Clothes with a basic point of view

Scouting the world for the next hip thing has been Lakis Gavalas’s mission over the last two decades. Now, the maverick fashion entrepreneur and local media darling has created his own. LAK, a new brand by Gavalas and his talented team, aims to breathe new life into smart yet edgy casual wear. For those familiar with Gavalas’s outlets so far – where Burberry plaid mixes with Tom Ford’s take on Yves Saint Laurent, among other high fashion names – the new venture might come as a surprise. Yet for this restless and passionate fashion professional, LAK seems like a natural development. «This is not just about trends, but about basic clothes with a point of view,» says Gavalas. «I consider that given my experience, I don’t have to copy any of the names that I represent – they have their own vision.» A product stemming from the creative efforts of a group led by Gavalas, LAK’s aim is to eventually develop into a school of fashion thinking – along the lines of Jean-Paul Gaultier and Vivienne Westwood, but also those of Banana Republic, the GAP or even H&M. At the flagship Kolonaki store, the feeling is youthful and easygoing – with great attention to detail such as zippers, stitches and lining. This season’s themes include aviation (with a piece of fabric from a parachute found in Thessaloniki turned into a skirt, for example), navigation, signature Greek stamps and the Greek alphabet, elements of antiquity, tail coats, and geometric fabrics pointing to the current ’60s revival. In the color department, bright orange is followed by black, shades of gray, land forces khaki, beige, brown and navy blue. Clients here will discover elegant sweatshirts, must-have raincoats and a number of fast-selling accessories, including belts and bags. Also on display are (made in Italy) knitwear, sexy and flexible evening wear as well as an exclusive line of Converse All Stars – Greek style. The shop also suggests items from various guest designers. Essentially, the idea behind the development of LAK is not a one-brand look, but rather a mix-and-match of the new label with pieces from other brands, altogether creating «lived-in,» nearly vintage looks. «The shop is interactive,» says Gavalas. «Every Wednesday, for instance, we invite young people to bring over their stuff in order for us to rework it. Then the clothes go on sale again – it’s a kind of recycling, in fashion terms.» Produced entirely in Greece by local exporting units (except for the knitwear) using primarily Greek fabrics – friendly cotton and wool rather than synthetics and high-tech fabrics – LAK is not destined for wholesale (though the 11,800 pairs of LAK sandals sold on Myconos alone last year point to the new project’s potential; alternatively, these best sellers are also available in Colette in Paris and Corso Como in Milan). With the Kolonaki shop accompanied by a shop-in-a-shop in Thessaloniki and an outlet on Myconos in the works, Gavalas does not discard the idea of a chain reaction with multiple LAK spots in the future, though he will demand tight control. Control has long been on Gavalas’s agenda, ever since his fashionable vision took shape in 1982 with the introduction of foreign brands in the Greek market, both retail and wholesale. Up to then, fashion had been something of a personal game for Gavalas – placing special orders from a very young age, at the age of 18, he arrived in Rome and proceeded to work for RAI channel, where he was able to closely observe the work of costume designers. It was the late Nicola Trussardi who authorized Gavalas to place his first orders as a businessman; later on, Gavalas began enriching the imported collection with pieces from Krizia Jeans, Dolce & Gabbana and Anna Molinari. In the ’90s, Gavalas suggested Costume National, Alessandro Dell’ Acqua and Future Ozbek, among others, while he also made his case for interior design with exclusive collaborations: Italian Da Padova furniture, lamps by German Ingo Mauer and Michelle de Lucchi’s Produzione Privata. While trends are paramount to Gavalas’s work, luxury is paramount to the man: An avid collector – ranging from John Lobb sur mesure shoes to haute horlogerie watches – Gavalas recently became the inspiration behind a new version of an icon of style: Already the proud owner of a large number of Hermes Kelly bags (reportedly about 245) Gavalas is now the happy owner of the Kellylakis, the first in a series to carry his very own, creative twist and which will be sold in prestigious Hermes outlets around the world. Whether in the case of LAK or the Kellylakis, Gavalas does not consider himself a designer. «I admire and applaud the designers, I’m glad they exist. But they didn’t offer me a reference point in terms of this collection,» he says. For Gavalas, the new venture fills in the gaps left by other brands, when it comes to practical clothes featuring the best possible fit. «From my experiences in Italy, followed by my years of horseback riding, I’m used to the idea of a uniform,» he says. «I like to wake up in the morning and wear my uniform: a classic pair of trousers and a T-shirt, for instance. If I want to be theatrical, of course, then I will make or order special things. But I don’t wish to forget the uniform; I can’t be dressed in couture from morning to night. But when it comes to a collection of basic clothes, however, I want the lining to be couture.» Could this attitude turn out to be fashion’s future in general? «Fashion will not cheat its people. It’s a little bit like skateboarding, with high and low points. The industry is at a low point right now, but it will make a comeback with fresh things. When the star designers go and the people truly responsible for the companies’ success come forward, perhaps the real side of fashion will be apparent. And the companies might become more successful then,» says Gavalas. «When something costs 5 euros and ends up costing 2,000 euros on the consumer end, that is unfair. In that respect, fashion has to be punished. When the price of a dream is so exorbitant, it leads you to never dream again.»