The Masters: Eftychia Karamolegkou
An island mentality, gender studies, and Nicolas Cage.
Greek designer Eftychia Karamolegkou’s final MA collection is a tailoring fan’s dream, and every woman’s answer to dressing elegantly and without a care. We meet to discuss her collection, the paradox of the phallocratic perception, her antipathy towards social media, and her muse: Nicolas Cage.
After moving to Athens from hometown Santorini to complete her first degree in graphic design, the self-declared ‘doer’ soon realised that fashion was a better fit, and so she went to study at The Antwerp Fashion Department, the only institution she applied for. This is Eftychia Karamolegkou: singular, rebellious, focused, specific. However, these are not the characteristics that first strike you when meeting her, but rather, her infectious charm and warmth, and her passion for the woman she designs for. Citing her determination as a reflection of her upbringing, she explains that, “Islanders believe we can do everything by ourselves because we aren’t connected with other people. My whole life, when I’ve been told to do something, I have always gone and done the opposite.”
Eftychia thrived at Antwerp, where her final collection was also tailoring focused, then took a year off to pursue internships at Mary Katrantzou, Antonio Marras, and Marques Almeida, where she became “even more obsessed.” She explains that “it opens your mind to being more flexible about perceiving things, because you learn to embrace everything, even the mistakes, and try to use them in the end in a way where they’re not a mistake.” This was the perfect springboard to her Central Saint Martins MA. Peering down at the printed lineup of her final collection, Eftychia explains that it was here, through the physiologically based approach of CSM where you are asked questions that you don’t want to hear, that the once vague silhouette of her woman materialised. “When you are pushed to your creative limits you realise that in fact the things you thought you couldn’t do, you can do, and more. In general, I don’t mind to torture and stretch myself to get the results.”
Eftychia is as anonymous as the woman of her final designs. The collection, mostly constructed around elegant jackets and trousers, a shock of blue and brick staining the otherwise autumnal palette, stands as the realisation of her own life-approach. Admittedly an extremely secretive person, Eftychia doesn’t have Facebook, doesn’t really like to share information and doesn’t put her face online. Laughing over her ineptitude on social media, having reluctantly set up her first Instagram account in May, she explains that while she thinks online-exposure is fine, encouraging it even, for her it does not fit, and neither for the woman she designs for. This Eftychia is the accidental rebel we all need. “My woman is the opposite of the Kardashians,” explains Eftychia, “So if they are about over-exposure, she is under-exposure. She values her anonymity. My collection is partially about that. She doesn’t care to be connected, or to attract people. She doesn’t have the insecurity.”
The collection oozes confidence and a cool carelessness. Based on the structure of male 1920s suit jackets, the women are almost completely covered by the relaxed tailoring, except for a deep plunge neckline, that can only be described as sexy. Eftychia is amused by my interpretation of the collection, which is echoed by many others. The key idea was that her woman doesn’t want to seduce anyone. “She doesn’t want to attract a male gaze,” Eftychia explains. “In a way, my woman is the man, so she doesn’t need one. I was trying to define a different kind of femininity, one that doesn’t show a sexual background.” In this way, the deep plunges are Eftychia’s commentary on the male ease of dressing. Without parts of the body like the chest, that must be hidden, men enjoy a confidence in the way they choose and wear their clothes, so the plunge is there to encourage this attitude. “It’s this idea that I am what I am, and I don’t give a shit.” There is of course the popular paradoxical attraction of restriction, but the distinction here is that there is no greater motive behind Eftychia’s woman in the way she dresses.
Naming her collection, ‘Boy Girl Appeal’ Eftychia is interested in societal relationships between the genders and the idea of empowering her woman by making her the man. Does this diminish the female figure, by saying she needs to take traditional male attributes in order to be her most powerful self? Eftychia argues no – her woman stands as the realisation of a woman’s characteristics in full, not defined by gender boundaries. She is limitless. Having said this, there was one specific man who inspired Karamolegkou’s woman: Nicolas Cage. She laughs as she explains this to me – his body posture, the way he moves. This careless, cool attitude that he has that she likes. He even has the ability, she smiles, to make the viewer feel a little bit uncomfortable. “He seems like somebody that doesn’t need to prove himself,” Eftychia says. “He is what he is and he’s fine with that. And then he has this effortless charm.”
While Eftychia’s woman is not interested in the politics of dressing, Eftychia is, and so she chooses the suit partly because of its lack of status. “The suit is democratic in the way that it doesn’t show a social, educational or financial background from far away,” she explains. “So from a distance I wanted the collection to look really normal and boring, which helps my woman to avoid the people that she doesn’t want to attract. The people who really want to know her will come close, and then notice the details of the collection.” Here Eftychia reinforces the idea that her collection is not made for click-bait, as there is no way that someone looking at the collection online could see all the intricate details: the different creases of the jackets whether they be held or worn, the many folds created through heat-pressing, the curved legs of the trousers, the hidden pleats, or the t-shirt that looks like a shirt.
The collection is about the slow reveal, and the adaptability and evolution of the garments over time. Eftychia is interested in constructing a wardrobe, and making beautiful pieces that will be a staple for years. “The idea for me is to have high quality craftsmanship, and fabrics. This what true luxury is,” she says. “I myself get happier when I wear something that I bought ten years ago.” When I ask about the autumnal palette of the collection, Eftychia explains that it came from her wish to build a brown collection, rather than a focus on a specific season. “I like brown!” she laughs, “but on its own it would lead to a very specific statement.” For her is was more about being understated, and the shock of blue was chosen to mirror the typical shirt colour for men.
After completing her most intense year so far, Eftychia is now interviewing to work for brands, and she couldn’t be more excited. After spending six years in her beloved London she is more than ready for a change of scene, but much more than that, she is thrilled to get to work, in order to learn, and open her mind. “I love the industry,” Eftychia says. “To me, fashion is sociology with elements of art, or with artistic elements at least. You can really translate what is happening in the world.” While she wants to pursue her own brand at some point, for now, Eftychia wants to work for others. “It is really good practice,” she says. “It makes you more flexible in a way. In ten-fifteen years, when I have more experience, I’d be interested in making my own brand, but for now, no.” Me? I’m already saving up.