Designers showcase talent at fourth Greek fashion week at Zappeion Hall

What is a fashion show? Why does it take place and who should attend? The fourth edition of the Diners Athens Collections InStyle, held at Zappeion Hall on October 19-23, raised a number of questions and answered a few. Greek fashion week attracted crowds of fashion professionals and non-professionals, opened its doors to shoe and apparel manufacturers (who showed on the catwalk) and welcomed quite a crowd of fashion folk from abroad (primarily press and buyers as well as four guest fashion designers). Among those who made the trip to Athens was Jean-Jacques Picart, an influential fashion consultant who advises Bernard Arnault, the luxury emperor behind LVMH (Moet Hennessy-Louis Vuitton). Picart attended a number of shows and offered comments and advice. Fashion and costume designer Patricia Field, a regular visitor to Greece, as well as stylist for hits such as «Sex and the City» and more recently, «The Devil Wears Prada,» was also spotted at Zappeion. Speaking to Kathimerini English Edition, she praised the overall organization, while referring to Greek fashion as «youthful, creative and earnest.» In terms of food for fashion thought, more than generating trends or acting as a hub for experimentation, the Athens Collections left many reflecting on Greek designer fashion’s commercial power, or perhaps non-power. How many local fashion houses go beyond their faithful atelier clientele and develop a distribution network? Are wedding gowns – and as an extension, assorted eveningwear – still the bread and butter of an entire profession? (Endless parades of wedding gowns have, thankfully, disappeared from the Athens Collections catwalk, though eveningwear is still very much on the agenda.) What were visiting buyers looking for at Zappeion? Those who visited the showroom made polite conversation and contacts but did not appear to sign any deals. Will the incorporation of local apparel and shoe-making companies in the fashion calendar lead to even more collaborations between manufacturers and designers? The Diners Athens Collections InStyle unfolded under the aegis of the City of Athens, the Ministry of Development and ELKEDE (Technology and Design Center), with heavy financial support from the private sector (led by principal sponsor Citibank’s Diners Club International card) and funding from the Ministry of Development for publicity and promotion. Complementing the Zappeion shows were two exhibitions. The first turned out to be a much-needed journey back in time: Showcasing jewels of past creation by Greeks and Greeks of the diaspora, «6 Universal Greek Fashion Designers,» featured garments by drape-master Jean Desses, Yiannis Evangelidis (and his penchant for incorporating elements of Greek art), James Galanos (a favorite of Nancy Reagan), flamboyant Dimis Kritsas, lover of Greek silhouettes George Stavropoulos and 1970s international sensation Yiannis Tseklenis. (All the clothes on display came from the permanent collection of the Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation, established and headed by Ioanna Papantoniou.) The second exhibition, a collaboration between InStyle magazine and Smirnoff North, featured a series of fashion shots by Greek photographers. The collections The fourth edition of the Diners Athens Collections InStyle offered a few general trends for spring-summer 2007. Greek designers suggested plenty of white (including total white looks); hot pants and Bermuda shorts; luxurious fabrics including all kinds of silk; an emphasis on the waist as well as fabric and texture layering. Established Cypriot designer Erotokritos opened the event in a sweet, upbeat way, presenting a predominantly dress collection, with short, girly looks, that included trenches. In one of the top shows, designer Avtandil took his Georgian heritage and gave it today’s forms and shapes. This was not a collection meant for summer Mediterranean cruising, but for women in need a shirt, a jacket, a pair of jeans and a dress. All these came in combinations of flower, checkered and graphic prints, in a peasant-comes-to-the-city kind of look. A trip to Spain became a rich fountain of inspiration at the house of Deux Hommes. For the celebrated and highly popular fashion duo, the Iberian country triggered off a series of emotions that translated into the world of Velasquez as well as the heritage of Spanish fashion master Cristobal Balenciaga. On the catwalk it all translated into a highly constructed and fiercely elaborate collection featuring cape volumes, the juxtaposition of fabrics and elements of futurism. The Greek designers took a risk, as the revived Paris-based house of Balenciaga – courtesy of designer Nicolas Ghesquiere – attracts comparisons. Kudos, though, to a well-executed collection from a duo which deserves its title as the «intellectuals of Greek fashion.» The king of Greek cool, Yiorgos Eleftheriades, immersed himself in a color palette which included chunks of flashy and subtle colors, while developing his fashion geometry through fresh layerings. Stripes, (abstract) prints and checkered stripes for boys and girls who enjoy fashion in a seemingly laid-back, yet passionate way. Angelos Bratis likes to keep his collections (very) short and (very) sweet. He showed a particularly beautiful – and effortlessly – elegant collection of desirable garments with rich fabrics and art deco elements where the fluidity of the body movement was given a more precise silhouette through the use of decoration. Broderie anglaise, relaxing white cotton, unexpected cuts and shapes was the story at Loukia, in a nearly all-white collection, creating summer layers for women with high intellectual and romantic demands. At Parthenis, Orsalia Parthenis seems at ease with a heritage that includes body-hugging garments. Carrying on a theme from last season, Parthenis took the wraparound idea a step further, while adding new volumes, including a loose, baggy silhouette pointing to an urban take. All in all, a wearable collection for