Grabowska Jadwiga

Jadwiga Grabowska - Personal data
Date of birth: 15th September 1898
Place of birth: Warszawa
Date of death: 25th November 1988
Place of death: Warszawa
Occupation: fashion designer, artistic manager at the Moda Polska enterprise

Grabowska Jadwiga Teresa - (15.09.1898, Warsaw - Warsaw, 25.11.1988) - fashion designer, artistic manager at the Moda Polska enterprise.

"It all started in January 1945 when, having returned to ruined Warsaw, I randomly came across my pre-war acquaintance on Zieleniecka Street. I knew her back in the years as one of the best-dressed and elegant women. But now she was wearing a sort of excessively bulky, greyed-out coat, and had a yellow chamois cloth tied around her neck instead of a scarf. This is what the residents of Warsaw looked like when they returned back home. It was then, I think, that the idea to deal with women's clothing came to life, to help, as far as possible, the women of Warsaw regain their old look, chic, and elegance"[1.1].

Jadwiga Grabowska was born into the family of Stanislaw Seidenbeutl and Paulina (née Eber). Jadwiga's father was a construction entrepreneur. He ran a technical and construction office in Warsaw at 63 Marszałkowska Street, erecting income tenement houses. He worked with, for example, the architect Edward Eber - Paulina's brother. The family owned several tenement houses in Warsaw, for example at 63 Marszałkowska Street, 44a Marszałkowska Street, or 24a Żurawia Street[1.2]. The Seidenbeutl family lived in a tenement at 63 Marszałkowska Street, known as the "Pod Syrenami" house[1.3].

Jadwiga had two siblings, brother Edward and sister Stefania. Together with her sister she attended Zofia Sierpińska's research institute, which was located in the Seidenbeutl tenement house at 63 Marszałkowska Street. Jadwiga graduated from finishing school in 1918, after which she entered the two-year Wincenty Kosiakiewicz School of Journalism[1.4].

Jadwiga's brother, Edward Sułkowski, was an architect with a degree from the Warsaw University of Technology. He designed public utility buildings, houses, as well as store and hotel interiors[1.5]. Her sister, Stefania Przeworska-Holt, a graduate of the School of Fine Arts in Warsaw, emigrated ca. 1938 to England and later to the United States. She designed costumes for London theatres, was the founder and curator of the Costume and Textile Department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as well as a lecturer at the University of Southern California[1.6].

In 1930, Jadwiga married Tadeusz Grabowski, a footballer for Polonia Warszawa and a sports journalist. They had no children. In 1939, she became an editor at the "Kobieta w Świecie i w Domu" magazine, where she published texts on cooking and fashion[1.7].

Her whereabouts during the German occupation are unknown. In her personal documents, Grabowska admits that she was persecuted because of her background. She was forced to divorced and then hid outside Warsaw[1.8]. Her parents changed their name to Starzyński[1.9], and went into hiding (perhaps in Milanówek). Tadeusz Grabowski ran a saddlery workshop in Warsaw's Praga district during the entire occupation period.

She returned to Warsaw in January 1945[1.10]. At 44a Marszałkowska Street, in one of the tenement houses owned by the family, she set up the Phoenix shop, where she traded in haberdashery, confectionery, and textiles[1.11]. Her shop belonged to the so-called "ground floor Marszałkowska" - a cluster of retail outlets located on the surviving first floors of tenement houses destroyed during the war.

Over time, Grabowska hired seamstresses and Phoenix began to provide also tailoring services. Some of the people who worked with her during this period also appeared later in Moda Polska, such as Tula Poplawska - model and later artistic manager of one of the salons. In 1947, Jadwiga Grabowska travelled to France and Great Britain, where she saw the first collections of major fashion houses after the war and renewed her contacts from before 1939[1.12].

On 17 January 1949, she began the liquidation of the Phoenix company. Together with her staff, she transferred to the Krystyna Różycka i Spółka company, working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Grabowska became the co-owner of the plant as well as its manager. In 1950, the plant was incorporated into the Centrala Przemysłu Ludowego i Artystycznego. Grabowska was given the role of artistic manager at the CPLiA service point at 15 Ordynacka Street. In 1952, she was moved to the CPLiA point in the Marszałkowska Housing District. In 1953, she was given the position of head of artistic supervision of the CPLiA Confectionery Works[1.1.12].

In 1953, Grabowska became a member of the Organising Committee for the Fashion Show at the Leipzig Fair[1.13]. In 1954, the committee was transformed into the Leipzig Fashion Show Office. Grabowska acted as its artistic and technical manager[1.14]. The institution created clothing collections representing Poland during the bi-annual International Fashion Show in Leipzig.

