International guests assess Greek fashion

In its commendable efforts to broaden its horizons beyond the local scene, the second edition of the Hellenic Fashion Week, Diners Athens Collections InStyle, brought to Athens a select group of buyers and press from around the world. Between October 21 and 24, 30 industry insiders, including noted professionals such as Maria Louisa Poumaillou of Maria Louisa high fashion boutiques in Paris and Hong Kong, arrived at Zappeion Hall on a reconnaissance mission of emerging Greek style. On the whole, foreign guests praised efforts carried out by the Hellenic Fashion Designers’ Association aiming to put Greek fashion on the global map. At the same time, however, they all raised questions about the event’s identity. Besides defining a clearer identity, guests also stressed the need for greater editing, styling and fitting on the catwalk. «Greek fashion seems to be focused on the local market: sexy and feminine styles,» said Serge Carreira, a buyer for the landmark French department store Galeries Lafayette. «I think that Greek design will be stronger if some designers go ahead and do what they feel like doing, like Yiorgos Eleftheriades. Except for some of them, Greek brands are out of the international fashion system. After London, New York, Milan and Paris, you seem to be in another mood.» Lydia Kamitsis was in town for the Athens fashion week debut. Returning to Zappeion in October, the fashion historian and curator was able to evaluate her first impressions in March. Citing Yiorgos Eleftheriades, Deux Hommes, Parthenis and Loukia as «constant, sure values of Greek design» though «working in different directions,» this season, Kamitsis appreciated the collections of Daphne Valente, Liana Camba, Pavlos Kyriakidis, Celia D and Elena Syraka and the accessories of Dimitris Dassios. «I was also very pleased to discover the newcomers Angelos Bratis and Lena Katsanidou, very promising ones,» she said. Similarly to Kamitsis, Germana Marcoccia, editorial director of luxury industry website, also attended the March shows. «The event was very interesting and many improvements were already visible compared to the first Diners Athens Collections InStyle,» Marcoccia said. «However, I think that the Hellenic Designers’ Association should define a clearer strategy to give the Hellenic Fashion Week its own identity.» For Petra Thiele, a veteran fashion journalist based in Germany and a regular visitor to Greece, the fashion week was very gratifying. «Personally I was very pleased by the fact that Greek fashion designers finally claimed their right for being noticed as a part of cultural, local life,» Thiele said. «In all these years I came to Greece for different affairs, I felt that Greek fashion designers were either famous or lost.» Operating under the association’s umbrella, said Thiele, is «wonderful» and the feeling of belonging to «one big family» needs some more time to grow. Suggestions for developing the sector abroad included the possibility of advertising the fashion week in advance, creating an image of Greek fashion through promotions in top magazines, supporting designers in international fashion fairs and encouraging them to participate in international competitions. «I found some true values in the collections I saw,» noted Herve Huchet, managing director of Pret-a-Porter, the Paris trade fair exhibition, adding that there might be a need for creating a balance between eveningwear (which tends to be sur mesure) and more comprehensive, ready-to-wear collections. Currently examining possibilities of developing a creative bridge between Athens and Paris, Huchet also mentioned the idea of guest designers. «By inviting foreign designers, you could gain importance in Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East markets,» he said. Breaking into foreign markets is a matter of prime importance to a number of Greek designers. Kanako Maeda of WWD Japan offered advice to anyone looking toward the land of the Rising Sun. «Dresses are not big in the Japanese markets,» she said. «If anyone wants to sell to Japan, he/she needs to design more separates and daily wears. It is a very highly competitive market and designers need to really look at trends, fits and fabrics.» One of the creative questions raised during the fashion week was whether designers ought to go «local» before going «global» in terms of creativity. «They don’t have to, but personally I think it’s a good idea,» Maeda said. «By looking at the Athens fashion week, I couldn’t really tell what is the strength of Greece in terms of fashion and fabrics. A lot of designers show too much silk, but I couldn’t call it a strength. For example, if Greek people in general like shininess, they should use more sequins, beads, etc, rather than just using colored silk. I saw some traditional lace in the city, maybe using that kind of stuff will make it more unique.» Exactly how visible was the Greek factor on the catwalk? «Most of the collections made references to the Greek element but few of them translated those features into trendy items,» noted Marcoccia. «I loved men’s trousers at Yiorgos Eleftheriades and the ‘Origami’ collection from Daphne Valente. Moreover, Greeks should not underestimate the value of trendsetters such as Deux Hommes and Lena Katsanidou, who show the face of contemporary Greece, a forward-looking country keeping an eye on its strong past.» So is Greek fashion ready to make its mark? «The fashion business is not only making a dress, but also marketing, selling and advertising,» said Akiko Ichikawa of Harpers Bazaar Japan and daily fashion industry trade newspaper Senken Shimbun. «I saw many talents (Yiorgos Eleftheriades, Angelos Bratis, etc) during the fashion week. However, I thought some shows were like costume parades which I don’t think have enough qualities for the international fashion market. If the Athens fashion week wants to be more international, I think the organizers need to choose and edit who would participate in the event.» Citing the Sao Paulo fashion week, Ichikawa noted that three years ago many Brazilian designers seemed to copy their European counterparts. According to the journalist, these days Brazilian designers present «original and sophisticated» fashion thanks to rich fabric resources, craftsmanship in prints, local culture and stunning Brazilian models. «I think that the most important thing is to propose a selection of designers who are able to cross the frontiers of Greece,» Carreira said. «This means: Concentrate the efforts on few designers who have a strong universe and a ‘new’ vision on fashion. Also, establish a ‘made in Greece’ label. What is special in the Greek fashion scene? What is really specific in Greek fashion?» «To compete with international labels, whatever their label is, you have to place the Athens collections under real fashion issues,» Kamitsis said. «Proposing a new silhouette, which can deal with trends, and having an industrial capacity of production.» «It may take a few more years to get competitive at the international level, but I did witness a few young talents coming up,» Maeda said. «I hope these designers like Deux Hommes and Angelos Bratis, who are also very aware of the international market, bring some spotlights to the Athens fashion week in the coming years.»

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