by Fifi LaMode
Łódź is located in central Poland, about 120 km from Warsaw. It's pronounced "Wooj", (the name is Polish for "boat") and used to be one of Europe's primary textile centers from the early days of the Industrial Revolution. Izrael Poznanski's factory at one time employed over 11,000 people. The city received privileges to encourage development and was labeled a special economic zone. Jews, Germans, Russians and Poles flocked there to get rich quick, earning Łódź the name "Ziemia Obiecana", or Promised Land. It was one of Europe's most multi-cultural cities.
This Golden Age ended with the world wars. After World War II, Łódź was the defacto capital of Poland, since Warsaw lay in ruins. The Jews were gone, so were the Germans and most Russians. It was still a major textile center, and designers like Yves Saint-Laurent and Daniel Hechter had their pret-a-porter collections made there; In the 70's and 80's you could find samples or seconds with their labels at the department stores and they were selling for a song (a Daniel Hechter corduroy jacket with flannel lining cost $12!).
Today the factories are closed but culture thrives. The Łódź Film School is respected world-wide (Andrzej Wajda, Roman Polanski, Agnieszka Holland—ring a bell? All from the Łódź Film School), continuously producing world-class directors and cinematographers. Arthur Rubinstein lived on Piotrkowska Street, once the world's longest shopping street at 4.5 km, boasting impressive art nouveau architecture as well as excellent cafes and restaurants.
The special economic zone still exists today and developers and investors are coming from around the world to take advantage of the tax breaks and financial incentives. Rumor has it that David Lynch fell in love with the place while filming there and plopped down a load of money for some project or other.