Greek fashion finally unites

Greek fashion designers are spreading their wings, but this time – for the first time – they are taking off all together. Following a number of failed attempts to form some kind of unified body in the past, local fashion talent has come together under one banner: the Hellenic Fashion Designers Association (HFD). Already numbering 36 members, the newly established organization is official and ready for action. Its principal aim? To promote Greek fashion in this country and abroad. A truly difficult business, fashion has never lacked talent in Greece, but structure. It enjoys a long history, yet, up to now, appeared to have little vision. The association’s aims are noble and clear: becoming a member of the global fashion community, while upgrading the profession back at home, and promoting fashion as a form of creation and art, while acting as a means for economic growth. Also on the agenda is establishing vital links with local and international media networks as well as drawing private and state aid. Outlining the HFD agenda at a moving press conference yesterday was HFD President Christos Mailis, who noted that it took a year of discussion for the association to be established. He was followed by Vice President Giorgos Eleftheriadis, who offered a bleak account of the situation today. «Greek fashion is competitive and varied,» Eleftheriadis said, «but there is no such thing as a Greek fashion industry.» The designer noted that while Greece is currently a source of inspiration worldwide, the country itself acts as a distributor and salesman for other countries’ creativity. Thessaloniki-based designer and HFD Secretary Constantinos Tsigaros announced plans for a Greek Fashion Week in the fall. Following the end of the fashion season in the four major fashion capitals in October – New York, London, Milan and Paris – the association aims to attract a maximum number of foreign buyers and members of the international press to Athens. The role of fashion in society was brought up by HFD Treasurer Maro Zannia, who appealed to the press to give Greek designers a chance to show their work beyond the perimeters of gossip and society columns. «Fashion is culture,» said board of directors member Dafni Valente, who also referred to one of the association’s upcoming projects. Already in the works – and in search of sponsors – is an exhibition of Greek fashion going as far back as Knossos right up to the present. Why did it take so long for the designers to join forces? Rivalries, different agendas and big egos are surely part of the story. But just as the world is finally beginning to focus on Greece – combining the world of sport with Hellenic styles – designers felt that the time was right. The success by a number of Greek designers abroad – such as Sophia Kokosalaki, for instance – has also added to the belief that talent and skill have to be complemented by the necessary infrastructure. At this point the association appears to have the necessary impetus to make a difference: Already in its ranks are representatives from all fashion generations, ranging from the old guard to the new establishment. (Those missing from the list will – it is hoped – apply for membership soon.) Furthermore, taking their cue from countries such as Turkey, Spain, India and Brazil, among others, Greek designers should be confident that a well-organized fashion week could attract good publicity. Yet this fashion adventure will not bear fruit right away. It will take sustained effort on behalf of the members, including designing collections promptly and assuring production and distribution in order for the fashion mechanism to start working in an organized, competent and competitive manner. «I’m not in favor of group efforts, in general, I believe more in the individual,» said designer Marcello Niktas to Kathimerini English Edition. «But I’m part of this because I want to encourage the young. As for the association itself? More than bringing in the State, I think we should attract private investors and backers.» Not all of the association’s members share the same aesthetics or even hopes, but they do share the same number of (great) difficulties in their daily duties. They are usually one-woman, or man, bands in charge of design, production, distribution, promotion and sales. «This is unprecedented,» said Dimitris Alexakis of design duo Deux Hommes, speaking of the newly founded fashion body. «What is encouraging, above all, is that beyond the association’s common plans, we are coming together on a personal level. Here are people sharing the same vision; it makes you feel less lonely.» If solitude is one factor for designers living and working in Greece, isolation from the rest of the world is another. «Greek designers are as talented as their colleagues abroad and this association will help this country find a position in world fashion,» said designer Vasso Consola. Dafni Valente put it another way: «Greece was, is and should carry on being fashionable.»