Popping up in New York

Photography by Tony von Thelen

By Ben Speaker

Fresh from Feeric Fashion Week, Bianca Popp came to New York CIty for the first time, and she was not alone. She was joined by fellow Romanian designers whom she has taken under her wing to varying degrees. The younger generation of Romanian designers we met all give kudos to her and their profuse thanks for her help and advice. 

Bianca Popp is a delightful person to spend time with. Her slightly clipped Romanian accent proves endearing in description of her early days, such as 2001, when she opened her first shop, and how styling lured her into fashion design. 

For Popp, fashion is more art, which she knows, than commerce, which she is rapidly learning. Her background in theater, costuming and semiotics is a fascinating place from which to approach personal fashion. Each piece is considered in great depth, from how it looks and feels to what it means, what it could and will mean for the wearer. 

Popp's intent is to fight standards and trends. Her more asymmetrical avant-garde work is clear proof of this. The theme occasionally reminds one of styles from science fiction. Her contemporary pieces are more familiar, even if new and unseen. Certainly not the wildest ideas you’ve seen from centuries in the future, these are pieces we would be unsurprised to see common on the street in nearer decades. She produces small lots of her work, with the most popular designs approaching 500 at the most. 

Bouncing a creative mind between the present and the near future is the job of a fashion designer. But Bianca Popp is not watching trends to follow them. Rather, she watches fashion trends the way generals watch enemy troop movements, with an adversarial eye, preparing herself and her pieces to be the right thing in the right place to capture the imagination of her market. 

Her market is niche, by her own description, but this is a niche that buys clothes: contemporary women’s wear, generally aimed at women 35-70. Her customers often come to her, and come back, for dresses that symbolize a life change. Some customers are more fanatical and order the same piece in all available colors. Bulk acquisition of her work is not prohibited by cost. Her average price per piece comes in at an accessible $150. 

So, don’t expect to see Popp's work feature an understated belt closing the middle of a garment. She’s here to defy that kind of standard. And while we might see in her avant-garde work thoughts of Tatooine or Arrakis, don’t be surprised to see her more contemporary pieces hopping a cab on the way to work in New York or sipping Sidecars at a cocktail party in Paris.