By: Maja Von Horn
Photography: Pierre-Marie Maulini
A stylish mix of art and fashion made @lifeofboheme one of the industry’s favorite Instagram profiles. We sat down with its creator Marta Cygan to talk about Paris, her love of the Polish aesthetic, and how influencers can make fashion more relevant.
Maja von Horn: How has your work changed during the pandemic?
Marta Cygan: Every day seems exactly the same, and it’s been like that for quite a few months now. In my line of work, that can get pretty boring. Before the pandemic my work involved a lot of traveling and socializing. Now we’re all working from home and it deeply affects my mood.
M.v.H.: Will the fashion industry ever go back to what it used to be?
M.C.: That’s the big question for all the brands right now. But do we really want things to go back to that crazy pace? I don’t. I don’t want all that overproduction, all the waste the industry generates. I’d like to see people’s mentality change.
M.v.H.: Fashion is also about socializing, like you said. Fashion weeks are probably the best example of that.
M.C.: Watching the shows online is very different, it has nothing to do with the live experience. I miss the feeling when you wait for a show to begin, and suddenly there’s this very loud music and you start discovering the collection. I’ve always felt very privileged to be invited to a show, it’s like a little girl’s dream come true. I miss that excitement. But I’m also very impressed with how creative brands are getting when it comes to organizing shows during the pandemic.
M.v.H.: Which show was your favorite during Paris Fashion Week in March?
M.C.: There was only one live show that I attended, for the French brand Coperni, and it was a drive-in! A car came to pick me and my friend up from home. There was champagne and candy in the car, we arrived at the venue, parked next to other guests, and watched the show from a car! It was genius, it made me so happy.
M.v.H.: You moved back to Paris last year, after spending four years in Los Angeles. Why did you decide to come back?
M.C.: I planned to stay there for a year, treating it as a kind of challenge. I liked it so much that I decided to stay longer, but I never thought I’d stay away from my family for good. I also missed Europe. Paris is more spontaneous, you can go out for a glass of wine with a friend anytime you want. In LA everything is so far away, it’s impossible to do that. But LA has amazing weather, and that really affects your mood. Now that I'm in Paris, I miss California a lot. My dream would be to have a house in LA and an apartment in Paris, I’ll do my best to make it happen.
M.v.H.: Does a city affect the way you dress?
M.C.: I feel much cooler when I’m in LA. I feel more free and more creative knowing that people won’t judge me for what I’m wearing. In Paris, if you put on anything else other than jeans and a blazer, people will notice that.
M.v.H.: Is a social media influencer a full-time job?
M.C.: Yes, but I also work as a creative director for different brands. I never went to fashion school, but I’ve always loved fashion. I was told that I should study something more serious, so I went to the Sorbonne to study applied languages (Polish, German and English). After three years I realized that it was too boring for me, that there was nothing creative about it, and that I knew I wanted to work in fashion. I started with small gigs, like working in showrooms. But it was when I moved to Los Angeles that Instagram became my full-time job.
M.v.H.: Your profile @lifeofboheme doesn’t only cover fashion, there are also many art references. Where do you look for inspiration?
M.C.: Art is just as important to me as fashion. I’m inspired by great architects, like Le Corbusier. But the most inspiring place in the world for me is the Fondation Maeght in Saint Paul de Vence in the south of France. It has the best art collection I’ve ever seen. It influences the way I dress, because it is all about volume, shape, and color.
M.v.H.: You were born in Stalowa Wola in Poland, where you spent the first years of your childhood. Do you speak Polish?
M.C.: I do, but I feel more comfortable in French or English. We moved to Paris with my mother and my brother when I was six, after my dad passed away. It was very brave of my mother to do this. She’s an extremely strong woman and my role model. We would always go back to Poland for our summer vacations. I’m very patriotic and proud of my roots.
M.v.H.: Your Instagram stories have featured a traditional Polish wedding, as well as other images from small-town Poland. Is it pure nostalgia, or is there something in this Jurgen Teller-like aesthetic that is genuinely inspiring for you?
M.C.: It is quite nostalgic, especially for emigrants, expats. For foreigners it’s rather exotic. These places make me feel very proud. This is my heritage, this is who I am and where I come from, I find it really inspiring. I genuinely believe in this aesthetic, and in the creative vibe of young Polish people. I think that the young generation of Polish fashion designers is super modern. French people are quite conservative when it comes to fashion, because everything in France is so established. The Polish perspective is much fresher.
M.v.H.: You’ve been wearing Polish designers a lot, and Chylak bags seem to be a favorite. What makes them so special?
M.C.: I’m very proud of Chylak’s ability to make a name for itself outside of Poland. I love it when someone in Paris asks where my bag is from, and I can say “It’s Chylak, a Polish designer". I always emphasize it, and it’s very satisfying for me personally. Obviously, I love the design itself, but I also love the fact that they’re Polish and so successful.
M.v.H.: Do you have any advice on how fashion could be more relevant today?
M.C.: Brands are trying to change and do better, be more sustainable. But I think influencers should also be doing the work of educating their audience. I made a decision to limit the number of gifts I receive, and now I refuse most of them. They would come everyday: this winter I got twenty pairs of boots, despite the lockdown! It doesn’t make any sense. Brands should think twice - is this the right moment to send this gift? I explain to them that I don’t accept most gifts anymore (unless it’s something I know I’m going to wear a lot) because of the environmental impact of those dozens of weekly packages. I don’t like to have a lot of clothes. I like to be mobile, I like to relocate from place to place, so I don’t buy a lot of stuff. If girls ask me how to dress well or how to look Parisian, I always tell them not to wear designers head to toe, to wear more vintage. It’s really not cool, especially now, to be that expensively dressed.
Marta’s favorite places
(for when we can travel again)
- Fondation Maeght in Saint Paul de Vence
- Gelerie Patrick Seguin in Paris
- Regen Projects Art Gallery in Los Angeles
- OFR Bookshop in Paris
- Cafecito Organico, my coffee spot in Los Angeles
- Comets, my coffee spot in Paris
- Clamato, a restaurant in Paris
- Le Servan, a restaurant in Paris
- La Buvette, for a glass of wine and cheese in Paris
- Le Café Du Coin, for an evening with friends with natural wine
- Outdoor vintage shopping in Paris at Puces de Vanves (on weekdays)