Greek Fashion Inspiration

International Media and Buyers Attend Athens Show of Hellenic Fashion Designers' Spring Collections

By Cordelia Madden, Athens News
Photos by Studio A. Karras

IN A flurry of ruffles, drapes and pleats, Greek fashion took centre stage October 21-24 in the second Diners Athens Collections InStyle catwalk spectacle. With some thirty designers from Athens and Thessaloniki exhibiting their pret-a-porter collections for next spring/summer, the four-day fashion fair at central Zappeio Hall attracted both local and international media and buyers, pens poised to record the discovery of budding young talents, and stylish Greek shoppers in search of inspiration for their next season's wardrobe.

Athens Collections, Take 2

HUNDREDS of guests, customers, store buyers and local press, as well as nearly 30 influential invited journalists and buyers from abroad, spent October 21-24 at Athens' Zappeio Hall watching fashion shows by some of this country's top design talents.

The Diners Athens Collections InStyle fashion week showcased the works of 32 members of the Hellenic Fashion Designers' Association (HFD) during four full afternoons of catwalk shows. Following a three-day fashion festival in March that was seen as a preview to a full-blown fashion week, this was only the second time that local designers have united in an event that mirrors those held in other capitals around the world to draw attention to their creations and, more importantly, to sell them to a wider market.

The designers who participated in this fashion fair ran the gamut from senior industry stalwarts (Loukia, Christos Mailis, Daphne Valente, Makis Tselios, Michalis Aslanis, Nikos-Takis) to emerging international talents (Christoforos Kotentos, Deux Hommes, Yiorgos Eleftheriades, Mi-Ro, Angelos Bratis, Vaso Consola, Erifili Nikolopoulou, Yiannos Xenis), popular local labels (Kathy Heyndels, Liana Camba, Vasillios Kostetsos, Christos Costarellos, Pavlos Kyriakidis, Parthenis, Elina Lebessi, Fanny Voutsela, ) and new members of the association showing for the first time (Lena Katsanidou, Dimitris Dassios, Maria Mastori, Katerina Alexandraki, Chara Lebessi, Celia D, Elena Syraka and Smaragdi). Meanwhile, the design talent of Thessaloniki was represented by Andria, Konstantinos and Simeoni.

The assembled group of international journalists - from publications including Italian Vogue, Japanese Harper's Bazaar and Women's Wear Daily (WWD), Indonesian Harper's Bazaar, and Bookmoda - and buyers (from stores such as Paris' Maria Luisa and the Galeries Lafayette department store) had warm words for a number of the designers - notably Christoforos Kotentos, Deux Hommes, Angelos Bratis, Parthenis and Yiorgos Eleftheriades.

Standout  shows

"Very nice," commented Tiziana Accoti, a buyer from Milan-based Gruppo Zappieri, after Kotentos' show, before she and Janto Wihardja, editor of Indonesian Harper's Bazaar, rushed backstage to examine the garments and talk to the designer. Wihardja was particularly enthusiastic about the innovative 29-year-old designer's bondage-style lattice-backed black dresses, while Kanako Maeda of Women's Wear Daily (WWD) Japanese edition admired the daywear line of beige/metallic linen short romper suits and culottes suits with extraneous straps and buckles.

Design duo Deux Hommes' retro/futuristic collection, inspired by the cult 1960s nouvelle vague film Alphaville, earned similarly effusive praise. Both Maeda and Akiko Ichikawa of Japanese Harper's Bazaar rated the show as one of the best in Athens (along with Angelos Bratis and Yiorgos Eleftheriades). The designers returned the compliment, with Grigoris Triantafyllou remarking: "I'm so impressed that foreign journalists and buyers came here to see our shows. It's a real honour for us."

Orsalia Parthenis earned lavish praise from Petra Thiele, former German Vogue editor and correspondent for the German textile magazine TM - Fashion for Europe. Thiele has been a self-confessed fan of the Parthenis brand's "holiday clothes" since Orsalia's father Dimitris first opened the shop on Mykonos. "It was the best show: very Greek, with a good atmosphere - the beautiful daughter doing her best to bring this heritage into the new century, with her father sitting on the floor in front of the catwalk cheering her on. I love the simple, cotton separates; these clothes are so comfortable, beautiful and easy to wear," Thiele said.

