Challenging times for Greek fashion

Six fashion seasons ago, a large and representative group of Greek designers brought their enthusiasm and hopes together, joining forces for the first edition of the Athens Collections, essentially the country’s first ever fashion week. Two-and-a-half years on, the Diners Athens Collections InStyle has become a local institution and an international fringe event to watch. Beyond catwalk shows organized by the Hellenic Fashion Designers Association at Zappeion Hall, the Athens Collections are bearing more fashion fruit: The new dynamic has driven local designers into European showrooms and trade exhibitions, Greek designer pieces being carried by stores in Paris and Hong Kong via Moscow and the creation of a professional Athens showroom, among others. While developing local designer identity and business is still high on the Greek fashion week agenda, visible and encouraging efforts are being made. The event has now reached a critical point, however, and good fashion management is essential for its survival. Creating a viable industry is a long-term investment for all those involved. Thousands of visitors attended the sixth edition for Spring/Summer 2008 which unfolded October 24-28, with foreign fashion professional guests noting that while some collections were European-level material, others have a long way to go. A special guest, the American-with-Greek-roots designer John Varvatos opened the event on Wednesday, October 24, showing his Spring/Summer 2008 menswear collection previously shown in New York. What emerged from the Athens shows? Think Greek for next summer, with a number of designers reworking their heritage in, often, amusing ways. Also, a predominance of dresses, an emphasis on the waist, big flowers, jerseys, ball shapes, volume playing, and earthy versus bold colors. On the guest designer front, Avtandil’s summer black has become a signature trait of the Georgian designer who showed in Athens for the third time. No ethnic touches here, but an elegant strictness reflected in pajama stripes, flares and cigarette trousers. Spain’s Miriam Ponsa, who showed in exchange for Yiorgos Eleftheriades’s appearance at 080 Barcelona, featured exciting latex dipped in liquid and applied with cotton – experimental, yet ultimately wearable pieces. Cyprus’s Aphrodite Hera threw out well-thought ideas, including big ruffles, large zips and holograms on evening wear, while Cyprus-based Ramona Filip came up with youthful looks in earthy colors with full-sleeved, A-line trench coats and things to wear, including pieces for the working woman. For Deux Hommes, it was a defining moment. Coached by fashion consultant Jean-Jacques Picart, the duo brought complicated simplicity and a refreshing fluidity. Focusing on their Greek heritage, the collection reflected hard work, featuring Minoan elements, reproduced vintage tourist 1970s silk prints, an emphasis on the human form accentuated by ideas of Greek pottery and gigantic sequins, with deep blue and burgundy. In his quest for a modern silhouette, Yiorgos Eleftheriades was in chic mode and playing with harness, white and earthy shades. Strong menswear included individual pieces like suit-like dungarees and a one-piece trouser-shirt. At his second line, Collage Social, the designer came up with techno floral prints, multi-volumes and wrinkled fabrics, reflecting individual originality in the 1980s. Angelos Bratis is clear on his fashion language and his execution matches his vision – clear and well-fitting. This time it was all about «curves and elegance» in a collection where «motion comes from the wind.» On the catwalk this translated into morning-through-evening pieces, a new geometry and fluidity versus non-fluidity, while black left some space for egg-yolk. Bratis makes it all look effortless – but don’t be fooled, every detail counts. A sense of doom overtook the audience at Maria Mastori and Filep Motwary as black-faced models appeared on the catwalk. The design duo (Mastori does the accessories, Motwary the clothes) presented a collection with a deep sea spirit reflected in ropes, huge pearls and fishnets. Working with organic elements, this collection was a reminder that fashion expresses strong emotions. Vasso Consola treats knits as fabrics and makes them look sexy – think hot beachwear with plenty of bare skin. There was knitted architecture in striped catsuits, built-in belts and stripes. Color was a dominant force in Orsalia Parthenis’s collection where lime mixed with orange, for instance. At times a more fitted silhouette (at the waist) took the brand forward while safeguarding its tradition of relaxed, comfortable living. Loukia’s long experience allows her to have a light hand when designing ready-to-wear: A two-piece trench – held together with buttons or ribbons – is an example. She played with volumes, signature applique lace, frills, boudoir poms poms, satin, lace and cotton. With every single piece incorporating a Greek element (from chitons to knots), Erifilli worked on a strong color palette from mauve to brown through canary yellow. The collection’s centerpiece was an intriguing fabric based on a combination of chiffon and metal. In the space of a fashion show and with a much-appreciated sense of humor, Dimitris Dassios offered his riveted audience a retrospective of Greek history from antiquity to the 1821 revolution. Gold, turquoise and mother of pearl jewelry was set against a backdrop of white paper pleated dresses. A sparkling collection came from new kid on the Greek fashion block, Vrettos Vrettakos. Sponsored by Swarovski Hellas, the young designer showed elaborate pleated and twisted leather mixed with silk tulle as well as short, Swarovski crystal numbers for the evening. Pavlos Kyriakides’s penchant for jersey (from silver to gray) gave high waists and pieces to wear, including something not often seen at Zappeion, suits. A good fit with a 1980s touch, it was a softer collection, without excluding occasional military references and constructed sleeves. With