Vlassis Holevas’s ‘sexy chic’ makes a fashionable splash

Not everybody got the subtle peace message of the T-shirt at the recent Arion Music Awards hosted by Mega channel: Depicting 85 percent of Picasso’s «Guernica,» over a skirt squirted with red paint, it was one of several fashion statements made by the evening’s presenter, Maria Bakodimou. If the peace message got lost, the one about serious sensuality did not, however. «Every dress I make is like sitting an exam,» says Vlassis Holevas, the fashion designer behind Bakodimou’s stage attire. The tests are getting top marks, for the young designer has been making a splash recently: Women are flocking to the Kolonaki boutique, while a series of press clippings prove his local media darling status. Five years of solid work on various collections, but also traveling in search of fabrics, while developing production and building a clientele, has brought the designer enough recognition as the Vlassis Holevas label celebrates its first birthday. «Sexy chic,» says the designer of his feminine, elegant outfits, which he is careful not to define as haute couture, but rather as pieces incorporating elements of haute couture. Bare backs, low cuts, curves and movement as well as meticulous research when it comes to the fabrics – which Holevas buys from in 23 Italian and French factories specializing in haute couture textiles – point to the designer’s signature look. Six-and-a-half meters of cascading ruffles of mousseline in rainbow green, blue and turquoise; finding a couture way to «construct» a dress built on delicate lace; a dirty-pink gown with applique samples of fabric; a crisp grey-blue taffeta sprinkled with paint and flowers; flames of red-orange mousseline, but also seasonal must-haves, such as hot miniskirts – beaded embroidery or in a colorful, beaded tulle patchwork – are a few of the items on show. Anything displayed at the store is available on the spot, but most likely, will be made sur mesure. It is part of what Holevas describes as the «fashion experience» in which clients, inspired by what is on display, can decide exactly what they want. It is also a way for the designer to get into creative touch with his clients. «I want to be able to get to know them, see what suits them, find out exactly what the occasion they want the outfit for is and its location,» says Holevas. «Everybody goes through a mini-interview, so that I too can be part of the fairy tale they want to create.» Fashion dreams have no age, and it is hard to determine the Holevas client target group. «They range from 20- to 25-year-olds all the way to anyone who feels young and good about themselves,» he says. Born in 1968 in Vienna, Holevas found himself roaming around his mother’s fashion atelier, while at the age of 17 he was fascinated on a trip to Dusseldorf’s Igedo professional exhibition. (An haute couture Austrian college graduate, Ilze Holevas provides technical support for her son’s label nowadays.) After pursuing finance studies, the younger Holevas decided to take the fashion road as well. Adopting a balanced approach, Holevas believes fashion is art – especially in the evening department – but a business as well. He designs 30 to 40 pieces for autumn/winter, and usually comes up with 60 to 70 outfits for spring/summer, while also being active in the wedding gown department. Thinking ahead, the designer is flirting with the idea of venturing abroad, with the US possibly being the primary target. «It’s a huge market, and my clothes seem like they could fit in,» he says. Such a move would offer the opportunity to enlarge the business. In the case of fabrics, for instance, some factories demand a minimum of 15 to 20 meters for one single order; that kind of purchase is not compatible with a small business where there is not enough production to cover the cost. Meanwhile, firmly working in Athens, the designer is envisioning an expansion into ready-to-wear, without discarding accessories and other items; for fall he is planning to expand the collection with suits and separates. «I started working on the high-end product, trying to make a name for myself, so that later, I can go into other things, once the label is already known,» says Holevas. «Fashion is like a puzzle, one you build piece by piece.» What makes the fashion puzzle such a great game to play? «Anything that has to do with creativity is magical and to see a fabric turn into a dress is really magical,» says Holevas. «I was always fascinated by creativity, whether in buildings, objects, anything that has to do with taking raw materials and making something from scratch. And even more so when it has to do with women; it’s so rewarding to make them feel pretty and happy.»