The dream looks set to be real

The third edition of Greek fashion week, the Diners Athens Collections InStyle, kicked off at Zappeion Hall last night and runs to Sunday. As the efforts of the local fashion folk continue to grow, novelties this season include all catwalk shows taking place indoors, a showroom facilitating communication between designers, buyers and the press, as well as a tribute to a shining star of international fashion. It started out as a fashion dream exactly a year ago: For the first time ever, the bulk of local talent joined forces to present a coherent front – not necessarily in terms of aesthetics, but in combative spirit. A year later, the event is once again placed under the auspices of the City of Athens and, for the second consecutive time, the Ministry of Development. Making it all possible, however, is the uninterrupted private sector support coming from an array of sponsors led by Citibank’s Diners Club card (acting as principal sponsor) and InStyle magazine as communications sponsor. «The event is becoming increasingly more professional,» noted Daphne Valente, president of the Hellenic Fashion Designers Association (HFD), speaking to Kathimerini English Edition prior to last night’s opening festivities. One of the things making this time around more professional is the association’s collaboration with a Paris-based press office to handle foreign buyers and press. The importance of opening up to the rest of the world, however, should be coupled with the broadening of the horizon for local fashion buyers and press, and here, Valente noted that some reservation still exists among local designers, boutiques and department stores. Toward this, the showroom scheduled to operate on Saturday and Sunday (for professionals only) will offer a chance for closer viewing of garments and the possibility – and hope – of generating business on both a local and international level. Steps in the right direction were already made during the second round of the Athens Collections in October. Among other developments, two HFD members (joined by a Greek designer based in Paris) were invited to show their collections at the leading Pret A Porter Paris Salon last month. For designer duo Deux Hommes, for instance, the catwalk presentation led to garments being picked up by Jey, a hot Paris boutique and showroom situated on Avenue Georges V. They are back at Zappeion this week with a new collection. «The fact that we are showing collectively means that the level is going up,» said Grigoris Triantafyllou of Deux Hommes to Kathimerini English Edition. «We are increasingly working along European guidelines, with higher standards and aesthetics.» Paving the road Forward-looking and seasoned designer Yiorgos Eleftheriades was also a guest at the Paris trade fair in February, where his participation led to a deal with Japanese retailers. A founding member of HFD with long-established contacts with foreign markets, Eleftheriades returns to Zappeion this weekend. «The third time points to the fact that this is becoming an institution, not just another fashion event,» said the designer to Kathimerini English Edition. «An institution paving the road for lots more to happen.» For Angelos Bratis, an emerging power of Greek talent coupled with considerable experience gained in Italy, the Athens Collections have already proved to be a success – last season, his collection was picked up by venerable Maria Luisa Poumaillou, the owner of Parisian power boutique Maria Luisa. Prior to his participation in October, Bratis’s collections were already available in selected stores in Athens and abroad, yet he was happily surprised with the outcome. «The first time I participated at the Zappeion shows, I was very low-key and I was impressed by the reception. I saw a lot of people who were interested in my work and I was a bit stunned,» said Bratis to this paper. «There is a dynamic and it’s beginning to take shape. It’s a challenge and what is emerging from all this is a sense of continuity.» So what’s happening at Zappeion over the next three days? Beginning this afternoon (shows kick off at 5 p.m. today), Greek designers will be presenting their Fall/Winter 2006-2007 fashion goods on three different catwalks. Furthermore, the association pays tribute to a Greek designer with global fashion clout: As a guest of honor at last night’s opening, Sophia Kokosalaki’s work goes on display in an installation showcasing 12 garments. Also on the fashion calendar is an exhibition of works by prominent Greek photographers focusing their lenses on the eternal «Black Dress.» Participating in the three-day fashion catwalk parade are the following HFD members: Angelos Bratis, Michalis Aslanis, Celia D, Chara Lebessi, Christoforos Kotentos, Christos Costarellos, Christos Mailis, Daphne Valente, Dimitris Dassios, Deux Hommes, Elina Lembessi, Erifilli Nikolopoulou, Fanny Voutsela, Katerina Alexandraki, Kathy Heyndels, Konstantinos, Lena Katsanidou, Liana Camba, Makis Tselios, Maria Mastori, Mi-Ro, Nicolas Mavropoulos, Nikos-Takis, Parthenis, Simeoni, Smaragdi, Thes Tziveli, Vassilios Kostetsos, Vassilis Zoulias Old Athens, Vasso Consola, Victoria Kyriakides, Yiannos Xenis, Yiorgos Eleftheriades and Loukia. Entrance to the shows is by invitation or accreditation, but a huge video wall situated in the Zappeion peristyle will give everyone a chance for live public viewing of each collection. «Every time is a challenge and the idea is to make things better each time,» said Valente. «The fight goes on.»