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Made in the Czech Republic

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ModaBig: Many Czech manufacturers still follow socialist-era production models.  (COURTESY)Many Czech manufacturers still follow socialist-era production models. (COURTESY)
A full figure surely looks appealing. Especially if wearing custom-made clothes. But the clothes offered by a company from the Zlín region were not pretty. Even the label “oversized clothing” wasn’t the best way to describe them. They looked much more like oversized nylon sacks covered with prints of realistic-looking large orchids. This stall was not rare among others at the “fashion” (better using quotes) fair Styl in Brno; it looked like the majority of the Czech clothing firms draws inspiration from Burda archives.

This experience is about three years old, but it has been repeated many times ever since. The same happened at the fashion fair Móda Praha, or in a slightly different version at Pragointeriér or Mobitex, as well as at furniture and home accessories fairs, and bathrooms and housing fairs, everywhere where the best Czech products should be displayed. Instead the fairgrounds featured large sofas with upholstery that looked worn out already three days after the opening, cutlery with grips featuring traditional folklore motifs known as cibulák, a chandelier that would best fit in at the National Theatre etc. They were mostly designs that could hardly appeal to the growing number of rich and demanding Czechs. They are not of better quality than others and yet they look remarkably outdated.

It’s no wonder. In the early 1990s, most producers closed their design units, and they showed no interest in hiring external designers. They don’t even hire anyone whose job would be to make innovative changes regarding the production line, saying every product, as everyone knows, has its own life cycle. As a result, the products are made as long as they are more or less demanded.

From time to time, it is necessary to bring change. Every year, dozens of industry and fashion designers graduate in the Czech Republic, ready to make change happen. But the producers believe they can get along just fine without them. They therefore use a company worker with decent artistic skills to do the job; he adds a cross bar to a chair or more gold to a glass, and production takes off, while designers are leaving the sector in droves, having no work to do.

But the situation has been changing significantly. A growing number of smaller dynamic producers have started appearing, and even the old large companies have started upgrading their product lines. Companies, which did not start soon enough or missed the trend completely, now appear in the news about failing Czech industries. It’s a sad ending, but the companies have been asking for it, considering the consumer goods fairs. And after all, it may not be so sad if there is less cibulák style cutlery and fewer clothes that look like tents.

Translated with permission by the Prague Daily Monitor.

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