Karolina Kijak x H&M: From nature with love
Karolina Kijak’s creative process almost always starts the same way: with a walk in the fresh air. That’s where the creatures of her paintings exist, and that’s where she can find inspiration for her work.
“I love hiking in the woods and meadows near the house with binoculars or a camera, and I often collect forest treasures that I find on the ground, like beautiful bird feathers. It all adds up to a pool of inspiration that I use in my illustrations.”
However, some of the animals Karolina paints — including the ones in the H&M collaboration — don’t have their natural surroundings in the woods of Poland, which is where Karolina was born and raised, and still lives. These sweet jumpers, dresses and trousers are printed with realistic watercolour pictures of baby cheetahs, quirky giraffes, cute sharks and beautiful underwater creatures. For these, she turns to atlases and photographs.
“I study exotic species of animals from books and love to scroll collections from nature photographers from around the world. My dream is to observe as many species of birds and animals in their natural environment as possible, to be able to show people how valuable and beautiful they are, and how much they need our protection.”
Karolina grew up in a small village one hour away from Wroclaw in Poland.
”Growing up in a small village does wonders for your imagination. It might seem like you have limited possibilities, but that’s exactly what develops a creative inner life. I loved climbing trees as a kid. I could sit there for hours, daydreaming, collecting forest treasures and sketching.”
"I loved climbing trees as a kid. I could sit there for hours, daydreaming, collecting forest treasures and sketching."
As a child, she got her first watercolour set and immediately started painting. She had always liked to draw, especially wild animals. Another massive interest was birdwatching, and these two things combined have resulted in a career as a well-known illustrator.
Karolina speaks about imagination, but all the creatures in her paintings exist in real life. That sometimes comes as a surprise to her fans.
Karolina Kijak and Sofia Löfstedt, Head of Design Kids at H&M, discuss the sketches in Karolina’s studio.
“To me, these birds and animals are so beautiful and diverse as they are. Many people still only know a small percentage of the world’s species. They are often surprised when they see a really fantastic combination of colours and textures of feathers in one of my birds, and they realise that this is not my crazy artist imagination but the result of the evolution of nature.”
The Karolina Kijak x H&M collection is the first time Karolina’s illustrations can be seen on garments, and she describes the creative process as exciting and fun.
“I can still remember when I was a kid myself, and what I felt when I looked at illustrations of animals in atlases. It was a priceless experience! I wanted the patterns on the clothes not only to have a decorative function, but also to cause a reaction. That’s why I devoted a lot of attention to the eyes of the portraited animals. I wanted them to express emotions. I am incredibly curious about the reaction of children when they see the clothes!”
The Karolina Kijak x H&M collection is available in selected stores worldwide, as well as at hm.com, from 5 March.