Elena Karavasili‘s philosophy is the unification of two fundamental cultural movements: Minimalism and Classicism. Referencing geometric abstraction in simplicity of form and subdued color palettes, the designer exemplifies the quality materials and craftsmanship of the pieces, and evokes architectural classicism with elegance, symmetry and a systematic order of proportions.
| interview by Anna Baniora | MA, fashion business management |
How has history of Greece influenced your creations in terms of the connection of the forms, structure, the details and the designs?
In my designs I combine elements from ancient Greece, specifically Classicism era and modern forms of architecture inspired by cities which I have lived in, New York, London and Athens. The feature that defines my brand is the quilted pattern leather details which resemble the Doric columns from the ancient Greek temples. Although it is a very time – consuming and demanding technique – it is a defining element in my designs and characterizes the level of craftsmanship and exclusivity of my brand.
In terms of my architectural influence, the industrial aesthetics of modern cities and the forms of the buildings are translated in my designs.
Nemesis + Illisus from Holos
Please analyze the design process, the focus on symmetry and elegance which are attributes of classical architecture and the use of the golden ratio.
The relationship between fashion and architecture is not a particularly oblique one. Both are based on structure, shape and serving basic necessities – clothes and shelter. Classic architecture, in particular, beautifully balances the functional and visual aspect of buildings. In my designs, I strive to hint at this balance since we are dealing with a practical object that remains the center of elegance in a woman’s look. The golden ratio helps me use these visual relations to the max, whether that is to balance color, texture or size.
The use of the right materials is an important element of your brand; how do you use them to create a socially responsible product?
Material sourcing is a very important element of the products I create. Suede and Nubuck leathers are used because of the softness and the luxurious feeling they evoke. Napa leather is also used. Currently in the ‘Holos’ collection, I incorporated Saffiano leather, in a mix of black and gold. It is a textured leather, with a grid surface creating an interesting cross-hatch finish, durable and practical. I source leathers that are created as a byproduct and are tanned with a minimum amount of chemicals and are chrome free. All the tanneries I source from Italy are certified and comply with the highest European standards.
Transparency is very important to me. I really need the customer to be able to know the country of origin for my products, the working conditions of the people in the factory and the quality of the raw materials that are being used. Unfortunately, the details of the production stages in the fashion world are not usually disclosed to the customers. My aim is to produce socially responsible products, causing the least harm for the environment, creating a minimal amount of waste and ensuring ethical and satisfactory condition for workers. I need to be proud of every stage in the supply chain of my creations.
Hera + Monolith from Holos
Your brand pays great attention to craftsmanship, you also did your MA in Fashion Artifact Design. Why are you so interested in products that are made of highly skilled artisan?
Always fascinated by the fusion between art and fashion, I chose the particular MA course because it led me to discover my precise creative identity as a designer. The key words for my work and in turn for my brand are : Minimal aesthetics, Architectural – Geometric approach and detailed craftsmanship. I am keen on the quality of the materials and the experimental use of them to create a receptable. The abundance of mass-produced leather goods nowadays has led to a lack of understanding and respect for the traditional methods of producing a leather product. I am trying to translate these traditional techniques into a modern product that balances the hand made element and structured aesthetics.
Vertical Divisions + Square Contours from Solid Connections
In your first collection, ‘Solid Connections’ you combined marble with leather to create bags inspired from Greece and your SS16 collection was influenced by the Cyclades. Do you have Greece as an inspiration?
The materials used in ancient Greece and their significance through out time mostly inspire me. Marble is a nearly universal touchstone that connotes a sense of purity, refinement and luxury. The ancient Greek and Roman tradition of using marble to create statuary, monuments and buildings of high cultural significance was carried on throughout the history of the Byzantine Empire and thereafter to Renaissance period and even to the present day. During the Roman Empire, the re-purposing of marble came to play a predominant role in the image projected by the Empire. “Spolia,” literally meaning the ‘spoils’ of war or conquest, were pieces of marble that had been damaged or destroyed and were then reused in new buildings or sculptures in a manner designed to indicate the power and conquests of Rome. Due to restrictions, the material provides forms that tend to be geometric and linear, this is something that I take into account and translate into leather.
Rigid Reality + Linking Past from Solid Connections
Tell us about your AW16 ‘Holos’ collection.
Athens’s dynamism served as a prominent muse for the Holos collection’s timeless yet modern aesthetic. It is chaotic and serene and crazy with hidden delights. A continuous source of influence. I love how each area has its own distinct personality, whether it is the center or the south close to the sea, they all come together in such a refined landscape. I try to convey that same notion throughout my collections. The collection is named after an interpretation of the word ‘hollow’ meaning ‘the power of simplicity’.
Naos + Monolith from Holos
What is your challenge project?
A unique and exciting project I have just completed was the creation of a piece of art; a clutch-bag completely made of high-quality Greek marble for the shop of the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens. The bags will be for sale on demand and each piece will be individually crafted. Since marble is a natural resource, it means that each bag will be bespoke. For the future, a challenge project for me would be to create any type of object with a material I have not worked with before and are out of the fashion concept. For example, I would love to experiment with metal or wood and transform these hard materials into an organic and soft looking type of receptacle.
Elena Karavasili is a London/ Athens based fashion accessories designer. She completed her BFA in Integrated Fashion Design at Parsons School of Design. After finishing her BFA she decided to complete her MA in Fashion Artefact at London College of Fashion, where she explored the boundaries of receptacles and focused on leather and marble. The brand envisions a handbag that preserves the designer’s Greek roots while transforming traditional leather goods into an intelligent, progressive design enhanced with a functional aspect that is based on the needs of the modern woman.