Karla Gruszecka /
I am surprised at myself
An interview with Karla Gruszecka, a stylist and expert in the field of fashion, about gratitude, love for fashion and returning to oneself.
In conversation: Bożena Kowalkowska
Photos: Jakub Stanek
We meet at a rather unusual moment in your life, when you started working as a freelancer after fifteen years. For the last four years you have been working at Vogue Polska, where you were the fashion department director. How do you feel?
It’s probably hard to believe, but I have the feeling that I’m the best version of myself right now (laughs). I am breathing deeply and I feel at ease for the first time in a long while. I took all the changes on the chin. Moving to freelance, changing the terms of cooperation, post-pandemic experiences and my last stay in L.A. made me feel as if I had finally longingly come back to myself and started a completely new life.
Sounds revolutionary. What exactly has changed?
At last I have time for me, to delve into myself and think about who I am, what I need, what I want. And funnily enough, most of the people I meet now provide me with an answer to that question. I know how it all sounds. I have never believed in such a transformation that someone quits a corporation, starts to do handicraft, and suddenly becomes a completely new person until it happened to me (laughs).
Tell me something more.
I have always tried to care for relationships, but to be honest, I had no time for others to give them myself the way I like the most. Anyway, there was nothing to give from myself because I was completely devoted to work. And even when I found an hour or so for my friends, my thoughts were elsewhere, and I was myself overexcited and tired. I was far from being a good companion, and the thing is, I can be great at it because I’m outgoing and I like people.
With the enormous amount of duties, the approval and recognition of others was crucial for me, and the pursuit of this kind of attention additionally deprived me of my energy, time and tranquillity. I had to understand that not everyone has to like me, understand me and want to spend time with me.
Now I can buy a ticket overnight and fly to Paris for a session and stay there as long as I want because I am the owner of my own time. I felt total independence. I meet my friends spontaneously, for dinner, drinking wine or parties in the middle of the week or just like that – for a delicious lunch during the day. I also finally have time to enjoy different things and try new ones. I am excited about a new couch, a walk in the park, some previously unknown workout equipment, or the taste of a new tea. In the end, I also read or watch what I consciously choose, and not what accidentally falls into my hands or catches my eye. There is less randomness in my life now. After all, I have time for myself. I feel richer and calmer.
What have you learned about yourself?
I found that although I love traveling, I also love my home very much and being in it gives me a sense of security and tranquillity. I realized how important the ability to calm down is in such an intense and creative profession. Especially with people like me who have a hot temper and a high level of vibrations. It’s rarely talked about, but recovery is much more important than getting overexcited. By the way, I have met many inspiring people who discover their way of expression by exploring their inner self and possibilities: breathing, singing, yoga, meditation, and now I started to try all of it. I am surprised at myself. Although I admit, I am not good at singing so far (laughs).
I was also not aware of the importance and power of nature. This feeling came to me very strongly in the United States, where I recently spent more than two months. Nature has done something extraordinary to me, thanks to it I have soothed and lulled myself. But you know what touches me the most right now?
The ability to be grateful. It blossomed in me during my last travel and I realized that when you open up to other people, beautiful things happen to you. It was only there that I realized that there are so many amazing selfless people in this world and everyone has a different story and something to offer, that it makes no sense to stick only to what you already know. I also accepted that certain relationships are for us only for a certain period of time, for a certain stage of life and that’s it. I can see now how much impact the people I surround myself with and their energy have on me. And I am extremely lucky when it comes to people. I have become less critical and more understanding – also for myself.
What else has changed in your approach?
Work determined my perception of the world. For many years I have focused on the opinions of others and lived for others, putting myself in fourth or fifth place. I gave my best and I forgot about myself. I did not protect my energy and self-esteem, I did not pay attention to how something hurt me or was uncomfortable for me. The day was still too short. I realized this only when problems with my health appeared, which is a classical situation. Only recently have I realized how my professional life has consumed and overburdened myself.
I also had absolutely no time to draw conclusions and learn from my mistakes. I never allowed myself a moment of weakness. When I was on set after a sleepless night and I felt the unbearable pain of endometriosis, which I have been suffering from for many years, I only clenched my teeth and did everything to remain professional until the very end. To some I might have seemed inaccessible and strict at the time, but I just kept myself in line to keep myself from falling apart.
Working full-time in fashion is very demanding, while fashion is often not taken seriously.
Yes, and the people involved in it are also perceived through the same prism. And we need fashion as much as we need culture and art. This is demonstrated by the fact that at times of war and crisis the only way to maintain your dignity was to take care of your appearance. Nowadays, clothing is a way of expressing yourself, telling something about yourself, showing who and what you are, the possibility of making an impression. Apart from that, creating such a feast for the eye, a fairy-tale world, requires a lot of creativity and imagination. That is why I wish we had more respect for fashion and beautiful things, because it really improves our well-being and makes our lives more colourful.
So you are not fed up with fashion yet?
No, absolutely not! I love my job, but I want to do it now on my own terms. I can choose projects consciously, I have more time to prepare for the session. And most importantly – I have time to be happy about it, feel excited and enjoy my work.
The new situation made me willing to enter new projects, try completely new things, both professionally and personally. And finally, sometimes I can give up work, because I prefer, for example, to celebrate my birthday or go out of town. Some time ago it was unthinkable. And I don’t feel at all like I’m missing anything, just like I don’t feel guilty anymore when I don’t do anything.
Do you regret having lived differently before?
Not at all! Although I believe that it was a difficult lesson, it was still necessary. Remember that I did not eat it with a small spoon, but with a huge ladle. I have thrown myself into it with all my passion and sensitivity, learning and testing everything on a living organism – that is myself – without any hints or help.
Paradoxically, I think that thanks to this, life tastes even more to me now – precisely because it used to be so intense, so different. I used to feel that I should take advantage of every opportunity I encountered, every chance, and finally I proved to everyone – and most of all to myself – that I was able to do it. The time when I gave up everything I had for work is behind me and now I am not forced to do anything anymore. I feel great with it!
So what, are you enjoying the routine now?
I am rather far from routine, but in fact there exist some activities that I like to carry out although they are cyclical. For example, I am now trying free weekends, meditation, and going to psychotherapy – which I should have been doing already a long time ago with my emotional and intense lifestyle. In general, I think that you should go to therapy like to a dentist, it should be natural.
You talk about it as if it didn’t hurt at all.
It certainly did hurt in the beginning, but luckily my identity is not composed only of my job – which I had to remind myself of. And besides everything, this type of events is a great test for people around you (laughs). Suddenly it turns out that someone who seemed to be very close to you does not like you at all, and was beside you for convenience and self-interest.
But to be honest – not everything was that simple. Last year, I broke up with a partner with whom I had been in relationship for five years. This relationship was my refuge, a reliable haven, and what I must admit – created for my former needs, for my former life. But when I stopped the rush, it turned out that it didn’t work at all, that each of us needed something different. And however brutal may it be, I didn’t fight for this relationship in the end.
I don’t know if you noticed, but I completely followed you in our conversation. What kind of confession will you surprise me with at the end?
With such that I finally want to completely stabilize. To fight for life with passion, joy and commitment in every aspect.
I am open to serious changes in my private life, stabilization, family building and being happy without sacrifice.
I have jumped to another stage.