Thiele was also among many to congratulate Yiorgos Eleftheriades' show, Collages socials, which the designer described as a "psychoanalytic" comment on the current, eclectic multiculturalism of society. "There was a lot of creativity and very nice input into menswear - the two-length shorts/pants, which looked like skirts from the back, were a good idea," she said. "For the ladies, there was definitely individuality, creativity and a touch of avant-garde." Maria Mastori's ostentatious jewellery worn by Eleftheriades' models also drew positive comment.

The magnificent location in Zappeio Hall (with the Acropolis in the background) was much praised by the visiting media, as was the ease of having all the shows in one place - much time during the fashion weeks in Paris, London, Milan and New York is spent negotiating traffic getting from one far-flung, 'edgy' location to the next.

Less is more

While the journalists had positive comments for many of the shows and the location, they were generally less than enthusiastic about the interminable parades of evening dresses - often almost the same pattern but in different colours - that some designers felt it necessary to show off. "Too many dresses," Thiele remarked succinctly during one of the shows. Maeda commented: "It seems to be important for Greek designers to show dresses." "But," she continued, "it doesn't really help showing outfits in all different colours. In fact, it's never done like that."

Maeda highlighted the general need for more comprehensive editing and better styling for the shows. "Some things look pretty at first, but when you keep seeing the same thing it gets boring. That kind of designer really needs advice - a good stylist. During Brazilian fashion week they sometimes bring in stylists from Paris to do the shows; that could be done here," she said. "Basically, they need to learn how to edit, how to show, and to figure out who their customer is." She also recommended more fitting sessions with the models, as many of the clothes didn't fit properly.

Acconti said that designers like Aslanis, who already have a steady client base, can afford to be less fashion-focused and just keep doing what they like, but that most of them need guidance in keeping with the trends so that they can become more commercial. "I think they follow their instincts a lot, which is good for their ego but they're not necessarily going to sell," she said.

Maeda commented on the lack of celebrities - even local ones - to raise the profile of the shows. But it's not only celebs who were missing, said Effie Falida, fashion editor of Ta Nea daily. Where were the Greek manufacturers? "I was expecting to find the Greek manufacturers - the industry side - attending the shows to observe and find new partners for development.We hear a lot about the industry fleeing Greece and all the problems that is creating; well, what we have here are designers with a style who can work with the Greek industry, and the Greek industry was absent. Apparently, they were invited by the HFD, but no one cared to come." "Also," she continued, "apart from at the opening party, no one from the relevant ministry showed up. Fashion is not only a party, its a business. Let's reverse the cloth and see the business, the structure and the promotion abroad that lies beneath."

The fashion week was inaugurated at Zappeio on October 21 by Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, HFD president Daphne Valente and, representing the chief sponsors, Christos Vasileiades from Diners Club Hellas and Petros Kostopoulos, publisher of InStyle magazine. Guest star was supermodel Eva Herzigova, the former 'bust' of Wonderbra.

A new generation of talent

WITH their winning blend of innovative designs, well-executed techniques and slickly-styled catwalk shows, it is hardly surprising that designers such as Christoforos Kotentos, Yiorgos Eleftheriades and Deux Hommes have not only made an indelible mark on the local fashion scene but are also striding out into international markets. As they move into the category of established industry leaders, a new crop of emerging talents steps ably into their former position of stars-in-the-ascendant.

Angelos Bratis

His spring/summer 2006 collection had already been shown in New York, Paris, Rome and Amsterdam before reaching the catwalks of Athens, but it was still one of the freshest to brighten Greek fashion week. Featuring a sophisticated selection of black, white and mocha cocktail dresses, shorts and tulip skirts, it was voted by visiting fashionistas from Harpers Bazaar Japan and Women's Wear Daily as one of the top collections of Diners Athens Collections InStyle.

