“The passion of creating something beautiful drives me every day.”
Born and raised in Poland, Hamerlik earned a bachelor’s degree in Polish language and literature and a master’s in Polish philosophy in the early 2000s and traveled Europe for nearly a year. “I had my ‘a-ha’ moment in Paris when I was able to go to the couture shops and experience high-end women’s fashion,” she says. “Coming from what was a communist country, I was never privy to these types of luxuries growing up. This was how everything started. Looking at beautiful, handmade garments … opened my eyes for what I could really create."
Hamerlik was recently selected to be a designer in residence with the Chicago Fashion Incubator at Macy’s on State Street. At press time, she was also awarded the 2013 grand prize from the Chicago Fashion Foundation, which was established by fellow alumna Lana Bramlette (BA ’97).
The Dark Flower Photos: Kirsten Miccoli (BA '10); Styling: Agnes Hamerlik. Headshot Photo: James Hayden. Schizophrenic Dysfunction Photo: James Hayden; Styling: Mirey Enverova/Agnes Hamerlik.
Hamerlik’s collection Dark Flower, inspired by the artist Frida Kahlo, tempers femininity with toughness. The designer continues to take classes to perfect her embroidery.
After moving to Chicago in 2004, Hamerlik taught at the Polish Consulate General and worked for the nonprofit Polish-American Association as a social worker. But her experience in Paris stayed with her, and by 2008 she was enrolled at Columbia. Studying fashion was “a fantastic journey of self-discovery through art,” she says.
Hamerlik sees her clothes as a way to express “a metaphor, a connection in between the body, material, and our identity.” Her designs often include exaggerated shapes, intricate embellishments, couture beading and embroidery, or unusual materials like neoprene. “I often manipulate conventional ideas of proportion and form,” she says. “I work with individual clients who appreciate avant-garde, edgy, and theatrical elements.”
Hamerlik’s designs often include exaggerated shapes and intricate embellishments. “I often manipulate conventional ideas of proportion and form,” Hamerlik says. “I work with individual clients who appreciate avant-garde, edgy, and theatrical elements.”
Her most recent collection is inspired by the artist Frida Kahlo, whose iconoclastic personal style was an eclectic, lavish spin on Mexican indigenous costume and a complement to her intensely personal Surrealist paintings. Hamerlik’s contemporary take on Kahlo’s look tempers femininity with toughness: Richly embroidered black dresses are accessorized with not only Kahlo-esque braids but slick driving gloves and ammunition belts.
“I believe there is a place for everyone in the fashion industry,” Hamerlik says. “The problem is finding your niche.” She found hers at Columbia, where her undergraduate career culminated in her designs being chosen for the Hokin Honors exhibition in 2011 and Fashion Columbia in 2012. In 2012 she was selected to represent Columbia in the Driehaus Design Initiative Fashion Show, and she was the winning designer for both Launch 2012 Driving Fashion Forward: Autohaus on Edens Fashion Show and the Stanley Paul-Raelene Mittleman Scholarship competitions for excellence in design.
Additionally, Hamerlik was recently selected to be a designer in residence with the Chicago Fashion Incubator at Macy’s on State Street. At press time, she was also awarded the 2013 grand prize from the Chicago Fashion Foundation, which was established by fellow alumna Lana Bramlette (BA ’97).
But Hamerlik isn’t resting on her laurels. She is “designing and creating every day,” and uses her award funds to expand her skill set, taking additional classes at Harper College to perfect her embroidery. “I understand the value of hard work and perfecting my craft,” Hamerlik says. “My life is about an unexpected journey, not a destination.”
—By Audrey Michelle Mast (BA ’00)