Designs Dazzle on the Runway at Greek American Fashion Week
by Eleni Kostopoulos
The chic, all-white decor at New York City’s Studio450 provided an ideal backdrop for the aesthetic Spring/Summer 2014 collections showcased at Greek American Fashion Week’s Runway Event this past September. The second annual show- now officially part of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week calendar- was hosted by the Greek American Fashion Group of the Greek America Foundation and was one part of a week-long series of events. Four talented, diverse designers with a knack for creating wearable art were able to break through any stigma of superficiality associated with fashion; they succeeded at conveying a sense of what spectator Vasilia Karagiorgis called, “empowerment”.
After guests enjoyed hors d’oeuvres catered by Loi restaurant, Greek-inspired cocktails against sunset views and upbeat music by International Sounds, Australia-native and NBC’s Fashion Star finalist Nikki Poulos launched the show with an array of colorful fabrics that epitomize the fun-loving summer season. “I am very influenced by old movies, art-house cinema, art and music,” Poulos tells NEO. “My collection was inspired by listening to Serge Gainsbourg and dreaming of summertime in Europe in the 60s and 70s. Summer of love, baby…” Models strutted down the aisle wearing vibrant red lipstick that perfectly accented her feminine, free-spirited dresses and loose-fitting pants impressed with bold patterns.
Stratton’s collection, though classic and monochrome, offered an edgy, emotional appeal. “From a creative standpoint, I maintain both a European and American sensibility,” he says. “It’s the difference between a dress being pretty and one that’s super chic. Those with a certain taste level will pick up on it and immediately embrace it. These women are my clients; they want investment pieces.” Stratton’s delicate dresses served as the antithesis of trendy while remaining relevant to today’s woman. Sixties-inspired ‘dos styled by New York City’s acclaimed Christo completed the lavish looks.
The show continued with the Spring/Summer 2014 collection of Tatiana Raftis, who draws her inspiration from her Greek-Cypriot culture and describes her collection as “modern, edgy and more affordable for young women.” Raftis’ segment showed off 60s mod style attire with fabrics of simple black and white, with a touch of teal. Several of her pieces were reminiscent of Greek antiquity, characterized by draped fabrics, pleated skirts, with trims of gold chains covered in mesh.
The show’s finale was a Greek tragedy-turned-love story, momentarily transforming the runway to a page from a history book through Angelo Lambrou’s collection. Solemn music accompanied his haute couture line and progressed from dark, forbidding shades, to brighter, whiter evening wear. “Since Cyprus has been in the news lately with the banking crisis, it occurred to me that I wanted to express the relentless and ambitious fighting spirit that runs in every Greek’s veins and never gives up no matter how tough and helpless a situation might seem.” South Africa- and Cyprus-raised Lambrou says his collection was inspired by an old love story that happened during a very harsh period when so many Cypriots had to leave their loved ones and island to pursue a better life. The colors changed from dark to light, from sadness to joy.
Organizer Maria Pardalis told NEO magazine that she and her husband Taso Pardalis decided to organize the fashion committee in 2011 after meeting with several designers of Greek descent and realizing the Greek American community didn’t have a sufficient support system.
“The Greek government debt crisis has painted a very ugly picture for Greece and so it is more important now than ever to draw positive attention to Greece and to those descending from Greece,” she says. “It is our responsibility to show the world that Greece is working hard to get through these dire times and that we have talent, intelligence and the drive to excel in fashion and the world of business, in general.”
Pardalis added that selecting just four designers to represent the Greek American fashion community was an arduous task. “Working with the creative team at Diane von Furstenburg, we created a competitive application and from 20 submissions, we narrowed it down to four,” she says. “It had to be done in order for our production to mirror those being held at the tents of Lincoln Center.”
Proceeds of the sold-out show, which Greek America Foundation founder Gregory Pappas said he was proud to host, will benefit the Greek America Foundation with a focus of a scholarship creation for a student pursuing fashion design.
Guests received gift bags worth more than $300 which included makeup by Mana, Korres beauty products and gift cards for all the fashionistas in the crowd. The festivities continued at Manhattan’s STIX Mediterranean Grill where guests enjoyed appetizers, music and dancing. Greek designers had the opportunity to further showcase their lines throughout the weekend on Bleecker Street’s trendy The Market NYC, which featured several floors of vendors offering their original pieces for sale.
Guests of Greek American Fashion Week consisted of fashion-lovers of all ages, but above all, supporters of the Greek American community. Zandra Kambysellis, who had never before seen a fashion show, says her main reason for attending was to connect with her Greek culture. “It’s a wonderful and important to become acquainted with the new and young generation of Greek Americans,” she says.