At only 27 years old, Bratis already has an enviable CV, including two years' designing for Maison Gattinoni in Rome (at the same time designing and showing his own-label collection at Rome's AltaRoma AltaModa), participating in the Dutch Fashion Foundation's "Dutch Touch" New York and Paris campaigns (he studied at the prestigious Fashion Institute of Arnhem) and having his designs featured in the vitrines of chic Maria Luisa boutique during Paris fashion week.


Going first is always hard, but Yiannis Raptis and Dimitris Mastrokalos of Mi-Ro managed to kick off Athens fashion week on the afternoon of October 21 with aplomb. On a slanted runway that emulated the bows of a ship, the duo showed a simple yet smart collection entitled "Cruise on stripes" that paid homage tothe great Coco Chanel, circa 1936. Teetering in stack-heeled red espadrilles, the models flounced down the catwalk in striped black-and-white dresses and trenchcoats, high-waisted skirts with naval buttons and belted metallic-hued romper suits. Feminine, fresh and sexy.

Like Bratis, Raptis and Mastrokalos have yet to hit 30, but in only two years of designing they have already made a name for themselves in the Greek fashion world and are fast moving towards international recognition, with annual presentations at AltaRoma AltaModa as well as a guest appearance at Belgrade fashion week in October 2004.

Orsalia Parthenis

The name Parthenis has been a household one in Greece since Dimitris Parthenis launched the brand of simple, no-nonsense cotton separates back in 1970. Since taking over the legendary label in 1996, his daughter Orsalia has had the challenging task of bringing Parthenis into the 21st century without losing any of its character and heritage.

Not an easy assignment, especially not for a 24-year-old, but she managed to struggle through, learning on the job, to peak at March's Athens fashion week with an all-cream collection that wowed audiences and garnered model-pretty Orsalia cult status in Greek fashion circles.

For spring/summer, the designer showed a selection of unstructured balloon dresses, oversized sweatshirt-dresses, ruched romper suits and elegant cotton-jersey gowns in a palette that ranged from glacial blue to subdued olive green to the soft mauve berry of an English summer pudding.

The best of times, the worst of times...

CONSIDERING this was only the second edition of the Athens fashion week, everything went remarkably smoothly. Nevertheless, for the next incarnation, there is room for improvement. Here is our personal list of highlights and lowlights from the October 21-24 event.


Eva Herzigova

The supermodel guest star of the October 21 opening party was seated in the front row at the Deux Hommes show. The designers, Grigoris Triantafyllou and Dimitris Alexakis, met her after their show and were blown away not only by her beauty but also by how "hip" and eloquent she was. "She said she loved the textures, the handiwork and the fabrics in our show," recalls Alexakis.
It was an honour for the Athens designers to have her present, thanks to an invitation from sponsor InStyle magazine's Greek publisher Petros Kostopoulos, but we could have done without her bolshy team of sharp-elbowed bouncers. She is, after all, a supermodel, not a terrorist-target head of state.

Anna Kapsali (aka Isabella Blow)

In March, during the previous edition of Athens fashion week, the photographers couldn't get enough snaps of French fashion blogger Diane Pernet in her gothic Christodoulos-like attire. This time around, it was Greek fashion fixer, stylist and editor Anna Kapsali who stole the show in her edgy designer outfits, sky-high heels, crimson lipstick and ostentatious hats.

Top dogs

Stretched languorously in the sunshine on the steps of Zappeio Hall throughout the four days of shows, the groups of stray dogs in their smart blue municipal collars drew the attention of all present, from the visiting foreign journalists, who tentatively stooped to stroke their bristly heads, to the flocks of invited guests smoking between shows, who were occasionally jostled by the dogs during gambolling play sessions at sundown. Pleasant as it was to see the dogs relatively happy and healthy, it was disappointing to see that some of the males still haven't been neutered, despite the Athens municipality stray programme having been in operation now for over two years.

Support Team

Top marks for the guys from Deux Hommes and Mi-Ro (photo), also to Yiorgos Eleftheriades, Orsalia Parthenis and Christos Costarellos, among others, who made a point of attending the other designers' shows. It was especially heart-warming to see the designers turning up to fill empty front row seats at some of the early, less-crowded shows. Visiting journalists remarked on this support system, noting that it can also help each designer to progress, as they see what works and what doesn't, what's popular and what's not.


