A Feel For Fashion: Adam Leja


From Poland, Adam Leja is an art historian who applies his knowledge to fashion, specifically to Haute Couture. He is an avid collector with an archive of upwards 5,000 items, from 1860 to today and mostly from French Haute Couture. As he told CNN in 2019, “I only buy French Couture pieces because, for me, the history of fashion began in France.” A consultant for museums and private collectors, assisting with their fashion acquisitions, Leja is also a member of several institutions including The Association of Art Historians in Poland, the Confédération Internationale des Négociants en Oeuvres d’Art, Société Européenne de Culture and The Association of Polish Antiquarians and Art Dealers. The most valuable pieces he owns are vintage designs from Elsa Schiaparelli, Christian Dior, Coco Chanel, and a rare House of Worth Couture gown from 1910.

What excites you in fashion right now?


At the moment, the most exciting aspect for me in fashion is observing how iconic brands are evolving. Fashion houses, where their original founders are no longer with us, are thriving with new fashion designers. The original DNA of the brand is transformed into ideas deriving from the heritage of the house and adaptation to modern times and new consumers. I also love to see new, emerging designers who have a totally different view on fashion. There seems to be no boundaries.


What is one reason to be optimistic about the state of fashion going forward?


I would say that fashion is like a wheel; some things have already been developed, but new technologies make almost everything possible. Young generations are discovering what fashion is all about and what's important and they become the new fashion consumers.


In what ways do you think AI might benefit fashion?


Artificial Intelligence will for sure help designers with determining consumer interest, help foresee trends, and perhaps provide an easier process of designing. But I believe that in Haute Couture, the role of the designer and the petites mains will always be the most important.


Who or what will drive the greatest change in fashion this year?


We are witnessing a big change in gender orientation on the runways. What used to be exclusive only for women we now see on men. I think it’s a big change after the revolutionary changes when women started wearing men's clothing. As in every historical event, any upheaval also makes an impact on fashion's history.


What impact might you hope to have on fashion through your work?


By preserving the heritage of Haute Couture and showing designer pieces from my collection in museum exhibitions, I hope that people will start to discover and understand that Haute Couture is something more than fashion. The pieces are works of art and should be considered as such. We have to take into consideration that the same amount of time has been undertaken in designing and creating such unique works as in making paintings and sculptures. Each designer is an artist, not only a dress designer or maker. Exhibitions showing the history of fashion present how a certain style developed and how it is transformed into today. I recall a small exhibition at the National Museum in Warsaw where the best paintings and sculptures from their collections were exhibited alongside my fashion pieces. Young people were only looking at the dresses and fashion accessories. This made them also glance at the works of art. I believe that in order to interest people in art, each museum should have a fashion department. Fashion is something that we first see watching a movie, looking at a magazine or just walking on the street. I hope this will make people more conscious of what fashion really is.


Can you suggest a fashion mantra for '24?


“Fashion makes everyone beautiful.” When we wear something that is in the “newest” fashion, we feel different and have better self-esteem. I also think the best mantra was said by Coco Chanel: "fashion changes but style remains.” It was accurate then and I believe it is still accurate now.


This interview has been lightly edited.