day and night. Erifilli’s «play between opposite styles» captured a general fashion moment where the «fluidity of feminine» was combined with the «austerity of menswear.» A very pretty, desirable collection with lots of white, transparent or shiny black and the gamut of pink. Christoforos Kotentos presented an elaborate, predominantly white, collection of his signature urban amazon looks. Yet instead of pretty faces, the designer had covered his models with masks – all that is, except his muse and love interest, Chrisanthi Rapsomaniki. You know something has changed in Greek fashion when a designer like Makis Tselios dispenses with the wedding gown section of his show. What’s left? Menswear and womenswear with a penchant for stripes, gilded belts for the bling accessory factor and fruity colors. Popular Michalis Aslanis demonstrated how young at heart he feels, with a collection featuring naif, childlike drawings on a series of looks ranging from beachwear to evening. For the island-hopping crowd. Thessaloniki-based Konstantinos was in a black-and-white ready-to-wear mood based on a loose silhouette playing with folds, with wearable separates including Bermuda shorts and cotton shirts. (A collection of silver dresses seemed unnecessary.) At the house of Christos Maillis, designer Periklis Economopoulos keeps a faithful clientele satisfied with ladylike suits and separates, giving them a modern touch through combos of sheer, transparent fabrics and denim, among others. All in all an elegant show with well-fitted, day-through-evening garments. It was the first time that Christos Petridis, the successor of couturier Costas Faliakos, took part in the Zappeion shows. He did so with a collection of formal-looking ready-to-wear where one of the themes was a play on the tuxedo. Chara Lebessi is working hard to bring her vision forward, adding new twists to her signature column dresses. This time, the designer came up with fresh necklines in the form of sculptured necklaces, while elongating her silhouette through the use of skinny trousers. Daphne Valente’s monothematic collection was all about the olive tree, its branches and leaves as it appeared on garments, bags, shoes and jewelry. (Think olive branches on shoulder straps and olive leaves opening as a pleat on a dress.) Mi-Ro’s «Flower Power» was not at all about the 1970s movement, but a collection of cocktail and eveningwear featuring applique flowers, for instance. For a designer duo who have not yet reached 30, the show seemed to focus on wedding-dressing clients instead of defining a fashion direction. Christos Veloudakis was also in an evening mood with striped dresses, fluid goddess silhouettes and psychedelic prints in luxurious fabrics. In yet another predominantly evening collection, Christos Costarellos drew inspiration from the 1950s giving the silhouette a 1980s spin, while cutting and pasting silks, leather and transparencies. At Kathy Heyndels, the story was the corset, as it became part of the garment, emphasizing the waist. Also on the catwalk, daring transparencies, low-key colors and a slim silhouette. Lena Katsanidou’s runway models never left their cigarette holders behind, while dressed in a body-hugging, fitted silhouette with flashes of boudoir kimonos. Another guest designer, Cypriot Mitsu-Mitsu, presented looks for confident women, preferably on vacation. They like to attract attention through a series of body-hugging caftans with camouflage, animal or floral prints. Fellow Cypriot Afroditi Hera reflected on the recent war in Lebanon with a collection titled «Statement.» Adding the peace sign and throwing a death’s head motif on the clothes certainly made a statement – though not necessarily one about fashion. Knitwear designer Smaragdi offered short, colorful (and often striped) numbers, including sexy knitted G-strings and beach ponchos. Thessaloniki-based Andria showed a pretty, all-white collection based on cotton and embroidery. Baroque music, however, made for a particularly slow-paced show. While escorting his ladies on a Byzantine voyage for winter, Simeoni (also from Thessaloniki) went the colorful floral print way for summer. Rows of silk fabrics in a cocktail and evening wear collection would have benefited from editing, however. The Vassilios Kostetsos woman has only one thing in her mind and on her body: glittering sequins, from the beach to clubbing (and there’s not much else happening in between). All shows benefited from the presence of French lighting master Thierry Dreyfus. All photos: Intersys AE (Canon)/Studio Rassias A look at accessories On the jewelry front, two designers with completely distinct visions showed back-to-back. Dimitris Dassios took over the Zappeion catwalk with «Turk Baroque,» an opulent, sensual collection of body-hugging jewelry inspired by the Ottoman Empire and the meeting of East and West. Dangling flouria, jean jackets embellished with vintage fabrics, stones and peacock feathers made for a attention-seeking look. Accessories designer Maria Mastori worked in tandem with designer Filep Motwary (a new HFD member) in order to push the boundaries and reach a fresh, new creative space. Against a backdrop of «Orlando,» the «Overtone Continuum» collection featured voluminous costumes designed by Motwary based on a doll silhouette and Mastori’s large-sized jewels made of industrial materials as well as gold, wood, silver and cultivated pearls in one of the most exciting shows of the season. In his «Hommage» collection, Vassilis Zoulias became a shoe-and-accessories designer for some of fashion’s international elite. He achieved this through a collaboration with vintage store Le Streghe Son Tornate in a fashion retrospective juxtaposing vintage clothing with Zoulias’s original creations (often featuring his beloved polka dots, stripes and satin grosgrain bows and currently hot thick heels). This was fashion education ranging from original numbers by Cristobal Balenciaga to Yves Saint Laurent to Oscar de la Renta and Ossie Clark.

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