This exclusive interview with Zaremba & Kamiński Bespoke Tailors by Nicola Linza and Cristoffer Neljesjö in Warsaw 2010.
Tell us a bit about Zaremba & Kamiński and your history
Zaremba & Kamiński has over 100 years of history which also happens to be the history of Warsaw and its finest residents. Always at the heart of the capital, the atelier and the city together experienced large receptions and balls and faced repressions and destruction.
Our history starts in 1894 when Edward Zaremba opened his atelier in the building of the Grand Theatre – a prime location gathering the noble of the era. Extraordinary skills of the tailor became famous not only in Warsaw, but in the entire Europe. He was often described by the foreign papers and was frequently invited to open shops abroad. He decided to stay in Warsaw and establish a family company that would be later run by his sons and relatives.
One of them was Adolf Zaremba who inherited the uncle’s talent and the famous ‘Zaremba eye’ – Adolf could perfectly match the style with the most unusual figures. A family legend has it that he tailored a suit for a duel-obsessed Tsarist officer to hide his armor.
1920s was a great time for tailors with the capital city booming and new clubs, galleries and theatres popping up. Parties at embassies and official premieres were the everyday life of the Warsaw’s finest. Orders for dinner jackets and coat tails were going in their hundreds; plus fours and breeches were very popular as men tended to practice aristocratic sports. Adolf's younger brother, Tadeusz, was introduced to the family business at that time.
In 1933, Tadeusz decided to open his own atelier. Master Tadeusz was a true VIP in Warsaw in between the world wars – his tailoring skills came together with a reputation for being a man of great class and charisma. He quickly exceeded the fame of his brother and became the number one choice for actors and almost all the diplomats, professors, artists and businessmen. He often commented on trends in men’s fashion.
Adolf’s and Tadeusz’s businesses developed until the World War 2. In 1940, Adolf Zaremba was arrested and transported to the prison. Thanks to the several-month long efforts of the entire family he was finally released from the prison just to find the atelier ransacked by the Gestapo. At the end of the war, fire destroyed the entire atelier and everything inside it.
War did not spare Tadeusz – like his brother he witnessed regular searches and confiscations. Eventually, the new atelier was completely destroyed during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944.
After the war, Tadeusz Zaremba kept developing the business and provided tailoring services for the Warsaw’s crème de la crème and diplomats. The master rarely mentioned names of his famous clients; he preferred to talk about the would-be ones like famous singer Jan Kiepura who was declined when he had wished a bespoke suit ready ‘for the next day’. Former employees were the first to boast with their experience in the Zaremba atelier. ‘Former cutter with the Zaremba’ or ‘previously with the Zaremba’ were among the most successful catchphrases for wannabe tailors. The brand stands for quality tailoring and a suit by Zaremba is one of the greatest luxuries.
In 1956 the company’s premises were to be demolished, so Tadeusz Zaremba moved the studio to Nowogrodzka 15 Street i.e. the current location. The new communist government did not like the bourgeois elegance. Materials were rationed, a good fabric was purchased on the black market or smuggled from abroad. Although Tadeusz Zaremba frequently appeared in the TV, his company was at least once a month visited by the communist Secret Police. Influential customers (like cabaret stars, the poet Zbigniew Herbert, the National Philharmonic musicians, major movie stars and PM Józef Cyrankiewicz) were unable to help. There are still special hiding places in the atelier where the prohibited English wool was kept. Bespoke tailoring gradually became very rare.
Adam Zaremba took over the family tradition. In the late 1970s he accepted an unusual order to prepare costumes for a famous Polish-British television series about Sherlock Holmes. He did the job brilliantly. Yet, soon afterwards was the martial law – no one thought about elegance, many tailors and other artisans went bankrupt. Even more joined them after 1989 when the communist regime fell, following the inflow of foreign labels. Tadeusz Zaremba died in 1998 and was buried in the Alley of the Notable at the Warsaw Powązki Cemetery. The company was run by Adam Zaremba and his wife. The name was still recognized, but there were not many customers.
Adam Zaremba died suddenly in 2005 and the business was led by his wife and their son Maciej. With two first-class master tailors and cutters on board the company was still the best in town and the first choice for diplomats, politicians, millionaires and celebrities.
Maciej, leveraging the family expertise and being up to date with the trends in the fashion and textiles, advises customers in choosing the style and material. He also develops the company as bespoke tailoring is once again popular. One of the strategic moves is a partnership with Piotr Kamiński, one of the very few bespoke tailors and cutters in Poland.
