As Athens Xclusive Designers Week opens in Athens next week, we spoke with the event’s CEO Ms Tonia Fouseki, to discuss how fashion is surviving in times of economic crisis.
It’s hard to ignore the narrative around Greece at the moment, one that places most emphasis on strife and loss in an unstable country. However, in the midst of this long-term struggle, culture continues to thrive in the face of austerity. At the beginning of April, Athens Xclusive Designers Week will welcome hundreds of exhibitors in four days of catwalk shows, presentations, talks and events. Alongside showcasing influential names such as DSquared (the guests of honour this year), the event also provides an invaluable showcase for young and emerging designers thanks to the New Designers Awards. The latter is crucial for introducing new Greek fashion talent to a wider audience, and offers an energising force for those that might otherwise struggle to get heard. Indeed, events such as these have become a vital counter-narrative to the endless political coverage in the international media. Ahead of the event, Tonia Fouseki elucidated on the state of affairs as she sees it, and what’s on the horizon this year.
Culture Trip: How would you describe the Greek fashion industry at the moment?
Tonia Fouseki: The worldwide “bombarding” by the international media regarding the intense Greek crisis and economic issues has had a dire effect on the national fashion industry, driving several designers to lower their activity. However, despite this hard period that we are going through, Greek creativity, inspiration and entrepreneurship are at their peak. Examples from the Greek fashion industry at the moment have proved that designers and successful brands are seeking creative and inspirational methods, managing in several occasions to even create an international reputation [with] designs that capitalise on traditional Greek aesthetics and history; i.e local fabrics and textiles like silk, rich colours and even traditional methods of garment production. Additionally, there are designers and brands that have managed to lower their production costs as well as their prices so they strengthen their position in the Greek market.
CT: What do you perceive to be the challenges to the Greek fashion industry and designers in light of the wider economic crisis?
TF: The truth is that the worldwide economic crisis and particularly the situation in Greece, has led Greek designers to re-evaluate the way they work and to make greater efforts to penetrate not only Greek but also the international fashion markets. Due to more limited resources, they have invented alternative ways of reducing production and supply chain costs, while at the same time maintaining product quality and price competitiveness. In terms of promotion, they use more efficient or low-cost methods such as employing the power of social media platforms, these constitute a supportive tool for Greek fashion designers and brands to increase awareness for their brands globally.
CT: Do you feel that the response to fashion has changed over the last few years within the country? If so, how?
TF: I do see a change in how Greek consumers behave towards fashion over the last few years. What has actually changed is the way they perceive fashion and thus their fashion-related purchases, creating and establishing an approach which puts value for money first. They have become more selective and conscious of “brand equity”. At the same time, I believe that Greeks have remained enthusiastic and interested in the international fashion trends. They are aware of fashion bloggers worldwide, and are keen on taking care of their appearance in order to look fashionable. They have also made a conscious turn towards the Greek fashion preference in comparison to a decade ago, which means supporting the local economy. It also shows that they feel Greek brands are now more appealing than in the past.
CT: What do you feel to be most exciting within the Greek fashion industry at the moment?
TF: I believe that Greek fashion could compete in quality and design international fashion standards. Also, I find very interesting that crisis has resulted in the fact that retailers and consumers have gradually been moving from the international brands towards local choices, not only because of the affordability factor, but also because Greek fashion does represent a combination of high quality and style.
CT: Why was it important to you to place fashion with a conscience as a core value at AXDW?
TF: Fashion has a very “powerful” impact, it creates trends, opinions and even values. I feel it is not only good but also ethical, to use this “powerful tool” to contribute to the greater good. “Fashion with conscience”; that is the philosophy behind our social responsibility actions. By supporting a different NGO or social cause every time, we have managed to give fashion a “voice” to spread important messages in innovative ways, aiming to make a difference through fashion.
CT: Can you tell us more about the New Designers Awards?
TF: Our New Designers Awards is the sole platform for showcasing and promoting young fashion designers in Greece, and we are very proud of that. New designers form a crucial part of the Greek fashion; they depict the current and future Greece with a fresh, modern and enthusiastic point of view. Their interest and participation to the event is, therefore, an honour for us. The New Designers Awards institution is actually a demonstration of our appreciation of the young people’s passion and talent, as well as being a continuation of fashion in Greece. I want to contribute as much as I can in the development, advancement and recognition of their fulfilment.
CT: How do you feel young Greek designers are coping within the current climate?
TF: Young Greek designers have to cope with several issues, limited financial resources is one of them. They also have to overcome supply chain support constraints, due to lack of local production suppliers that can deliver under certain timetables achieving high throughput volumes with low-cost efficiency. Regardless of the general skepticism, that they also have to face because of the “freshness” of their work, their fashion shows so far have proved that young designers keep on being passionate about their work and highly stimulated, motivated and of good prospect.
CT: What do you think is the future of Greek fashion?
TF: I see a very promising road ahead! There are some very talented and successful Greek fashion designers and brands that have successfully entered the global fashion scene. I believe that the creativity and high-quality craftsmanship of Greek fashion designers will grow and gradually establish itself across borders. Our organisation will continue to support them, by constantly enhancing its international network and further developing a solid ground through which designers can showcase their work, both in their country and abroad.
CT: What are you most looking forward to at this Athens Xclusive Design Week?
TF: There is always much to look forward to at every Athens Xclusive Design Week. For our 21st edition we have an amazing mingle of several contemporary fashion Greek designers, as well as the honour to host Dsquared2 as special guests of honour to present exclusive pieces of their FW17/18 collection. Moreover, we will have the pleasure of watching the creations of new Greek designers and talents, followed by the New Designers Awards ceremony. Of course, during the Fashion Week we will be hosting several additional exciting happenings such as the Exclusive Elements Accessories Exhibition, the Fashion Design Project, a surprise special event for charity contribution, as well as other fashion related events and parties. I am so looking forward to the attendance of the international guests from the Press and global fashion world, in order for all of us, together, to experience another exceptional, inspirational and energetic Athens Exclusive Fashion Week!