Interview: Martyna Panczak, Head of Société Fashion

27th May 2017

If you haven’t heard of Société, you soon will. The Budapest-based initiative is redefining fashion for the next generation and will be in the UK over London Fashion Week Men’s, participating in a Fashion & Technology talk with The Industry, MR PORTER, Oliver Spencer and Thread.
Launched as a cultural and fashion movement, Société is a Central European community with its own dedicated real estate. Société House (based in a transformed, nineteenth-century heritage building from 1865 in the St. Stephen’s Basilica area) stages events, fashion shows, auctions, interactive contemporary exhibitions and workshops.

Aside from being the place to go in Budapest if you work in fashion, the Société Incubator Program is firmly tapped into Central Europe’s design talent, supporting selected designers in growing and sustaining their businesses, not just in the local market, but internationally.
Ahead of the Fashion & Technology talk over London Fashion Week Men’s, we talked to Martyna Panczak, Head of Société Fashion for the Société Group.

Hi Martyna, we want to come visit you in Budapest. Société House sounds incredible. Can international brands get involved?
Société focuses on Central Europe due to its headquarter's location, however, it’s a community gathering creative circles from all over the world. The goal is to bring together people with different backgrounds and let them inspire one another. In order to integrate [a] more international crowd, we work on introducing a ‘designer in residence’ status for those who are not based in Budapest, but still would like to benefit from programs and events organised by Société. Through our collaboration with The Industry we would like to create awareness of the project among British designers and hopefully welcome them in the Société community soon.

What is the menswear market like in Budapest?
The way in which Central European men navigate masculinity is still very conservative. However, the number of private-label brands focusing on menswear is growing and, step-by-step, breaking conventions by adding more colour to men’s wardrobes and experimenting with the form. Hungarian menswear designers like Grandpa or Zsigmond Dora are increasingly visible in the media and in-demand from retailers.

[They are] still too progressive for the local market though. How Central European designers are understood beyond the region is often synonymous with the post-communist and nostalgic aesthetics. However, sources of inspiration and influences in the region are far more nuanced and, I personally think, worth the attention of international fashion community.

You’ll be participating in the Fashion & Technology talk over London Fashion Week Men’s. How important do you think technology is to fashion?
Technology is undoubtedly a factor driving the industry forward. 3D printing, smart clothes and using big data in online shopping are not features of the future anymore. Technology democratised fashion, giving the first-row immediate access to anyone interested. Technological advancement made production and supply chains more efficient, bringing trends to the streets globally almost immediately. It’s indisputable that fashion and technology will be inextricably linked from now on.

Personally I love the old school perception of fashion as an art ­– craftsmanship of ateliers, decades-long heritage and legacy. At the same time I feel excited wearing linen that doesn’t crease or vegan leather, soft as [if] it was lambskin, possible to wash in a washing machine. Probably the Commuter Jacket developed recently by Google and Levi’s feels a bit too much, but with the right balance in fashion and technology, we can still enjoy the beauty of the clothes with their increased functionality.

What is Société doing to innovate and push the fashion agenda forward in Central Europe?
Société, and its Fashion Accelerator Program, is a platform for emerging fashion labels, leveraging their business potential. One of the goals of our initiative is to provide [the] designer community with resources and skills inevitable in a global retail market of the future. Through a series of workshops and collaborations with tech companies we help them to acquire [the] skills needed to become a forerunner in the industry through innovation and to drive tangible business results. We believe being one step ahead is a success factor and a true differentiator in today’s industry.
For more details about the Fashion & Technology panel talk with MR PORTER’s managing director, Toby Bateman; British menswear designer, Oliver Spencer; Thread’s Terry Betts and Société’s Martyna Panczak, email: [email protected]. The Fashion & Technology panel talk is produced by The Industry at the spring/summer 2018 Grooming Room and it will take place at Century Club in London’s Soho.
All images are from Hungarian designer Zsigmond Dora, represented by Société.

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