, 1998

    Helena Bohle-Szacki, Imprisoned, ink on cardboard, 1998
  • Helena Bohle-Szacki, Departure, ink on cardboard, 1990

    ill.19: Helena Bohle-Szacki, Departure, 1990

    Helena Bohle-Szacki, Departure, ink on cardboard, 1990
  • Helena Bohle-Szacki, The Beginning of the End, ink on cardboard, 1992

    ill.20: Helena Bohle-Szacki, The Beginning of the End, 1992

    Helena Bohle-Szacki, The Beginning of the End, ink on cardboard, 1992
  • Helena Bohle-Szacki, Still Further, ink on cardboard, 1995

    ill.21: Helena Bohle-Szacki, Still Further, 1995

    Helena Bohle-Szacki, Still Further, ink on cardboard, 1995
  • Helena Bohle-Szacki, North wind, ink on cardboard, 1994

    ill.22: Helena Bohle-Szacki, North wind, 1994

    Helena Bohle-Szacki, North wind, ink on cardboard, 1994
  • Helena Bohle-Szacki, Shroud, ink on cardboard, 1989

    ill.23: Helena Bohle-Szacki, Shroud, 1989

    Helena Bohle-Szacki, Shroud, ink on cardboard, 1989
  • Helena Bohle-Szacki, Way Out II, ink on cardboard, 1999

    ill.24: Helena Bohle-Szacki, Way Out II, 1999

    Helena Bohle-Szacki, Way Out II, ink on cardboard, 1999
  • Drawing by Helena Bohle-Szacki, created in 1944 in the Helmbrechts (sub) concentration camp, pencil on paper, photograph

    ill.25: Drawing by Helena Bohle-Szacki, 1944

    Drawing by Helena Bohle-Szacki, created in 1944 in the Helmbrechts (sub) concentration camp, pencil on paper, photograph
  • Helena Bohle-Szacki, untitled, sketch for an illustration for tales by T. Borowski, lithography, 1950s

    ill.26: Helena Bohle-Szacki, untitled, 1950s

    Helena Bohle-Szacki, untitled, sketch for an illustration for tales by T. Borowski, lithography, 1950s
  • Helena Bohle-Szacki, untitled, sketch for an illustration for tales by T. Borowski, lithography, 1950s

    ill.27: Helena Bohle-Szacki, untitled, 1950s

    Helena Bohle-Szacki, untitled, sketch for an illustration for tales by T. Borowski, lithography, 1950s
  • Interview mit Helena Bohle-Szacki, 2012

    Helena Bohle-Szacki. Ausschnitte aus einem vierstündigen Video-Interview von 2005, Archiv "Zwangsarbeit 1939-1945", Dauer 8:57 Minuten, Konzeption, Bearbeitung und Schnitt: Tobias Kilgus, Cord Pagenst...