The ŁAD (Order) Cooperative is a Polish counterpart of the Arts&Craft movement created in 1926 by the professors of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. The name also doubled as a manifesto – the creators’ intention was to create attractive orderly objects which would be easily available. This availability also involved aesthetic considerations, and the “Ład” style was a unique combination of modernity and tradition, functional simplicity and decorativeness with folk elements. The artistic value of the objects consisted in excellent proportions, simplicity of structure and perfect finishing. Fabrics were a substantial part of the Cooperative’s operations, they constituted the finishing touch in modern interiors and defined their nature.
The Cooperative survived World War II and was incorporated into Cepelia – the folklore and art sector depot – and through the 1950s, ŁAD’s products were still widely used. In press reviews of the 1st Polish Interior Design and Decorative Art Exhibition, which took place in 1952 in Zachęta, the modern twist of ŁAD’s products was subjected to criticism, with the reviews referring to excessive aestheticism, signs of uniqueness, bizarre style and no usability. Of course, it was a part of propaganda in its criticism of pre-war middle-class aspirations expressed in the purchase of things which are not practical but only serve the purpose of making an impression. However, the new authorities, above everything else, wished to refer to the folk tastes and handicraft art which originated from Polish countryside, the direct reference being the best kind for them.
For that reason, if fabrics by Wiktoria Nowak (born in 1994), a young graduate of the Łódź University of Technology, had hung in one of the pre-war exhibitions, they would surely have faced the same kind of criticism. Nowak’s jacquard would be criticised for bourgeois inclinations, excessive lavishness visible in thick weave, and a bold combination of navy blue and celadon green – a combination a folk artist would never turn to. There is a chance that the references to “simple” handicraft patterns would have been appreciated. But that’s it. Perhaps they would write that the designer’s lack of sophistication stems from her young age.
Wiktoria Nowak’s fabric was manufactured on a pneumatic weaving machine equipped with a digital mechanism for jacquard patterns. The use of the mechanism allows for an accurate reflection of the nature of even the most elaborate patterns, which is not possible in the case of traditional weaving machines. – “The idea for a collection of jacquard fabrics came to me while I was studying at the Łódź University of Technology.” recalls Wiktoria Nowak. “One of the tasks to be completed during the classes was to create objects in the spirit of the famous design cooperative. A three metre wide thick fabric I made in marine, navy blue and grey colours, is unique. I am not planning to make more, also because the production costs are high. Practically nobody creates jacquard fabrics these days in Poland.”
The “ład” fabric was showcased during last year’s MakeMe! Competition for young designers in the Łódź Design Festival. Her design is not the only one which refers to the achievements of this pre-war cooperative, and there are a number of young Polish designers of furniture and accessories for whom ŁAD is a significant point of reference. With a bit of nostalgia and without critical views of their parents, for whom “cepelia” brings only negative associations, young artists draw inspiration from the Ład projects in an attempt to search for the answer to the question: “What does it mean to create applied art today?”