Greek fashion’s biggest night

Had you entered the Maroussi warehouse at the last minute, you would have thought that the crowd had erupted into a unanimous, standing ovation. Well, it certainly would have, but this event already featured standing room only. But then again, who cares if everyone had to stand for a couple of hours? It was, after all, a much-anticipated moment, for, in an emotionally charged evening and for the first time in their long and troubled history, Greek fashion designers came together, joined forces, and presented one, unified catwalk show. Conceived and organized by the recently established Hellenic Fashion Designers Association (HDA), the Athens Collections Preview took place on Monday and succeeded in uniting the vast majority of local creative talent. Initial participation had shot up to 31 design houses, with only a small number of members opting to not take part in the event. While the evening targeted local press and opinion leaders, it was above all a celebration of newfound cooperation, brotherhood and hope. «We are very happy, united and optimistic,» said Giorgos Eleftheriadis, the association’s vice president, as he addressed the crowd of fashion lovers who had flocked to the Maroussi venue. From the catwalk, the designer took the opportunity to announce the upcoming Athens Collections, scheduled to take place in March 2005. It has never been so busy in the realm of Greek fashion. In mid-October, the first Moda Athena brought together a number of local and international fashion and accessory designers in a four-day event. However, the lack of major participation on the part of Greek designers (only a small number of HDA members showed alongside non-members) proved to be the event’s principal flaw. (In the beginning, Moda Athena and the HDA had been working side by side in the organization of one Greek fashion week; when the two parties fell out, each proceeded with its own project.) Besides a rare display of togetherness, Monday’s event proved that Greek designers are capable of working according to a global timetable. While shows (usually charity events) organized by various designers at this time of year would most likely feature winter 2004/2005 collections, all 29 designers presented clothes for spring/summer 2005. But it wasn’t just the designers putting in a lot of hard work. In order to stage Monday’s event, a great number of fashion professionals agreed to work for free – including more than 40 models. The result was a well-coordinated, flowing show. «We showed that Greek fashion can stand alongside European fashion and take its share,» said Christos Maillis, the association’s president, to Kathimerini English Edition. The respected couturier, who established his fashion house in 1965, noted that Greece should develop a reputation for fashion along the lines of Turkey and Brazil, for instance, with the help of the state. How has Greek fashion evolved since his early days in the field? «In the old days we learnt our craft and proceeded to be artists and dreamers, not professionals,» said Maillis. Today’s young people, he said, are especially talented but also much more informed and capable of producing garments in large quantities, and thus more competitive than their predecessors. «It was cool and humane,» said Eleftheriadis of Monday’s event to Kathimerini English Edition, stressing the fact that the association managed to finance the entire event and support the designers. For Daphne Valente, an HDA board member, the evening turned out to be «a major achievement.» Speaking to Kathimerini English Edition, the designer noted that while there were tremendous difficulties – including technical issues – the end result justified the struggle. Such a professional, coherent image, said Valente, will offer legitimacy to the upcoming fashion week. «I wasn’t expecting something of such high quality. The result went beyond my expectations,» said designer Christoforos Kotentos to Kathimerini English Edition. «If this is just a taste of what Greek fashion has to offer, then I will be very proud to be able to show in Athens next March.» For the designer, who already sells in Spain, Russia, Switzerland, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and Monaco, the work of local designers points to a country which is in the know and capable of setting high standards. Another designer, Vasso Consola, summed up the overall mood: «It was just fine, and people really enjoyed the upbeat atmosphere.» So what’s next, besides consolidating this new fashion momentum? «It’s full speed ahead and we are looking into sponsorship for next March,» said Eleftheriadis, who is also looking at 18 applications for union membership. «Ideally, we would like to have a dozen major members of the international press as well as buyers come take a look. Athens could very well become Eastern Europe’s capital of fashion.»