Craft / May 2017

Zaremba Bespoke: Survival of the Fitter

The name Zaremba is a derivative of Polish zarabac ‘to hack or chop’, belying the beautifully cut suits on offer at a tailoring house whose history is entwined with politics, performance art and personality.

Jonathan Edwards photographed by Jamie Ferguson.

For a tailoring house headed up by its fifth generation patriarch and with over a century of clients on its books, Zaremba Bespoke has recently blossomed above the dense canopy of bespoke tailoring. With deep roots in Poland’s capital, Maciej Zaremba has fine-tuned the family business, which dates back to late 19th century Warsaw.

“There’s not really such a thing as a ‘Polish’ tailoring style, but I intend on changing that,” Maciej asserts, and it’s easy to see his point. The British tailoring houses have their roped shoulders, sculpted chests and military provenance, their drape cuts and their hourglass figures. The Italians have their lightweight fabrics, unlined structures, experimental colours and soft shoulders. It’s not impossible to make an educated guess when you come across a peaked lapel or hand-stitched buttonhole as to whom made it, which makes it all the more intriguing to come across a suit you simply can’t place.

Not too long ago, in a room full of bespoke addicts, impeccably dressed men and women, craftsmen and menswear authorities, not one was able to predict that one of the most beautiful suits present was in fact made in Poland. Worn by Jonathan Edwards, who describes himself as a businessman but has gained recognition for being a street style photographer’s dream, the double-breasted button-two-show-three, off-white VBC suit was a true head turner. “Coming from outside the two established tailoring cradles, Italy and the UK, I have no choice but to differentiate or die,” Maciej explains. A little dramatic? Not really, when you consider that under his grandfather and father, the family tailoring legacy survived two world wars and the post-war communist era. “That period did not spare my grandfather, Tadeusz – he faced regular searches and confiscations. The newly-established communist government did not appreciate the bourgeois elegance. Materials were rationed, so good fabric had to be sourced on the black market or smuggled from abroad.” Maciej recalls frequent visits from the secret police and special hiding places in the atelier for prohibited English wool.

The shop’s survival, then, is testament to its unfailing delivery of good, old-fashioned quality wares. “Bespoke became very rare – many other artisans went bankrupt, and even when the communist regime fell, foreign labels flooded the market. But my grandfather had established more than a tailoring shop. In Poland he was something of a celebrity – he had built a real brand.” Tadeusz kept developing the business and provided tailoring for Warsaw’s “crème de la crème, diplomats and even high profile celebrities – performers from the National Philharmonic Orchestra and well-renowned cabarets.” The brand stood for quality, and a suit by Zaremba was considered a great luxury, a status symbol of sorts. “Even during the toughest times we kept the quality level high, which many could not keep up.”

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Anna Prendergast

Anna is a freelance writer and former staffer at The Rake. She is passionate about travel, well made clothes and homemade chocolate chip cookies.