Words by Chloë Cooper

Natalia Grzybowski is the new name on the fashion radar. This 23 year-old Sydney fashion designer has garnered an immense amount of attention from her graduate collection Hybrid, and with good reason. Structured yet flowing garments mimic floral forms in stark white and intense botanical prints in colourful hues - Hybrid is truly an art form within itself. It’s this collection that has seen Natalia’s work feature on renowned trendsetting sites such as Lost At E Minor and Trend Hunter, become selected to showcase at L’Oreal Fashion Festival as well as winning the AINYFF grant to intern with Calvin Klein for 6 months in New York (not to mention the cool $25K prize money). To create such an artful, awe-inspiring and on trend collection at such a devastatingly young age is a true credit to Natalia’s talents and dedication to her art.

Having grown up in a creative environment – her mother an artist and her father an architect – Natalia always knew she wanted to work in design whether it was fashion, graphics or interiors, and only settled on fashion after high school. Born in Sydney, she spent her teenage years in Poland with her father and enrolled in an art school in Krakow that had just begun a fashion course. “I went there for a year and didn’t really like it – it was run in a specific way. Too disciplined, no room for innovation, and a little old fashioned for me in the way they ran things. My mother, who lives in Sydney, convinced me to enrol into the fashion course at UTS and when I received my letter of acceptance I decided to move back!”

Through her 4 years at UTS, Natalia honed her craft, learning every element involved in putting together a fashion range, which has clearly paid off. “I sewed the entire collection apart from the nude blouses (because I was running out of time and really needed the extra hands!). Time restraints, limited contacts and limited funds meant that I had to do it myself. I even did the look book photography myself on a friend and designed my brand image including fonts, catalogue layout and business card. Now when I look back I wouldn’t change that, because I can proudly say that I did the entire body of work myself from start to finish, and the amount that I have learned and what I have gained from this experience is invaluable.”

Hybrid consists of two entire final year collections – one in stark white and the other in luxurious floral prints. “I consider myself a minimalist yet I love dramatic, bold prints. I decided to develop the silhouettes first - stark white not only worked beautifully with the shapes, showing off the structure of the pleats and flounces. It also meant that it had to be perfectly tailored with a flawless finish – since everything is on show when in white. From the start I knew I wanted to do a bold floral print, re-invented with an opposing element of vintage-modernity, so I drew on this idea in my silhouettes. Working in white meant I had no distraction, so I was able to fully concentrate on the silhouettes I wanted, always keeping in mind the form of a flower. The white collection then stood on its own, and I used it as canvas, engineering the prints to the body and structures already created. So although the two collections really contrast each other, they’re a true collaboration.”

On the process behind the ideas and inspirations behind Hybrid, Natalia’s approach was organic and spontaneous. “Our final year started off with a mandatory dissertation, on which we were to base our final body of work. At that stage I was slightly panicky – I had no idea what I wanted to put out as my graduate collection and we needed to have a rough idea otherwise our essay wouldn’t support our work. I knew I liked modernity and minimalism and I was 100% sure I wanted to make my own textiles, even though I had never done it before. At the time I was watching a lot of Japanese movies and looking through beautiful books with old scientific illustrations of animals and plants. And it just hit me. I read a lot about our current perception of a cyborg and the impact technology has had on the representation of the female body – and I really wanted to play with these current perceptions, because I found them to be false and in many cases degrading to women. So it was important for me to create a collection that was beautiful and appealing to women, whilst simultaneously representing the positive aspects of technology and the cyborg woman.”

Considering Natalia’s upcoming internship with Calvin Klein, it’s hard to say exactly where she will be this time next year. Especially considering that last’s year’s winner is now working full time with the label. “I would love to continue working with established designers and design houses because I feel I still have so much more to learn, and hopefully the skills that I do have will be beneficial to them too. But I am definitely considering launching a label once I return.” Given her incredible track record already, there is no doubt that Natalia Grzybowski will be dominating the world of fashion in no time at all. Keep your finger on the pulse....