Piotr Kamiński made his first steps in the tailoring business as a twelve year old. Right after high school he joined the master Adam Zaremba’s atelier where he learnt the profession for the next 9 years. In 1999 he launched his own business and for several years was the special jobs man for Ermenegildo Zegna (dealing with the most demanding customers and the toughest orders). During 20 years in the profession he has tailored over 1,200 suits, not counting dinner jackets, tailcoats and coats.
In 2009, Kamiński decided to join forces with Maciej Zaremba and contributed his valuable skills and recognized name to the partnership. In July 2009, the famous tailors’ atelier becomes Zaremba & Kamiński.
We provide bespoke tailoring in the full range of men's apparel from suits, dinner jackets and tailcoats to coats and shirts. We are working using methods that for over 100 years have built our reputation and inspired trust of the people on the front pages of newspapers – recognized artists, influential politicians, skilful diplomats, successful businessmen and top lawyers.
Our atelier is pleased to offer clothes of the highest quality that last longer. Machine stitching accounts for only 20 percent of all seams in a jacket. Sleeves are hand pitched and buttonholes are hand finished with a silk thread. Unlike many manufacturers and tailors, we never use gluelam – only canvas stiffeners, Camela-manufactured stiffeners and haircloth. The sewing technique we use allows widening or narrowing suits in future.
Who would be your favorite client, living or dead, and why?
We have a lot of "favorite" clients. However, we usually avoid talking about our current and living clients, our company and family politics is to be discreet when it comes to our clients' names.
Of course we prefer clients who have certain class, because one can have all the money in the world and have none. We often work for politics, like Radek Sikorski, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who, like all politics, is seen rather as a controversial person, but he's always presented himself to us as a man of courtesy and charm.
We would like to mention also Mr. Janusz Kochanowski, Civil Rights Ombudsman, who died two weeks ago in the plane crash travelling to Russia with our President, he was our client during many years, so we are still really sadden and shocked by the tragedy.
What do you think is going to happen with bespoke tailoring in the future?
Every quality handmade cloth is a piece of art, there is a lot of hidden labor involved in handmade, that's why it's so expensive. Made to measure tailoring is becoming more popular every day, as it's cheaper both for the tailor and, as a result, for the client, so I think bespoke tailoring someday may become a luxury good available only for the richest and most demanding customers. Anyway, I think that there will always be a demand for bespoke tailoring, as there will always be very exigent clients, with high quality expectations, looking for individual products. A bespoke suit requires no label flashing – a man wearing it, even if together with a plain shirt and tie, always looks better than that wearing a regular ‘of the peg’ suit and carefully selected shirt and accessories. A tailor-made suit is always perfect, regardless of your body shape – it highlights the strengths and hides any imperfections.
Where is the source for your fabrics?
You can chose from all textiles offered by the world's leading manufacturers, mostly Italian (like Loro Piana, Vitale Barberis Canonico, Ermenegildo Zegna, Bonino, Drapers) and British (Holland and Sherry, Scabal, Fox Flannels, Wainshiell) and others (Dormeuil, etc.). Each of them is available in about sixty designs and colours, which gives our customers hundreds of choices. You can also order a pattern meeting your individual needs (e.g. a name incorporated almost invisibly in the structure of a fabric).
As for the linings, we work with German and Italian suppliers, but all of them are 100% cupro Bemberg.
We also import from Italy natural-horn buttons made on our individual order.
What do you find is great inspiration for what you do?
Definitely it's my family's over 100-year tradition in tailoring and my grandfather's fame. Before World War 2 our company was really famous across the Europe, then it suffered changes, as whole Poland did. Now my aim is to restore the company to its former prosperity and fame.
Of course we would like to develop our company in a new, modern way: we have already have in offer a new bespoke clothing line, that includes weekend and business casual clothes, such as weekend shirts, sports jackets and denim pants. I hope my grandfather would be proud and happy of that new business direction.
How appreciated is bespoke in Poland, do you have a lot of clients outside the country?
Unfortunately many people in Poland are still under a charm of the most popular ready-to-wear trademarks such as Armani, Eremegildo Zegna, Canalli, Prada, etc. As I said, Made to Measure tailoring has become quite popular in the last years, as it's cheaper and thus more available. However, people are becoming more aware of what bespoke tailoring is and what are the benefits of bespoke clothing. A good sign of this may be the fact, that the huge part of our clients are former customers of Eremengildo Zegna Made to Measure Service.
Lamentably the purchasing power of many of Poles is still insufficient to to convert need into demand and to bespoke clothes or shoes.
The majority clients are Polish, but about 10%-15% of my customers are foreigners, mainly Poland-based diplomats, but I remember an English man who visited us about twice a year to bespoke suits, our price was lower than in London's Savile Row where he used to bespoke suits, and, as he said, he was given the same value for money.