How Instagram made Polish fashion designer Magda Butrym a star in Paris, Hong Kong and beyond

The widely acclaimed young designer, known for floral print dresses and crocheted pieces, became an instant hit when she took to social media to publicise her artisan-inspired creations

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 May, 2017, 12:16pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 May, 2017, 5:27pm

Emerging in a country that didn’t stage a fashion week, Polish designer Magda Butrym took to social media for publicity and is now widely acclaimed after being spotted on Instagram. Her romantic floral printed dresses and cold-shoulder silk blouses grabbed the eye at Paris boutique Montaigne Market, who ordered straight off the app. Moda Operandi and Net-a-Porter were similarly captivated.

“We saw her first on Instagram, and we sold out the first season on upload,” says Lisa Aiken, the retail director of Net-a-Porter and a Magda devotee. “So we doubled our order the next season and have added her new jewellery collection for autumn.”

Based in Warsaw, the 32-year-old designer says Instagram has offered her a publicity platform. “It’s my moodboard and how I present my brand to others. It is an important message.”

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And that message is a collection of seductive masculine tailoring blended with floaty floral patterned silk dresses, ruffled blouses and hand-crocheted pieces inspired by the Polish artisans.

Her husband and business partner, Jakub Czarnota, explains their strategy. “A small brand using Instagram gives people access worldwide. So in theory you can reach anyone, but 100,000 other brands are doing the same thing. However, we’ve noticed that digital influencers have a way of encouraging your average shopper to reach out to a new brand.”

Those influencers include bloggers like Tiffany Tsu @handinfire, Linda Tol and Pandora Sykes, and models such as Anja Rubik, Kendall Jenner and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who have all posted images of themselves wearing Magda Butrym.

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“For a small brand it was just organic; if they liked it they would wear it,” says Butrym. And they did, in their droves. Magda Butrym debuted in 2014 and in the first season picked up six stockists. That has soared to 115 doors worldwide for autumn/winter ’17, including Harvey Nichols in Hong Kong and Lane Crawford in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai, who have carried her label for a while.

The floral dresses and blouses are a customer favourite, but in the summer collection there is an underlying punk mood with nostalgic tailoring like a white pant suit (a personal favourite of Magda’s), leather trousers and biker jackets mixed with ruffled dresses, and racy crochet pieces.

Butrym was born in Zabrze in southern Poland and local women, who during the grim cold-war years made their own clothes, now crochet dresses with cut-out details for her. “They make my work easier because I have somewhere to start and know what to do. They give me the roots to start each season.”

Each collection is an evolution from the previous one, so the retro-romantic ’70s vibe of earlier seasons has more of a 1980s nuance for autumn. She says she was obsessed with the US television soap Dynasty during her childhood and so those ’80s oversized silhouettes, big blouses, sharply structured jackets and body-conscious skirts are making an appearance.

I just make clothes with thought and some artistry that girls like. I’m cool with that
Magda Butrym

During her youth, fashion wasn’t considered a career option, unsurprisingly given her mother’s generation used to smuggle fashion magazines in from Germany and dyed T-shirts using vegetable dyes into amazing prints. Magda prepared herself at school for a life in medicine but her mother was curious as to why she wanted to become a doctor, “and I said, so that I could design a big white apron. And my mother thought, OMG is this a good idea.”

The designer is largely self-taught, having worked for other small design businesses in Warsaw before launching her label. Mistakes she made before that were important, she says, because “I then had a definite idea of the identity I was trying to establish”. But she says she’s not an innovator.

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“I don’t have a different vision like (Belgian designer) Raf Simons ... I just make clothes with thought and some artistry that girls like. I’m cool with that.”