Fashion week sees success and challenges

The first time it was dubbed nothing short of a «miracle,» an «experiment» testing waters of style. Now, following its second occurrence, the Greek fashion week, aka Diners Athens Collections InStyle, is emerging as a promising new entry on the international fashion scene. A fashion crowd made up of thousands of visitors, including members of local and global media and buyers, fashion professionals, clients, local celebrities and fashion lovers, gathered at Zappeion Hall from October 21 to 24 to witness developments on the Greek fashion scene. Supermodel Eva Herzigova monopolized flashes on opening night, as Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis launched the fashion week, followed by a short address by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, among others. Their presence was significant, marking the second time the City of Athens was backing the event and the first time the Greek state was getting involved. It was a victory for the Hellenic Fashion Designers’ Association (HFD), the organizer of the four-day event. The association has much to be pleased about. It continues to be strongly backed by the private sector – the fashion week’s principal sponsor was Citibank’s Diners Club card, while TIM mobile telephony was the main sponsor. The event drew the crowds, its organization appeared smoother than the first time round and a significant international presence – about 30 journalists and buyers from abroad – surely guarantee the event’s developing prestige (more on this globetrotting crowd’s reactions to the event next week). As for the near future, the third Diners Athens Collections InStyle is scheduled to take place in March next year. So now that the fashion week appears to be on a proper organizing track, the time has come for the association to take a long look at the event’s aspirations. The big question is: What is this fashion week’s identity? This could translate into: What are its aims, its market and its audience? Does the fashion week event cater to an international audience or the local public? And could it talk to both? There is a tremendous need to create ties with the local fashion community before attempting to build bridges with the rest of the world. Foreign buyers at Zappeion, for instance, wondered where their Greek counterparts were. Promoting the local designer product within the country must be a priority. Then comes the press and the need for Greek fashion to move away from – or at least for it not be exclusively featured in – society columns. The success of Greek fashion week could be a great opportunity for a new generation of journalists to deal with homeland style matters and develop a school of fashion journalism. Once again, fashion week demonstrated that there’s plenty of talent and, at this point, the association has a major role to play in determining how to promote it both locally and abroad. The collections Navy chic was the story at Mi-Ro, with gold lame mixing with stripes and an emphasis on the waist with thick belts. «Less is so much more» was the message at Angelos Bratis, the rapidly rising 27-year-old star of fashion with an impressive resume including a developing career in Italy. Bratis offered 20 well-executed outfits, offering impressive fluidity, precision and details. Favorite duo Deux Homme went down the «Alphaville» road, featuring futuristic romance with knee-length hemlines and calm sequins mixed with organza, among much more. An array of «Angel Freaks» took over the catwalk at Loukia, where the established couture designer presented delicate roughness through ruffles, tulles and lace patchwork. For accessories designer Dimitris Dassios, it was all about bold cuff bracelets, chokers and necklaces featuring crystal, velvet and flower patterns. For Thessaloniki-based Simeoni, it was back to nature, with sweet colors, flower prints and satin ribbons. Cyprus-born Yiannos Xenis loves his colors bold and his atmosphere ethnic, with combinations of printed silk and leather. Up-and-coming Chara Lembessi’s trademark column dresses became second skin to the body, with feminine cuts and soft fabrics. Divine diva Maria Callas (and her great love Aristotle Onassis) was the inspiration behind flamboyant Vassilios Kostetsos’s collection, ranging from bermudas for men and ’60s silhouettes for women. Liana Camba offered lots of accessories in a sexy, wearable and pretty collection featuring plenty of ruffles, sequins and lace. For knitwear designer Smaragdi, it was all about sexy crochet from beachwear to evening looks. Boys and girls met on the Makis Tselios catwalk, with strawberry and English grass stripes for the guys and familiar, 1950s polka dots (and embroidery) for the ladies. Shantung was one of the stories at the house of Christos Mailis, where a strong collection included highly wearable looks for the cocktail hour. Like modern-day amazons, the models at Christos Costarellos showcased the designer’s study of the «imatio,» the dress and the development of Grecian pleats. «Collages Social» was the theme at Yiorgos Eleftheriades, where the cool designer offered his vision of now, through unexpected romance on the feminine side and very strong menswear. Eleftheriades’s collection was complemented by edgy accessories by the highly creative Maria Mastori. In an interesting and rather dramatic show, Lena Katsanidou offered bold colors and fringes for those who dare. Seasoned designer Daphne Valente (and current president of HFD), showed a strong, elegant collection for day-through-night, inspired by the art of origami, working on «frozen» pleats and geometry. Sensual comfort is the success of Orsalia Parthenis, who continues to come up with practical and hip ideas in cotton and silk, for example. Thessaloniki-based Konstantinos offered above-the-knee hemlines in girlie-mood dresses with high waists. Celia D. presented a collection of carefree caftans and dresses with broderie anglaise and a touch of Paris, matched with strong accessories by Elena Syraka. Femininity and romance through short dresses was the idea at Elina Lembessi. Popular Michalis Aslanis went for popular Greek music and incorporated traditional «flouria» and Greek jewelry into satin dress numbers. A fitted, close-to-the-body silhouette was chosen by Pavlos Kyriakides in wearable suits, with the designer going softer for the evening. Vasso Konsola went for signature knitwear for the beach and the city, as well as muslin dresses. Christoforos Kotentos threw a powerful collection of comprehensive ready-to-wear, ranging from overall shorts to hot beachwear, black drapes playing with volumes and cuts all the way to white, evening, goddess pleats. Young designer Katerina Alexandraki produced a rather theatrical production based on comfortable volumes, while Fanny Voutsela presented garments with a country air. For veterans Nikos-Takis (and their successor duo Harris-Ilias) inspiration came from the Sahara’s Tuareg community. An all-white collection starring angels – on T-shirts, denim, elaborate shirts and gowns – made for a good show for Thessaloniki’s Nikolas. Glamorous looks inspired by Crete’s Knossos, including caftans and evening gowns in printed silks, was offered at Kathy Heyndels. Erifilli Nikolopoulou’s «Flight of Fancy» took the audience on a journey of mousseline, soft sequins and a play of volumes ranging from baby-dolls to refined 1930s. Lastly, summer will be colorful and feminine for Andria, yet another Thessaloniki-based designer, who chose pretty colors, such as purple and pink for her easygoing dresses. The dress On the whole, HFD members appear to be working on developing their individual vision and product. Yet there were moments during the four-day event when women in the audience were wondering if all they’ll need for next summer is a collection of dresses. The popular garment seemed to dominate the catwalk, with not that many designers concentrating on offering women a broader wardrobe and choices. Rolls of silk and muslin competed with plenty of ruffles, pleats and drapes, pointing to the fact that this country is still a fashion slave to its glorious past. One of the creative challenges facing local designers today might be to bring this rich heritage fast forward not only into the present, but to an innovative, fashionable future.

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