In the following years, the Office changed its name, but some of the staff remained the same. Jadwiga Grabowska served as artistic manager respectively at: Biuro Mody Krawiecko-Kuśnierskiej (1954), Biuro Mody Ewa (1957), and Moda Polska (1958). All the while, she created collections that have represented Poland at foreign fashion shows, constituting a showcase for Polish clothing design. The collections created under Grabowska's direction include three characteristic features: the use of folk motifs, inspiration drawn from the Parisian cut, and the search for practical solutions (e.g. multifunctional garments)[1.15].

Biuro Mody Ewa operated a shop at 10 Ordynacka Street in Warsaw. Single garments or very short collections were sold there. Tailor-made production was also provided and shows for the press and clients were organised. The point at  Ordynacka Street later became the first shop of the Moda Polska company. On the initiative of Jadwiga Grabowska, Biuro Mody Ewa published the "Ewa" bulletin (the editorial office was also located at 10 Ordynacka Street). The colourful magazine was modelled on, among others, "Vogue". It published photographs of clothing from Biuro Mody, illustrations by Katarzyna Aniśkowicz (a young designer working with Grabowska), and fashion texts. At the same time, Grabowska was publishing a column entitled "Pygmalion do Galatei" in "Sztandar Młodych", in which she taught "how to walk, stand, sit, comb oneself, dress - so that everything fits together as well as the appearance"[1.16].

In September 1958, Biuro Mody Ewa merged with the Gallux-Hurt company creating Moda Polska[1.17]. Grabowska took on the role of artistic director. Over time, she completed a team of young designers. Katarzyna Aniśkowicz, already employed there, was joined by: Irena Biegańska, Jerzy Antkowiak, Kalina Paroll, Magda Ignar, Krystyna Dziak, and Małgorzata Zembrzuska[1.18]. The designers worked at the Information and Design Centre of Moda Polska (later: Wzorcownia W).

Moda Polska, like its predecessors, presented Polish clothing design to the world. The collections were presented on catwalks in Leipzig, London, Trogir, Vienna, and Brisbane. The company maintained extensive international contacts (the press sometimes used the term "fashion ministry" for Moda Polska). The authorities treated Moda Polska as a showcase of Polish design. It also served a teaching role, presenting its designs at national shows, both to the general public and to professionals in the fashion industry.

Jadwiga Grabowska travelled to Paris twice a year on business. She had access to shows of the most prestigious brands, including Dior, Chanel, or Balenciaga. She maintained a good relationship with Jacques Heim, designer and president of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. The open doors of fashion houses constituted a consequence of not only the connections she had in the fashion industry and among journalists, but also the sizeable budget of Moda Polska.

That is because, the company was a merchant contracting so-called patrons, i.e. clothing designs, as well as cosmetics and accessories, which were later sold at the company's showrooms. Grabowska brought back information concerning the latest trends from Paris in order to develop collections based on it. She discussed the latest Paris line during press conferences, in radio, and television interviews. Moda Polska created commercial collections (intended for shops), leading collections (presenting the latest trends, intended for fashion shows and photo shoots), and special collections (e.g. representative clothing for Polish Olympic athletes)[1.19].

On 28 February 1967, Jadwiga Grabowska was retired, even though she disagreed with this decision[1.20]. After leaving Moda Polska, she worked with various companies; she designed, among other things, several collections of clothing and furs for the Przedsiębiorstwo Krawiecko-Kuśnierskie Stołecznego Przemysłu Terenowego "Ambasador", a collection of dresses made from Milanów silk for the Zakład Przemysłu Odzieżowego CORA (the silk collection "Kwiaty Polskie" was the 100th collection among Grabowska's works)[1.21]. In the 1970s she carried out artistic supervision at the Zakład Wzornictwa Mody "Modny Strój" (ZSS Społem)[1.22]. There she also designed more than a dozen collections.

Jadwiga Grabowska was remembered by her co-workers as a lady who was familiar with the world, but also as a demanding boss, confident, stubborn, and clear in her opinions. During her childhood, she was given the nickname "Chrzanik" (Horseradish - translator's note) due to her temper[1.23]. In the days of Moda Polska, her subordinates called her "Grabolka". The press competed in inventing colourful nicknames: "Napoleon in a skirt", "Dior in a skirt", "minister of fashion", "chief of Polish fashion", or "Polish Chanel". She also had a recognisable image: she dressed in the Chanel style, usually in suits. She wore turbans and pearls.

Professional work constituted an important part of Grabowska's life; she worked a lot and for many years. During interviews, she often talked about her work and her fashion mission. In an interview given on the occasion of her eightieth birthday and thirtieth anniversary in the profession, when asked what she does that keeps her energy at such a level, she replied: "I work! That's the recipe for looking good! And having satisfaction when working - that's the second recipe. Did I achieve professional satisfaction? Yes, I am extremely happy to have contributed a little to the fact that Polish women today are dressed fashionably"[1.24].

