Christoforos Kotentos locally — and abroad

At the ripe old age of 27, Christoforos Kotentos belongs to an evolving breed of young Greek fashion designers who are designing for the world. From Los Angeles to Tokyo, Monte Carlo and Marbella, Kotentos’s elaborate, roughly detailed pieces with the sword logo are sold in exclusive boutiques and upscale department stores. Back at his base, the designer’s own personal world is seemingly calm, just as the man himself. At the bare, white atelier-showroom – complete with a matching cat – the silence is «slashed» only by Kotentos’s «arrogantly» feminine pieces. «Fashion is a matter of aesthetics,» says the designer. «If you want to become a professional you must ‘secure’ your aesthetics, before you go on to develop your technical skills.» Kotentos’s aesthetic vision these days is all about balloon drapes and cascading frills «built onto» a marked silhouette, not to mention utility chic for jeans and elaborate stitching for jackets. There are playful T-shirts with applique canvas embroidery, cargo pants for women – given a feminine spin through the use of silk satin – delicate handmade cotton shirts sculpted with Swiss lace (also used as a detail for trousers and skirts), while the designer cites his personal favorites for the upcoming summer season: two pairs of Capri pants, one in beige leather with frills and another in soft, dirty pink suede. This is really a new kind of elegance, where the designer’s «close to the body» fit is the leading star. «My signature style has to do with a silhouette following the body,» says Kotentos. «I like elegant clothes that feature details and techniques which are innovative and new.» Living and working in a modern, romantic mood, he draws inspiration from historical periods such as the Renaissance (the Mona Lisa was a theme for prints and accessories during the winter, while angels are taking over this summer), while a gothic element runs throughout his work. With an abundance of creativity in the family – a photographer father and a fashion designer mother – Kotentos’s own path was paved in a most natural way. After graduating from a Greek fashion school, where he specialized in pattern design, the aspiring designer took courses at the London College of Fashion. When a designer starts dressing celebrities, success seems to have finally knocked at his or her door. In the case of Kotentos, however, the process of recognition unfolded backward, as his first assignments included making unique garments for hot local stars, such as the singer Anna Vissi. «In the beginning, I visualized the whole thing as very exclusive, thinking that I wanted to design specific pieces for specific people,» says Kotentos. «But I then realized that this could not really work in practice. There are no people out there who pay such great attention to their clothes. Of course, there are a few in show business, but that’s not enough.» Kotentos finally set up his company in 1995. With timid steps in the beginning – the bulk of business being special orders – the ready-to-wear department was created in 1999. «It is not easy set up a fashion business, especially in a country where things move thanks to private initiative,» says the designer, adding, «You have to get into the fashion map somehow.» For Kotentos, being on the map translates into a presence in a Milan showroom (he is already in his third season), where he presents his collections. Twice a year, Kotentos packs up 60 to 70 pieces, which are accompanied by 30 accessory items. «I consider myself lucky,» he says. «I am very much aware of the competition out there, yet I believe that sometimes one feels that things will happen in the future. I always felt that my work should go beyond the local market because it is destined for a broader public. I gave it a shot and succeeded. The point is, now, to maintain this. Currently, we are aiming for development and durability.» Kotentos is not alone out there: From New York to Paris, Milan and London, new designer hopefuls are breaking into the fashion machine in the same way. Does the fact that this designer is located away from the industry’s supercenters limit his chances? «Living away from where the action is is a disadvantage, yet it is feasible,» says Kotentos. «When you live abroad, however, you interact with more people.» Though thoughts of relocating do cross his mind occasionally, the designer manages a loyal team of seven in a self-financed company that assures the production, promotion and distribution of up to 1,000 pieces per season. (According to Kotentos, Greece can produce everything, provided it’s not heavy industry.) Besides the merchandise traveling abroad, local clients will find the Kotentos label at Kifissia’s Galle, Glyfada and Myconos’s First and at Afternoon in Kolonaki – as well as at his Psyrri headquarters, by appointment only. While Kotentos’s faithful customers – ranging from their early 20s to their late 40s – are discovering his Spring/Summer 2003 collection at stores and the showroom, the designer has already fast-forwarded to the summer of 2004. «This collection will be a dissertation in forms, with a touch of the 1970s, though this touch will have more to do with the fabrics, rather than the silhouette,» says the designer. «It is complicated, but interesting. I’m going to give this collection my all as a designer and I’m very excited about it. It is about the end of one creative cycle and the beginning of a new one.»