A key challenge in the fashion industry is bridging the gap from production to purchase. A group of 24 Greek fashion and accessories designers and brands are currently reducing that distance by unveiling their summer 2017 offerings to a previously uncharted market – as far as their work goes – Australia.
The medium being used is the Greek Style Council, a platform for presenting and promoting Greek designers in Australia, and the first action is a pop-up, wholesale showroom which opened at La Porte Space’s premises in Sydney on October 17. The ambitious project is the brainchild of Helen Tirekidis. A second-generation Greek-Australian, Tirekidis has come a long way in Australia’s fashion industry, holding positions at several luxury houses including Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier, Issey Miyake, Longchamp and Giorgio Armani.
“It was clear to me for a long time that there was amazing talent in Greece and I was always a little frustrated that this was little known [in Australia],” said Tirekidis in an exclusive interview. “For years, I always heard about the state of the economy, the doom and gloom. But what was strange to me was that there was not much talk about what was really going right in Greece. The real trigger for me was that I noticed the correlation between the downturn in the economy and a super-fast upsurge in creativity.”
The Australian market has made huge leaps forward in fashion in recent decades – a relative desert in terms of luxury brands in the late 1970s, the country now hosts the gamut of high-end designer stores as well as familiar fast-fashion chains.
According to Tirekidis, Australian consumers (the country’s population is nearly 24.5 million) are great travelers who follow shopping developments in Europe closely, while the local industry has now taken its strategies into cyberspace. Does this new wave of Greek creativity have what it takes to satisfy the desires of today’s clients who, according to FashionUnited, spend 28.5 billion Australian dollars annually on clothes and footwear?
“I feel we are moving into a new era, one which is focused more on emerging designers,” noted Tirekidis. “There is a glut of luxury brands and fast fashion and not much focused on the in-between ‘new, innovative emerging talent’ per se. I feel that for customers who appreciate fashion, it’s increasingly about having something that not everyone has and that is well crafted at the same time.”
The temporary showroom currently hosts garments by established Greek designers including Yiorgos Eleftheriades and Liana Camba, emerging talent such as Ioanna Kourbela and Christina Economou, as well as new brands The Artians, Gaffer & Fluf and Evi Grintela “The Shirt Dress” (a concept developed by Evi Karatza) and others. Accessories are making their presence felt through an array of products, including bags by companies such as Grace Atelier De Luxe, Salty Bag and Lommer, among others, footwear with a sandal focus developed by brands including Esiot, Valia Gabriel and Di Gaia, jewelry (Aumorfia, Maesa Morado, Elena Kougianou) and swimwear (Sophie Deloudi, Emmanuela). Also available are silk scarves produced by brands Grecian Chic and A Totem Fur Elita. What were the criteria for the selection of designers?
“I searched high and low and all over Greece to seek out those who displayed three key elements: a commitment to craftsmanship, a focus on design and a global intent,” noted Tirekidis.
A few days prior to the pop-up venture’s opening, Tirekidis was already in discussions with The Iconic, Australia’s largest online store, while, along with buyers, representatives from print media outlets as well as bloggers and influencers were expected to become acquainted with the designers and brands on view.
Besides her vision to see Greek labels on the racks of Australian stores, Tirekidis is contemplating the creation of a short documentary, the possibility of a fashion shoot aimed at an Australian fashion magazine featuring Greek designers and photographers, as well taking the showroom idea beyond Australia. An e-commerce space is also in the cards. What unites Greek talent at La Porte Space, besides creativity and hard work?
“They share a new sense of optimism combined with a refusal to accept the status quo and the negativity associated with Greece lately,” said Tirekidis. “They’ve trained in the best schools around the world, from Parsons to Central Saint Martins, and they’ve come back to Athens – despite the crisis – with a fierce determination. I love this spirit. It’s inspiring.”
This interview first appeared in Kathimerini’s K magazine.