Dimitra Liani

The question on many people's lips was what on earth Dimitra Liani - ex-airhostess and widow of former prime minister Andreas Papandreou - was doing in the front row at some of the shows. she seemed totally out of place and exhibited a lack of show etiquette, getting up from her seat during the Deux Hommes display and bustling disruptively over to another chair further down. It was a shame, also, not to see any higher-calibre Greek celebrities attending the shows.

Do you know who I am?

It's always chaotic at the entrance to the shows of fashion week, but considering the relatively small numbers of invitees involved here, it really ought to have been possible to have better organised entry and seating plans. As it was, there were bunfights outside all the more popular shows, as the doormen and PR people struggled to cope with a shoving, pass-waving horde of cameramen, journalists and invited guests, as well as swarms of uninvited guests claiming to be best friends with the designer and demi-celebs insisting on front-row seats. Nightmare.

The dress parade

"Do they only make dresses?" one of the foreign journalists asked me wearily after the umpteenth evening gown floated down the catwalk during the long Saturday afternoon of shows. Certainly, a number of the designers seemed to feel it was necessary to display what appeared to be every single dress they had ever made. In every colour. Edit, edit and edit again, is the advice from the visiting media.

Gin no tonic

Okay, Bombay Sapphire was a sponsor and being offered G&Ts was a treat, at first. But having nothing else available from 4.30pm until 11pm each day was enough to put off even the most hardened alcoholic. Next time around, it might be an idea for the organisers to get sponsorship from a water and coffee company too. The excuse was that one could go to nearby Aegli for refreshment, but since service there is intolerably slow, stopping by for a sandwich or Perrier would mean missing the next two items on the show schedule.

What's hot for spring

SHOWING collections for spring/summer 2006, in line with the international fashion schedule, the Greek designers offered us an inspiring choice of ideas for our next season's wardrobe, with a focus on draped, pleated gowns and balloon-hemmed dresses for the evenings, while for daytime the selections include full knee-length skirts puffed out with layers of tulle, simple shirt- or wrap-dresses and trenchcoats, shorts (varying from modest Bermuda styles to hotpants and knitted knickers for the very brave) and belted all-in-ones - either to the knee, tapering to the ankle or cropped into shorts

Overall, the look was extremely feminine and nostalgic, with retro references ranging from ancient Greece (Chara Lebessi) and Rome (Christos Costarellos) to the 20s (Vasso Consola), 30s (Mi-Ro), 50s (Vassillios Kostetsos) and 60s (Deux Hommes).

Focus remains on the waist, either with high-cut skirts and trousers or with wide belts and built-in corsets. Chara Lebessi emphasised the waist in her blouses and mini all-in-ones by handstitching in a gathered row of pleats centre-front. Deux Hommes used pleats to add structure to trenchcoats and angular skirts that were reminiscent of early 60s Balenciaga. Pleats were also used by Loukia, Angelos Bratis and Christoforos Kotentos in bolero-type cover-ups, often incorporated into dresses.

With popular fabrics including silk-jersey, chiffon, muslin and organza, many designers chose to layer one material over the other to create volume and movement, particularly in skirts and dresses.

Colours ranged from classic black or white (sometimes striped) to soft, subdued natural hues such as dusky pink, earthy brown and beige, berry and moss green. Bolder hues like crimson and jade green made a vivid contrast in some shows. Stripes were shown with florals and ethnic embroidery in Yiannos Xenis' riotously colourful show.

Metallics were ubiquitous - in both accessories (at Deux Hommes silver leggings were worn with everything, Mi-Ro showed a preference for woven gold belts and Parthenis showed bullet-shaped bags with gold and pink stripes) and garments - Christoforos Kotentos displayed a line of gilded linen daywear, while Daphne Valente showed liquid silk bronze skirts and dresses, and silver shorts in paper-like fabric.

HCS readers can view other excellent articles by Cordelia Madden of the Athens News in many sections of our extensive, permanent archives, especially our News & Issues, Travel in Greece, Business, and Food, Recipes & Garden sections at the URL
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