by Omi | Cara Livingstone
Athens Xclusive Designer Week is a curious beast. The very fact that it is in its 24th edition is a miracle by itself. But in this business, there are no miracles just a lot of hard work. And Tonia Fouseki and her team have somehow managed to weather a market collapse, capital controls and fleeing talent pool to push Greek fashion at the forefront of the conversation about greek aesthetics. That is commendable and admirable. But sentimentality aside is fashion truly moving forward within Greece? Our colleagues at Conde' Nast and Hearst Media tend to think so. So what better way to judge the progress of a place long fabled for its sunshine and undying spirit than to be there in the middle of Athens Xclusive Fashion Week. These are the shows that stood out the most.
Vassilis Zoulias is to greek fashion what Dolce & Gabbana is to Italian fashion. You expect the pomp and circumstance to be on constant flow dipped in a bit of ridiculous, a bit of amusement and a whole lot of exquisite clothes complemented by stupendously gorgeous headpieces. Zoulias and his protege Pericles Kondylatos consistently produce the best clothes in town. So it would be silly to suggest Zoulias's show is there to surprise you or shock you into submission. It does not. And that is a beautiful thing because Zoulias's work is a product of his genius not only as a designer, but also a proper craftsman. Zoulias's finishing rivals anyone on the global market and to remain this consistent and this consistently good is extraordinary. Zoulias has seen it all and nothing has deterred him from producing work that can withstand even the gloomiest of economies. This collection like his previous collections is a testament to his consistency, his craftsmanship and the overall clarity of thoughts. In terms of just the aesthetics the floral prints complemented by hats that are half birds and half everything else was Zoulias's go to form. In terms of the theatrics, it remained on the cusp of whimsical and ridiculous...both are great fun and suggests a designer completely comfortable with who he is and isn't too bothered by the nonsense of decorum. What is not nonsense is his longevity in an ever-evolving industry. The pieces that stood out were drastically different yet products of the same narrative. It is worth mentioning that there were more prominent designers in display during AXDW but Zoulias stole the show not only with exploding confetti but also with the general goodwill he garners among Athen's who's who.
If Zoulias is the godfather of the Athenian posh and polished crowd then Lefkon is surely the darling of everyday women. The brainchild of Irini Andrikopoulou, Lefkon is hitting it out of the park at the moment. Lefkon's excursions into Paris did not go unnoticed among the fashion-forward crowd in Athens neither did they miss the fact that both Deux Paris and Vogue Italia have found the brand worthy of editorial space. That being said, reputation is only deserved when there are actual deliverables that live up to the reputation. And by that measure Lefkon came, Lefkon saw and Lefkon conquered. Stylistically it is easy to spot Lefkon in the greek market as no one really does the same kind of Scandinavian clean lines with a hint of greek summer. But it would be foolish to view Lefkon as a region-specific brand as its appeal transcends a myriad of aesthetics and identities. Lefkon's newest collection titled "Catharsis" is an exploration of the delicate balance that constructs the notion of Catharsis. And to have Spencer Krug's epic "Return to the Violence of the Ocean Floor" playing in the background just about made it the most interesting set where the minimalist lines, the oversized tie-ins and tailored silhouettes were complemented by the colors of catharsis. From moody darkness to the uprising of the whites with a hint of Grecian philosophy formed the most visually consistent show during AXDW. Lefkon's clothes are built with a basic functionality in mind and they rival the Danish masters in terms of the line and perspective arrangements and sprinkle a bit of ocean blue and earthy overtones and what you have is a design house who is carving out a space of its own.
Among the smaller international brands, Luna Morgaciova stood out heads and shoulders above her peers. Bucharest as a city has a strong undercurrent of avant-garde designers especially in the last decade or so. And it is also becoming more and more sophisticated in producing commercial boutiques like Murmur and Lana. Luna's work falls somewhere in between those aesthetics. From bold prints to reformed silhouettes Luna's work explores the relationship between her paintings and clothes as her canvas. Her SS19 collection is visually striking and requires a second look for each look as they are steeped in the intricacies of an artist restructuring the delivery method of her art. It is raw, unrelenting and full of deft touches. This collection could easily fit into the closet of a Tokyo hipster or an LA chic’ crowd while gracing the streets of Amsterdam or New York. And that says a lot about the universal nature of Luna’s work.
There are some similarities between Luna Morgaciova and the winner of the New Designer Award Klelia Andrali. They both are into prints and they both use their art as the primary protagonist. But that's where the similarities end as Klelia's work is more subtle and less focused on tonality. Among the new designers, her work made an instant impression as it was polished, well thought out and likable. There are some elements of structural consistency that are present in her work that suggests a heavy influence of architecture and movement. Her current capsule collection feels like an evolution of her previous work and unleashes a sort of understated freedom that is becoming part and parcel of her work. Brooding with color and complemented by drawings and architectural silhouettes Klelia's work looked like it belongs to a global audience.
Greek architect and fashion designer Konstantina Kampisopoulou is the creative force behind the Artians. Due to her professional training, it is easy to speculate that her work would be heavily dependent on architectural aesthetics with strong lines and rigid silhouettes. And that is partially true, what is surprising though is her uncanny ability to fuse greek aesthetics into her work not as a form of branding but as a form of necessary expression. Her finishing is excellent and she knows where to draw the line (no pun intended) when it comes to traditional kitsch and architectural pronouncements. In a very clever sort of way the prints induce a visual lithography overwhelmed with bellcast and ashlar shapes. The finial attributes attach themselves to the Greek islands and their unmistakable charm. Konstantina stands out not only for her clarity of vision but also the clarity to which she executes them.
As it is with smaller fashion weeks there are a lot of emerging designers and designers who are restarting their careers so it would be unfair to suggest that these were the only shows that stood out. A few honorable mentions must go to Daphne Valente and Art.Look for their innovation and their fantastic take on sustainability. Daphne who is an established jewelry designer and loved for her ability to construct fluid sculptural forms presented a collection that bore all the hallmarks of what makes fashion great… the innovation, the history, and the progression. It will be a rather interesting few months to see how she constructs her next collection. As for Art.Look, the designer Dilyana Mateeva is fairly new to the game but her work is assured, well finished and focuses heavily on the foundational organic fabric. In her first international collection, she looked the part and can easily be identified as a designer worth following in the coming years.
As AXDW came to a close it was evident that the once stagnant market floundering under the collapsed economy is coming out of the doom and gloom phase. While the recovery is going to be slow and painful, the fact of the matter is that there is a recovery. And with each passing season, AXDW shows us why there is a lot to be hopeful about when it comes to Greek fashion.