her snorkeling gear (as she appeared at the end of her show) Daphne Valente dived into the sea and came up with fish, in the form of jewelry, prints and embroidery, in white, silver and splashes of turquoise. Never forgetting her pleated past, she also fused pleats with the fish motif. Christos Costarellos presented a very pretty collection of long and short silk chiffon, silk satin, gazar, and cotton lace in lavender and quiet mint, among others. Reflecting their age compared to previous seasons, Mi-Ro duo went for fluorescent geometry, while adding menswear. There were nice details here: crocodile sling-backs with sportswear laces and Venetian straw on bags. Complementing her hat wear (in a country where wearing them is generally perceived as eccentric), Katerina Karoussos showed ready-to-wear featuring comfortable shirt dresses and nostalgic polka-dot numbers coming up with alternative (though seen before) choices for women with a desire for old-style Cote d’Azur. Vassilis Zoulias’s foray into apparel produced a sweet collection defined by the designer’s signature nostalgia for all that was chic in the 50s and 60s. This translated into a concise show of big flowered fabrics, as well as vichy and plaid, where the designer seemed to switch his attention from hot-selling accessories to clothes. Veteran Makis Tselios came up with funky preppy looks for boys – think stripes, bermudas and knee-high socks – and bright-colored shantung for the ladies – guys got some of these too. Finding creative ground between pleasing good clients and moving forward with one’s vision is a challenge some local designers face. For Christos Petridis at Costas Faliakos, the first part of the show featured bermudas, trousers and tops, followed by «Bijoux» pieces and Grecian pleats for the evening. At Christos Mailis, designer Pericles Economopoulos went for wearable looks made of stretch gabardine and shantung, with an emphasis on the waist. An Africa-inspired techno-tribal theme gave Frida Karadimas’s 1950s silhouette a new direction with a beige-to-gold color palette featuring thick linen, details such as snake skin and metal motifs, with straightforward cocktail given an edge. Away from the theatrical approach of past seasons, Katerinalexandraki took the wheel motif to carry her work forward. With a penchant for leggings, she gave her casualwear sequined details that gave the ilk a shine. Working on volumes, Konstantinos loosened up with big flower prints, earthy colors and shiny fabrics, moving the brand forward. Also by Konstantinos, the Miss Denim young collection reminded fashion folk that all it takes to express yourself through fashion in one single T-shirt. Adolphe William Bouguereau’s «The Birth of Venus» became a central theme at Kathy Heyndels, where the print appeared on dresses, for example. There was plenty of cocktail and evening with rich, beaded embroidery and a white goddess finale. Daywear was not high on the list of Cyprus-born Yiannos Xenis, whose bare backs and sexy prints reinforced the idea that the Yiannos Xenis woman will not go unnoticed. There was asymmetry and vibrant fuchsia, layers of silk satin – more attention to fit is necessary. Elina Lebessi is all about the dress – from morning to night. Applique beading was a major story here, from a turquoise caftan to a jumper dress with some transparency. There were mid-thigh hemlines, while the designer seemed to go for a sexier silhouette. Black was the opening statement at Simeoni, who went on to develop a few themes, including a brown leather florin motif, while also playing with volumes and asymmetry, twists and folds. Sexy silhouettes built on chiffon, silk and jersey continued at Veloudakis, where the designer Christos Veloudakis showed two collections. Familiar column dresses (extremely low cut at the back) opened the show at Chara Lebessi, who went on to work on the collar, while going for white, black, brown and charcoal. Andria’s opening play on black and yellow led to quieter things – black and gray – through girlishness, an emphasis on the waist and pleated dresses. A few ideas at Fanny Voutsela remained unexplored, with a loose, comfortable silhouette for a woman who enjoys her femininity included pleated silk. A high-neck, big-sleeved, high-waisted flare jersey trousers piece was all Lena Katsanidou. While there were some fabulous pieces here, such as a transparent lace gown with high collar, the collection lacked coherency. Victoria Kyriakides was also a bit scattered with a disco mode – with graphic sequins – but also jersey, ropes and thick-lace needlepoint. Michael Aslanis twisted things round by using celebrity (Greek and foreign) clippings on caftans, dresses and trousers. He then moved on to an – endless – parade of large flowers, polka-dots, embroidered jeans, eveningwear and wedding hour sprinkled with children’s wear. There is little doubt that Vassilios Kostetsos has a vivid imagination: Taking the idea of brocard, adding baroque music, he asked his audience to believe that the collection was inspired by Romy Schneider and Alain Delon. But he seems to forget that both actors (and lovers, for a period) had their own senses of style. Nothing to do with his catwalk show of Playboy-inspired bunnies, peep-toe ankle boots (to be fair they were funky) corset ideas, and showbiz numbers, in a show for local media consumption. Ditto for Nikos-Takis, where the fashion duo’s successors Charis and Elias kept their public «hostage» for over an hour of video-wall retrospective, followed by a Hollywood-inspired collection of old-fashioned gowns and an appearance by a girls band. Nikos and Takis ought to be respected for their 45-year fashion career and the fact that their business is still going strong. But this show is an extravaganza that this fashion week cannot afford. How does one survive more than 40 shows? Branded Diners Athens Collections InStyle water and a constant supply of mints proved life sparing this time round -snacks ought to be next edition’s challenge. (Photo credits: Studio Panoulis)