KAROLINA ZMARLAK WAS born in Poland during the Communist regime. Growing up in a Communist country teaches a person to make the best use of what little is available. Karolina remembers seeing her mother salvage scarce fabrics to have clothes made for her. This minimalism by necessity creates an enduring sense of inspiration.

Karolina immigrated to the United States in 1992, when her parents won a Clinton-era Green Card Lottery. She discovered her passion for sewing in high school, and she pursued her passion, graduating with high honors from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Karolina is inspired by the notion that the right clothes, with the right fit, can change how a woman feels about herself. “When women wear my designs, I want them to feel empowered. I want my pieces to bring confidence,” says Zmarlak.

While much of fashion has become de-personalized and mass-marketed, for Karolina, it’s very personal. It is her craft, distinguished by attention to detail. For Karolina, the stitching and location of the stitching is just as important as the color or style of a particular item. Known as a ready-to-wear designer, she designs clothes to be worn with little alteration, but with the look of a custom fit. She refuses to produce them overseas, as an even 1 percent degradation in quality would fail the women that she seeks to empower. Accordingly, she is one of the few designers whose creations are fully designed, ...

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