"The brand was never supposed to be taken very seriously," says Thomas Wirski, Misbhv's creative director, over the phone from Warsaw, Poland. But since the brand's New York Fashion Week debut in September, Misbhv has become one of the season's most talked-about fashion labels.
Designer Natalia Maczek originally founded Misbhv about three years ago as a side project, creating a small line of T-shirts for close friends to wear in the club. Over the past five seasons, the Polish brand has developed into a full-fledged contemporary line for men and women that mixes streetwear and nostalgia. It's a formula which of-the-moment labels from Eastern Europe have perfected — Gosha Rubchinskiy, Vetements and Demna Gvasalia for Balenciaga — but what sets Misbhv apart is that it still feels fresh and new, rather than familiar.
It's mostly thanks to Wirski and Maczek's DIY approach and drive to progress Misbhv through experimenting with leather, denim and swim. It helps that both were law students with no formal education in fashion. "The way this business works in Poland is we don't have an institutional fashion program. We don't have a system we can grow in," explains Wirski. "Everything we did so far we learned ourselves. A lot of the times we talk about the DIY process because this is what we grew up around. If we wanted to make a pair of trousers, we had to learn ourselves."
The core Misbhv team is made of up six people — mainly friends from over the years — and, according to Wirski, the brand expands with each season. "Because we're all very close, we try to come up with a vision that everyone believes in and is cohesive," says Wirski, who naturally gravitates towards designing the men's clothing while Maczek oversees women's wear. Misbhv is manufactured solely in Poland, among 10 to 12 factories (the farthest being just a three-hour drive away). Fabrics are sourced throughout Europe, including Italy, Portugal and France, and the fall 2016 collection's price point ranges among about $83 for a T-shirt, $376 for a coat and $1,812 for an oversize leather jacket.
For spring 2017, Wirski and Maczek presented Misbhv's first-ever stand-alone women's wear collection at New York Fashion Week. "It was a great experience, from set design to designing music," says Wirski. The choice of music was a high priority for the presentation, too, as techno filled the Milk Studios space to reflect the collection's inspiration from rave culture. The emotionless models posed along a floor peppered with roses; the collection is a juxtaposition between young love and a setting that was remembered as cold and grim. "It's a look back at a time we know very well," describes Wirski. "The late '90s and early 2000s when we were teenagers and would go out to the clubs in Eastern Europe."
The clothing is certainly reminiscent of a club kid's wardrobe: wide-legged pants with exaggerated pockets in denim and shiny black patent leather; oversize hoodies and button-downs; cropped jackets and belly-baring tops; motocross-inspired leather pieces; and pops of cotton candy pink through monogrammed bodysuit and chaps, as well as sparkling diamanté in the form of a logo or bra top. One of the models from the presentation was Sita Abellan, a longtime friend and Misbhv muse who wore a look from her upcoming five-piece capsule collection for the brand, which is called "Pain" and includes a silk kimono robe and boxer-style shorts.
It's interesting that Misbhv made its fashion week debut across the Atlantic in New York, as opposed to nearby cities like London and Paris. Does this mean they hope to expand their retail presence on in the U.S.? Not so much. Wirski notes that they are already fortunate enough to work with concept boutiques like H. Lorenzo, Wildstyle and 424 On Fairfax in Los Angeles, as well as VFiles in New York City. "We have a certain capacity to take on stores, and we would hate to take on stores just because it would be a promise of some process," he says. "We're very careful about the retailers that we work with and we by no means want to push it in any markets. We wouldn't want to grow bigger for the sake of growing bigger."
In the meantime, Misbhv's focus is on Paris, where they'll present the collection again in October for market and showcase the men's line in January. By February, Wirski and Maczek will be back in New York to debut their fall 2017 collection. "It's going to be better than this season because we always do fall and winter better," says Wirski. We'll be watching.
Browse Misbhv's spring 2017 collection in the gallery below.