Dressing Mrs. Mogilevich

Dan Levine gets gussied up

There was a time when every Czech housewife was a seamstress. It was simply part of the job description. And during communist days, women had to make their own clothes if they wanted anything more stylish than the frumpy frocks available at the local dress shop. Alas, with the onslaught of capitalism, home tailoring is now a dying art, a vestige of a previous age. But slip into your Manolo Blahniks and hike around a triangle of Old Town back streets, where a local fashion-design revolution is ready to burst at the seams.

The streets between Dlouhá and Pařížská are the epicenter of Prague’s burgeoning designer-owned-boutique movement, a trend that started with the opening of Klára Nademlýnská’s eponymous shop in 1998. Now one of the Czech Republic’s best-known young designers, Klára was a vanguard in the neighborhood, offering a full range of clothing and accessories in a swanky space that wouldn’t be out of place on Madison Avenue or the Faubourg-St-Honoré. Set on a polished concrete floor backed by a sliding rice-paper wall, the collection is a hippie-ish mix-and-match style known for sometimes crazy cuts that make for fun streetwear and partywear.

Pop around the corner and you’ll find Timoure et Group, another bright white boutique that sells fast-forward fashions in an interior-design wonderland. The über-contemporary collections are created by Alexandra Pavalová and Ivana Šafránková, a hard-working team known for minimalist, business-friendly outfits with inspirational flourishes. Think very well-tailored suits, pants, jackets and sweaters, plus some comfortable daywear, including T-shirts. Their four annual collections get more adventurous by the season, and reach a crescendo each summer with their most daring offerings.

Not wanting to miss out on the trend, designer Tatiana Kováříková recently migrated to the neighborhood and is reinforcing her street cred with her second self-branded shop (the first opened in Platys some half-dozen years ago). Kováříková is probably the most traditional of this new wave, offering pants, suits and skirts that are regularly spotted in the corridors of the nation’s biggest banks and law firms.

Just a few doors down is Boheme, one of the neighborhood’s newest arrivals, opened last fall ago by designer Hana Stocklassa in a space designed by Barbora Skorpilová. The semi-annual collections showcased here are heavy on knitwear, mainly cool tops that riff on traditional themes, featuring buttons and collars but with interesting fabrics and details. There’s leather and suede too, as well as some bags and necklaces.

Compared to those of Western European capitals, Prague’s designer boutiques are still thin on the ground, but the scene is clearly emerging. As usual, the problem isn’t a lack of talent, but of financial backers willing to take a risk on retail. As Prague continues to evolve, expect many more of these stores to bloom.

Dan Levine is the editor in chief of Avant-Guide travel books. He can be reached at letters@pill.cz

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