Jadwiga Grabowska was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta and the Silver Cross of Merit for promoting Polish fashion abroad[1.25].

She died on 25 November 1988 in Warsaw. She was buried at the Powązki Cemetery[1.26].

Ewa Rzechorzek



  • Antkowiak J., Sekrety modnych pań, spisała B. Żmijewska, Warsaw 1993.
  • Boćkowska A., To nie są moje wielbłądy. O modzie w PRL, Wołowiec 2015.
  • Grabowska J., Magazyn mody – czwarta ruina na prawo…, "Opinia" 1969, No. 11, pp. 44-45.
  • Kuczyńska T., Polscy projektanci mody, "Ty i Ja" 1968, No. 8, p. 31.
  • Rzechorzek E., Moda Polska Warszawa, Warsaw 2018.
  • Szostak V., Jadwiga Grabowska. Warszawska Grabolka podbija świat mody, "Wysokie Obcasy" 2012, No. 32, pp. 6-13.
  • Warszawie i modzie, "Stolica" 1979, No. 5, p. 14.

The biography was created as part of the "Polish Jewish Women for Independence" project, implemented with a grant from the Totalizator Sportowy Foundation.




  • [1.1] Grabowska J., Magazyn mody - czwarta ruina na prawo…, [in:] "Opinia" 1969, No. 11, p. 44.
  • [1.2] Majewski J.S., Dom pod skrzydlatymi syrenami, "Gazeta Stołeczna", suplement to Gazeta Wyborcza, 16.07.1998, p. 8.
  • [1.3] Adresy Warszawy na rok 1909, ed. Antoni Żwana, Warsaw 1909, p. 767.
  • [1.4] Personal file of Jadwiga Grabowska, State Enterprise "Moda Polska" in Warsaw, State Archive in Warsaw
  • [1.5] Budowniczy i człowiek, "Stolica" 1959, No. 46, p. 19.
  • [1.6] Rzechorzek E., Moda Polska Warszawa, Warsaw 2018, pp. 36-46.
  • [1.7] "Kobieta w Świecie i w Domu: dwutygodnik poświęcony życiu domowemu i modom", 1939 No. 10-14.
  • [1.8] Personal file of Jadwiga Grabowska, State Archive in Warsaw, State Enterprise "Moda Polska" in Warsaw.
  • [1.9] Polish Center for Holocaust Research [online], [accessed on: 20.05.2024].
  • [1.10] Grabowska J., Magazyn mody - czwarta ruina na prawo…, "Opinia" 1969, No. 11, p. 44.
  • [1.11] State Archive in Warsaw, Registration files of Phoenix Sp. z o.o. from 1946-1953.
  • [1.12] State Archive in Warsaw, State Enterprise "Moda Polska" in Warsaw, personal file of Jadwiga Grabowska.
  • [1.1.12] State Archive in Warsaw, State Enterprise "Moda Polska" in Warsaw, personal file of Jadwiga Grabowska.
  • [1.13] State Archive in Łódź, Zarząd Przedsiębiorstw Krawiecko-Kuśnierskich w Łodzi, ref. 363, Financial correspondence of the Leipzig Fashion Show Office.
  • [1.14] Archive of New Files, Ministry of Small Industry and Crafts in Warsaw, ref. 227, Activities of the Fashion Show Office based in Warsaw.
  • [1.15] Rzechorzek E., Moda Polska Warszawa, Warsaw 2018, pp. 87-98.
  • [1.16] Grabowska J., Pygmalion do Galatei, "Sztandar Młodych" 13.11.1957, p. 4.
  • [1.17] State Archive in Warsaw, State Enterprise "Moda Polska" in Warsaw, ref. 2/10, Merger of state enterprises Biuro Mody Ewa in Warsaw and P.P. Gallux-Hurt in Warsaw.
  • [1.18] Rzechorzek E., Moda Polska Warszawa, Warsaw 2018, pp. 224-278.
  • [1.19] Rzechorzek E., Moda Polska Warszawa, Warsaw 2018, pp. 177-182.
  • [1.20] State Archive in Warsaw, State Enterprise Moda Polska in Warsaw, personal file of Jadwiga Grabowska.
  • [1.21] Kulisy, 10 March 1968, p. 6.
  • [1.22] R., Warszawie i modzie…, Stolica 1979, No. 5, p. 14.
  • [1.23] Conversation between the author and Jerzy Antkowiak, 24 November 2014.
  • [1.24] Wielogławska A., Elegancko, wytwornie, atrakcyjnie, Gazeta Handlowa, 7.01.1979, p. 5.
  • [1.25] Morska T., W służbie mody, "Zwierciadło" 1979, No. 11, pp. 22-23.
  • [1.26] Cemeteries - search engine for buried persons. Map service of the Capital City of Warsaw [online], [accessed on: 20.05.2024].
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