Unsound And MISBHV Is Poland's Paramount Creative Crossover

Unsound And MISBHV Is Poland's Paramount Creative Crossover

V spoke with Gosia Plysa about the creative scene in Poland, the collision of music and fashion, and Unsound's collaboration with MISBHV.

V spoke with Gosia Plysa about the creative scene in Poland, the collision of music and fashion, and Unsound's collaboration with MISBHV.

Text: Staff

On June 8th, Polish streetwear brand MISBHV staged their first fashion show in Warsaw. The brand, who's picked up high-profile fans such as Rihanna and Kylie Jenner, paid tribute to their homeland with the show, including a pre-show performance by Polish electronic producer felicita. The accompanying dance by traditional Polish folk dancers, titled "Soft Power", was choreographed by Poland-based Unsound Productions.

This wasn't the first collaboration between MISBHV and Unsound, who host the Unsound Music Festival in Krakow annually. Previously, the streetwear brand has collaborated with the festival on merchandise and an audio-visual experience event.

To celebrate the merging of fashion and music both in Poland and globally, we sat down with Gosia Plysa, executive director of Unsound Music Festival.

How did you get involved with MISBHV?

I'm the executive director of Unsound, a music festival based in Krakow. When I first got involved in Unsound, MISBHV were already developing their company, also in Krakow. So we've both followed a similar path - from something local and passion-fuelled to building unique, internationally renowned brands deeply rooted in Polish culture. It's natural that we would know one another, and also eventually collaborate.

How do the worlds of music and fashion collide in your opinion? Why is there such a heavy crossover?

I think the crossover between fashion and music comes from the constant search of new inspiration, as well as the democratization of fashion - even the biggest brands use social media, which is full of people attending gigs and secret parties. There seems to be a need for new "influencers" (I hate this word!), so certain musicians and artists help brands a lot with their unique style, and I guess are more charismatic than "instagrammers" or lifestyle bloggers. In general, I think consumers are also tired of the over abundance of choices and the classic narration of huge brands - there's a need to look for a more unique energy, a niche, an edge.On the other hand, fashion probably should or is already turning from traditionally perceived ideas of luxury in order to remain relevant in a globalized world in a deepening state of crisis, where capitalism isn't really working out and there are a lot of new voices which question existing notions. Music, with its politicised angle, especially in the underground and electronic/rave scene, is full of this energy and transgressive ideas, which fashion likes to connect to, even if focusing on the surface only and with a blunt capitalistic goal. I don't perceive it as a bad thing only, but rather an inevitable development where the boundaries between fashion, music and contemporary art are slowly blurring.

Can you describe the ideas that went into the performance before the MISBHV show?

"Soft Power" is an Unsound commission, which came out of felicita's idea to connect his music with a traditional Polish folk dance performance.  (felicita's family roots are in Poland). Śląsk Folk and Dance Ensemble is one of the most renowned and oldest Polish folk companies of this kind. The performance's name - "Soft Power" - relates to the term in international politics, where cultural power is employed to shape the preferences of others through appeal and attraction. By clashing the very traditional dance form and folk costumes with felicita's radical, electronic sound, "Soft Power" created a striking and unexpected opening to the MISBHV show. It also connected to the space, the Palace of Science and Culture,  which is literally the heart of Poland's capital Warsaw, linking to the heritage MISBHV also relate to. felicita also created the show's soundtrack, which I think worked perfectly with the collection and its choreography - especially the clash between abrasive, intense and rhythmic electronic sound with folk elements, and the vocals of Caroline Polachek in "marzipan" which was used in the show, as well as a funny raw folk acapella song looped.

How would you describe the creative + artistic scene in Warsaw? 

Although Kraków has has its own scene, I'm still sometimes jealous of all the stuff going on in Warsaw - from a distance it feels like there is more going on, especially when it comes to contemporary art or music, since people go there after their studies to look for a job, especially in creative fields. There also seems to be more commercial stuff going on as well, especially when it comes to fashion or art. In general, when it comes to Poland I feel that the most cutting-edge, underground things are in Warsaw at the moment.

I'm currently living in Stockholm, and there is often an idea that once an artist or brand is big enough, they try to get out of Sweden and go to a bigger country rather than staying put. Do you feel the same is true of emerging artists and brands in Poland?

I think there is a lot of truth in it - if they don't move to the capital, young Poles often go to Berlin, especially those interested in music or fashion. London is also a destination, but I think less now than before, when every Polish person looking for a better life abroad went there. I think both are becoming more and more expensive, so that probably changes the climate and affects the possibility of creative expats and digital nomads to stay. In Poland, or the East in general, I think there is still a strong belief that if you make it in the mythical "west" it's valued more highly than if you do so locally. Not sure that's true of Sweden as much, but it definitely ties into the pre- and post-war emigration of Poles. With Unsound we believe in supporting scenes that emerge from places that are not perceived as traditional "cultural capitals" like New York, Berlin or London, but at the same time, it was the first Unsound Festival New York (in 2009) which first put Unsound on the national and international map. We still make sure that Kraków is our main edition, testing our biggest projects and commissions here. Also, I think that in today's interconnected world, the more unusual your location and background, the more intriguing it can become. I also personally believe in being connected to the scene you come from and trying to give back in some way to help sustain it.

What makes Polish fashion unique?

I think it would be true of both fashion and music, but I think Polish creativity always had this ironic, playful touch to it - some Polish "je ne sais quoi" which is both extravagant and fun, but has also a certain heaviness (maybe affected by the climate and years of oppression?), self-doubt and self-mockery? When it comes to fashion, there is still a lot of craftsmanship and a long history of the textile industry. Years of communism didn't destroy it completely, and in a search for quality and originality it is slowly returning. I think Poland, and especially young people, are also over the years of the early '90s - the post-transition period with its fascination with the "west". I think we're ready to be inspired by that confused period in order to create something new - which seems to be the case with MISBHV, and also with a lot that is going on in music and art elsewhere in Poland and further east.

How have Poland's politics helped form or affect the art emerging from Poland?

I think current politics, sadly, are starting to have an effect on Polish art at the moment - there is a lot of anger and rage towards the current government, which is slowly dismantling the democratic system, fighting with the EU and abolishing basic female and human rights. I  think these changes will and are already having a strong effect on what's being produced in art and music. At the same time, social media with its omnipresence, seem to narrate a completely different, self-focused discourse which is completely disconnected from the local or national politics, or in fact anything else other than the self.

Photo Via Dazed

Credits: Image Via Gosia Płysa

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