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Going green on the catwalk

Designer Vassilis Zoulias used straw. Below right: Eriffili Nikolopoulou drew inspiration from artist Frida Kalho.

By Elis Kiss

Known and followed for its fleeting qualities, every now and then fashion looks further ahead. In recent years, for instance, the issue of ethics in fashion has emerged strongly on the industry's agenda.

Increasing consumer concern about working conditions in Asian factories, on the one hand, and the use of toxic chemicals in the production of fabrics, on the other, have reinforced interest in the sector, with numerous eco-oriented brands currently working toward achieving greater mass market appeal, Reuters reported recently.

Greece has also joined in the global green fashion conversation. A fashion show entirely dedicated to ethical style – billed as the first of its kind in the country – brought together 26 local and international designers and brands at the Technopolis cultural center in Athens on January 14. From recycled materials to organic fabrics, the catwalk played host to playful, dramatic, relaxed and sophisticated pieces, as designers and houses expressed their eco sense through a single outfit.

"Eco doesn't necessarily have to be 'granola,' [a term used to describe green-conscious folk]," noted Orsalia Parthenis at Parthenis. The designer, who has worked with 100 percent bio cotton in past collections, says that the natural fabric's price has doubled nowadays, effectively turning into cost-unfriendly territory for the time being. On the Do It Eco catwalk, Parthenis worked with wool and cotton and layers of 'koureloudes' (traditional Greek rugs made of woven fabric scraps), that her father and company founder, Dimitris Parthenis, created in a monastery in the 1970s.

"We never use synthetic fabrics in our atelier; we only work with wool and cotton - real fabrics," noted Christos Petridis from the house of Faliakos. For Do It Eco, the designer used handmade cotton spotted in a central Athens store specializing in traditional Greek fabrics to work on a dress he said symbolized the cycle of life. Paying tribute to the house's couture tradition, he added glass pom-poms and wooden embroideries to the look.

Inspired by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, Erifilli Nikolopoulou worked on a transparent dress made of soft black, silk-threaded paper, subsequently painted by hand - a garment, she pointed out, that is both washable and can be ironed.

Veteran designer Nikos Apostolopoulos used cool wool to present the catwalk's only menswear outfit, while rising jewelry designer Pericles Kondylatos presented a garment-statement: animal bones on a traditional Greek "ifanto," an old woven fabric. Chara Lebessi used seaweed found on a beach in Vouliagmeni, in southern Athens, for a signature column dress, while Dimitri Zafiriou was inspired by Botticelli's "Venus" and worked with wild-boar teeth and 100 percent bio cotton. Accessories designer Georgina Skalidi used recycled copper in a bag, while Generation Generous used recycled bottles for its own bag collection. Vassilis Zoulias worked with straw in a dress, hat and matching shoes to create a look from his favorite 1950s.

“Organic fashion has existed for decades,” said Athina Bentila, founder of Mumu, an exclusively organic brand based in northern Greece. “In the past, when fewer people were working in the field, the designs were not very modern, it was more about the hippie style. In the last few years, however, new designers entering the field have added more color, a more contemporary take that reflects consumers’ wants and desires today.”

Greece was the seventh stop of The Eco Fashion Event, which had previously taken place in Vancouver, Berlin, London, Moscow, New York and Nicosia.

"The idea behind the show was to demonstrate that eco fashion is 100 percent wearable. These are normal clothes but made with 'healthier' fabrics," said Nopi Romanidou, the event's organizer. "Do It Eco contributed to the discussion in its own small way; it's a beginning."

According to Romanidou, the aim of the Athens event was to reinforce the corporate eco responsibility of participants - both sponsors and designers - to raise awareness as far as the general public is concerned and to demonstrate that Greece, even in crisis, is a country still capable of creativity and innovation. The catwalk project took place in collaboration with numerous organizations, among them aephoria.net, a Greek-born platform encouraging green business, and Eco Luxe, a London-based company promoting sustainable luxury. The latter, co-founded by London-based Greek Stamo Abatiellou, was responsible for certifying that Do It Eco looks could carry the "green" label.

"When you wear organic cotton you immediately feel that your skin is breathing,” noted Bentila, who presented her organic cotton "Artist's Valley" dress on the Do It Eco catwalk. “Contrary to conventional cotton, organic cotton does not involve any kind of chemical use - it will never cause allergies, for instance. On the other hand fair-trade fabrics are good for you as well as for those living and working in developing countries - no sweatshops. Besides fashion, it’s also about taking a moral stance.”

[Kathimerini English Edition]
 

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