Joanna Przetakiewicz

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Joanna Przetakiewicz

Words By Rebecca Gonsalves

Fashion is in Joanna Przetakiewicz’ blood. Born in Poland, the founder of luxury contemporary label La Mania inherited her love of beautiful things from her mother, aunt and grandmother. There may not have been bread in the shops in Warsaw, but these strong, resourceful women ensured the family home was a haven of creativity and colour, preventing the chilling reality of life under a communist regime from seeping in.

“My family, always took care of the quality of life, even if they had to turn to the, ‘grey market’ let’s say,” Przetakiewicz tells us, nestling into a vast white velvet sofa in her beautiful Belgravia home. “My grandma was a talented embroiderer, my aunt and my mother were great cooks, and crazy about fashion, and so was I, always. It was my ‘mania’; that’s what I named my company for.”

From the age of five Przetakiewicz rejected the playground in favour of accompanying her mother and grandmother to see their dressmaker, Miss Stanislava, who had worked for Christian Dior. And it was in this sanctuary that she first discovered the world outside of Warsaw through the pages of fashion magazines sent over by relatives in Europe and New York. “It didn’t matter to me if the magazine was three years old, it was still such a beautiful, colourful world. It taught me to always pursue something better, something different.”

Belgravia, London

Decades later, after a career as a lawyer then entrepreneur, this pursuit eventually led Przetakiewicz to found La Mania in 2010. But it actually started life as a far more personal project: “I was travelling all over the world, for business, pleasure, visiting art fairs and exhibitions and I needed to have a modern woman’s wardrobe. I was so sick of buying something from the cover of Vogue and seeing it on two or three other people at a party.”

Tired of the way fashion was so tied to specific seasons, Przetakiewicz decided to seek out a Miss Stanislava of her own. The results were liberating: simple shapes in beautiful fabrics that travelled well and could be dressed up or down whatever the occasion. Unsurprisingly, her friends clamoured for the secret of this new label, and, crucially, where it could be bought. Przetakiewicz realised she had unwittingly identified a niche and decided to branch out into commercial production, founding an atelier in Warsaw.

Przetakiewicz’ many friends have played a significant part in the success of her label; Karl Lagerfeld has become a trusted confidante since they were introduced by mutual friends. “I was so afraid Karl would tell me I was crazy for trying to establish myself, but he simply said ‘go for it. I will support you don’t worry.’ I felt like it was a blessing from god, from a genius.”

Lagerfeld was true to his word, and later introduced Przetakiewicz to another of the most influential people in her life: Zaha Hadid. “She saw my collection at the Royal Academy of Art during London Fashion Week in 2012, and said ‘I love this line, this cut.’ She had no idea that it was the most beautiful compliment because I had been so inspired by her work. We went for lunch at Park Chinois just two weeks before she passed – we were talking about her work, my work, gossiping.”

Spending time with Przetakiewicz you can understand why people are drawn to her, she is clever and kind, a proud mother and a loyal friend. The success of La Mania – it sells phenomenally in Harrods and is one of Poland’s biggest fashion brands – genuinely brings her joy, but she never forgets the difficulty of her youth, revelling in the beauty of the world at every chance. “What I really love is to create a better world around us.” Her dream, it seems has come, but there’s still something she wishes for – to create La Mania Home. “One day…”

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