Four days of fashion in Athens

Amid high heels, light fabrics and hard techno, Greece finally got its long-awaited, first-ever fashion week last week. Showcasing the work of 25 Greek and foreign designers, the event was organized by D.I. Moda Athena and took place at the Hellenic World Cultural Center from October 14 to 17. «I believe that the event went well,» said organizer Ioanna Darakli to Kathimerini English Edition, noting the satisfaction of participants, public and sponsors alike. «On the first day of shows the weather was bad, but then things really picked up on Saturday and Sunday,» she said. «It was a huge effort, and we hope that next time we will do even better; there are things we can improve on.» Darakli further noted that besides the presence of the local press, there were also representatives from foreign publications, such as Italian Collezioni, as well as coverage from Fashion TV. On the buyers front, besides local professionals, Darakli mentioned the presence of stores (though not department stores) from Milan and Paris, as well as from Britain, India and Bulgaria. For the first time in Greece, said Darakli, the somewhat traditional catwalk presentations were complemented by a series of installations. «The first time is always harder; to actually make it happen is already an achievement,» said Jonathan Dawes, international vice president for sales and marketing of IMG, a global company dedicated to the marketing and management of sport, leisure and lifestyle. Dawes added that if the Greek fashion industry wishes to make some kind of impact worldwide, it should find a creative niche. The event focused on the work of up-and-coming as well as established designers, showing primarily Spring/Summer 2005 collections. This included catwalk shows by Paris-based French designer Isabelle Ballu and well-known Portuguese designer Fatima Lopes. «I am curious by nature and so I wanted to see other cultures,» said Ballu to Kathimerini English Edition, who had traveled to Athens to present a refreshing show featuring satin dresses and fluid tailoring. She regretted, however, the fact that attendance was relatively low on Friday night. Ballu’s husband, menswear designer Moritz Rogosky, also showed on that night. Also on Moda Athena’s foreign front was a strong show by Turkish designer Umit Unal, Mexico’s Nelyda Acosta, whose sexy ethnic – featuring splashes of color and transparencies based on her homeland’s rich weaving techniques – caught the eye of two local buyers, as well as Cypriot Pantelis Mitsu, who presented sensual caftans enriched with sequins and rhinestones (the designer has just opened his first Athenian outlet, in Kifissia). «When it comes to fashion, any kind of effort is positive,» said Christos Petridis of Costas Faliakos, to Kathimerini English Edition, adding, however, the importance of good, prior organization. «We are very much behind in this area, and we must therefore take huge leaps ahead – if we wish to organize a long-lasting fashion week, that is.» In an elaborate installation, Petridis had created a fairy-tale mood by setting up a jungle, in which snakes and butterflies turned into couture garments and where a feminine silhouette was occasionally altered by voluminous taffeta. «I’m quite satisfied, it’s been a long time since I last showed,» said Lena Papachristophilou to Kathimerini English Edition, who unveiled her «made4now» design concept on the first day of shows. The idea involves the collaboration of alternating designers working on small-scale conceptual collections, to be presented every three months. «I hope that people will see the event with some kind of leniency, because it started from scratch,» said Vasso Consola, whose installation of metallic 3D knitted dresses with retro elements proved one of the event’s most successful. Also on the calendar were accessories, handmade bags, T-shirts and other items by Katerina Plioni, as well as jewelry by Jessica Josafat. The event ended on a powerful note, with an installation by accessory designer Dukas Hatzidukas and a catwalk show by Rome-based designer Angelos Bratis. Hatzidukas’s Gothic vision resulted in a marriage of leather, Swarovski crystal and mink, in shoes and boots; Bratis, on the other hand, proved that he’s one to watch on the catwalk: Delicate pleats, pencil skirts, voluminous wool and sleek satin resulted in a focused, tight and impressive show (the designer showed his Fall-Winter 2004/2005 collection). «The event was dignified and serious,» said designer Erifilli Nikolopoulou to Kathimerini English Edition, adding, however, that major Greek talent did not show. On the opening night, Nikolopoulou had presented a sneak preview of her haute couture winter collection: One garment, featuring a corset, with pieces of fabrics and other details, offered an idea of a «Retro-glam» collection which will be available in January. The absence of a unified Greek designer front at Moda Athena reflects the serious rift facing the Greek fashion world today. This is due to the fact that while, initially, Darakli and the recently established Fashion Designers Association (HDA) had been working together, they subsequently went their separate ways. Though a small number of HDA members participated in last week’s event, the bulk of the union’s 36 members were absent. «We hope that next time we will have more designers,» noted Darakli, adding that a large number of foreign participants have already signed on for the next Moda Athena. «We are open to all, and we are very keen to promote Greeks, to have a more complete image of what is going on in this country. Stronger participation from Greek designers will produce better results. Our aim is to present everybody.» Meanwhile, the next major Greek fashion event has been scheduled for November 22. Organized by the HDA, it is billed as a preview of the summer 2005 season. Instead of the traditional catwalk, the union has opted for an alternative, multifaceted and interactive presentation based on videos. Both D.I. Moda Athena and the HDA have already announced two, once again separate, fashion weeks for March 2005. The overall feeling, however, remains that Greece will not be able to make a difference in world fashion affairs if it remains divided. «Ideally, what we need to do is bring the organizing companies together with the union, in order for them to work side by side,» said Nikolopoulou. «I hope this will happen one day.»