Whether it be a lived experience, a perspective on history, or a visual muse, the meaningful intent behind design acts as a compass to the creators guiding them along their process. This inspiration is a foundation underlying any unique conception of art. For Karolina Zmarlak, founder and designer of KZ_K Studio, these details do not go unmissed. Her designs are rooted in a story that is brought to life in all steps of the creative process, from the drawings at the studio to the human form and wherever these pieces may take her.
Karolina Zmarlak founded the company in 2009 as Karolina Zmarlak, but rebranded in 2016 as KZ_K Studio. Her minimalistic perspective on design comes from an upbringing in Eastern Europe, where she grew up without abundance and at a time when seamstresses were imperative as an antecedent to ready to wear. This built an understanding that minimalism can be an aesthetic and, in combination with a degree from FIT in apparel design specializing in fine tailoring, has led to her appreciation for the quality of construction. KZ_K Studio’s came to fruition with Karolina’s business and life partner, Jesse Keyes, who is an architect and entrepreneur. His background as an architect is a perfect complement to the KZ_K Studio fundamental values of style with functionality by convertibility, clean forms, and individuality. The all encompassing mentality, designing clothing for a lifetime of wear, is an impeccably thoughtful approach for the brand.
Most recently, KZ_K opened their new Studio Space on Great Jones St., and debuted a preview of their cool cycle collection. The Studio Space acts as a home base for clients looking for personalized appointments that can cater to the needs of styling, look book curation, alterations or repairs, and personalized wardrobe capsules. KZ_K is creating an experience that goes beyond a one time purchase. Here is where the magic happens from personalized look books to wardrobe capsules that are created by a talented team to ensure the client walks away with curated pieces that fit their dynamic lifestyle.
The environment itself was designed by Jesse, who articulated the needs of both the KZ_K client and the studio team; the space entails a library, bar, showroom, design room, and more. The space is open, yet intimate, visually stimulating, yet captivatingly minimalistic. Organic shapes built within the space are welcomed and balanced by a Scandinavian style décor. Unsurprisingly, every detail that was chosen peaks intrigue and alludes to external influences – as noted by the appearance of a Picasso coffee table book resting at eye’s sight on one of the shelves; a casual segway into the clothing collections.
The studio opening offered coupe glasses of champagne upon entry, a must-have for the introduction to the warm weather cycle collection, inspired by Madame Clicquot herself. Karolina and Jesse traveled in France from Reims to Mougin to Cote D’Azure to experience first hand the beauty of the places in which were home to the likes of Madame Clicquot and Picasso where one can’t help but find creative stimulation while walking the paths of some of the most renowned figures. The dedication and patience to the craft of making champagne or painting with such artistic depth is paralleled in the embodiment of the KZ_K operations. The warm weather cycle collection features colors reminiscent of the deep hues of the caves mixed with the vibrancy of the colors seen in Cote D’Azure. The silhouettes offer a mix of soft drapery for the ideal leisurely, but put together, look that can be mixed with more cutting edge pieces like the collection’s waxed cotton cropped jacket. Reversible jackets in the collection stay true to the KZ_K promise that one’s purchase offers timeless versatility. The attention to detail in the make and tailoring pulls sophistication and elegance across the line with a subtle unique element to each piece.
On preview was the cool weather cycle collection. French architect, Charlotte Perriand, guided Karolina’s creative process for the line. Similar to Karolina and Jesse, Charlotte Perriand found inspiration in the natural world. Charlotte’s designs pull elements of the environment in shapes, materials, and colors. The cool cycle collection shares this same understanding of organic forms and quality materials. A highlight of the collection are pieces made with washable leather. The leather is soft and buttery to the touch, many even boast a transformative option as well. Form fitting and flattering latex tops can be styled with an oversized cloak made from a wool blend. Everything just works together easily, which all you can ask for in a cool weather wardrobe.
KZ_K Studio is a true testament to sustainable fashion in respect to the way the clothes are made, the appreciation for the craftsmanship of fashion, and the understanding of a woman’s modern needs. There is a story for the clothing that is thoughtful from the very beginning of ideation to the end of it out on the streets. All designs are made in house and manufactured in New York’s historic Garment District, yet another reason to love the intentions behind the brand. So, in case you haven’t noticed while reading this, we not only love her eye for style and design, but we love her brand and passion. Contact KZ_K to make an appointment to visit the studio and check out their latest lines.
A Word From The Designers
How did the idea for the studio come about?
“My father and grandfather were architects, and I learned from the earliest of ages that a successful career based in productive design depends on building lasting, meaningful relationships with your clients, who appreciate your technical and practical abilities. Karolina is amazing with the communicative connection she develops between our clothing and client. So, a focused studio experience of our own creates a natural link between all these truths.” – Jesse Keyes
Why did you shift focus from traditional retail partnerships to direct to client relationships?
“It became increasingly apparent that when we worked through the major designer retail stores, we lost connection with clients, and even our design, as they dictated things like colors and silhouettes. We decided, gratefully, to reduce the layers and maximize the communication between our mills, factories and clients, all mediated through our clothing design. That’s it: simple design, and communication are the
hardest to achieve, and only when done through a slow fashion approach.” – Karolina Zmarlak
Who or what inspired the design and functionality of the studio?
“I’ve spent my whole life in houses and spaces designed by my grandfather and dad. Grandpa was trained in the tenets of modernism studying under Walter Gropius at the Harvard School of Design, and Dad under Louis Khan at the University of Pennsylvania, and me under Ignasi Sola Morales and the Polytechnic University of Catalunya. All that is to say the program, coherent application of material, technologically interesting products, are all part of what we think about first as designers. Specifically, for our KZ_K Studio, we have been studying the tenants of Charlotte Perriand (many used in our Cycle 2.22 collection), in which saw furniture as “equipment,” as way to make room and functionality within a space to free up the open areas for visual, communicative and productive creative use. Our studio is chock full multi layered drawer systems, anthropomorphic inspired shelving units, variable laid out pocket doors for distinct room uses, and spatial corridor flow that permits the relatively small full floorplan (the building dates to 1850, before the use of steel or concrete) to connect a series of multi functional, and hence aesthetically pleasing, uses.” –Jesse Keyes
About KZ_K Studio
Founded by Polish-born fashion designer, Karolina Zmarlak and her business and life partner, architect, and entrepreneur Jesse Keyes, this NYC-based brand is based on the tenants of modernism. KZ_K Studio extols the use of technologically advanced materials integrated into a purely functional form for maxim efficiency and versatility, minimizing excess and maximizing utility, resulting in a light, refined, and essentially minimal product form.
Great Jones Street Studio Information
- A Library for inspiring and mind-expanding reading/note taking
- A Bar for artisanal and technically complex spirits and wines that facilitate and stimulate connections
- A Technical Design Room centered around a pattern cycle and core organization
- A Showroom with steel sculpted rods, connecting into sugi finished wood, lightligh floating, to hang the collection
- A Vistero to breath in the city and view it’s Noho Rooftops
- A Kitchenette for catering events of all sorts: coffee wake-ups, collection lunches, cocktail parties, chai-times
- An Archive of Racks for cycle and core organization
Press Information and photography provided by MVC Communications.