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Daphne Valente: Greek women are fashionable but with no flair

22 November 2010 / 16:11:43  GRReporter
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Daphne Valente is known to Greek audience for her courageous proactive creations in fashion since 1985. She is the one to sell classic Greek pleats in the most famous stores in the world. Her collections "Orthodoxy", "Atlantis", "Brides," "Garden of feelings", "Baroque and Roll", "Doll’s house" and others present Greece around the globe with huge success. After graduating from fashion design at FIT in New York and St. Martin's School in London, Valente returned to her homeland to take the path of local fashion catwalks artist. She became the president of the Union of Greek Fashion Designers in 2005 and is actively involved in organizing the Greek Fashion Week Athens Collections in Style. In recent years she designed primarily jewelry.

The designer presents an exhibition titled Lightness of Being on the occasion of her 25th anniversary in the fashion world. Although it is not retrospective, it presents some works typical for her. The exhibition also features some of the most famous photographers who caught in the lightness of being in their lenses. Among them are Tassos Vrettos, Vassilis Vrettos, Zeta Adsakli, Yangos Athanassopoulos, Nikos Vardakastanis, Katerina Vafia, Lydia Venieri, Marina Vernikou, Mara Desipri, Akiss Paraskevopoulos, Stefanos Pashos, Roula Revi, Pavlos Samios, Juliane Biallas, Bill Georgoussis.
The jubilee exhibition leading idea is motion. It is the symbol of the title lightness of being. It reflects ephemeralness of things. But "in the positive sense" as the author herself points out. Wandering around the gallery, she presented those jewelry and accessories: "Motion is typical for all my works. I do not like static and straight clothes. My dresses ‘dance’ when a woman moves. There is always motion in my jewelry. The inspiration for my new series of jewelry made of silver, gold and platinum is a ribbon blown by the wind. This ribbon motions could be seen everywhere. So, I decided to call the exhibition Lightness of Being. But my idea of ephemeralness has nothing to do with Milan Kundera's book or movie. Therefore, the title is missing the word "impossible." Ephemeralness and things going by is not necessarily something negative. People could not bear, for example, that we are talking now, but our talk will end and disappear into being. But things go by and let them go by. And we are here only temporarily ... We live in difficult times and to relax mentally is something very positive. Of course, we could look at the negative side of the lightness of being. We are currently paying for it in Greece. We have been living with ease for many years... But this is another ‘chapter’... "
While still walking around the hall, Daphne Valente said: "Inspiration for me is a game. Whatever I do, whether clothing or jewelry, I create it by playing with the material. It is born from the game. I make something then I pull it down, then I make something again and pull it down again until finally the thing is born. I liked working with this mobile jewelry type from the outset. You know, these are the toys that hang over the beds of children. Wall decorations you see are inspired by these toys and the 4 of my favorite artists Karavadzhio, Leonardo da Vinci, Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Gustav Klimt. They have a dual role as they are intended to be women's necklaces too. The specimens are unique and there are no two of a kind."

What inspires you?

I have collections based on books and movies, but motion is what inspires me very much. Everything that moves. The sea. My roots, the Greek. I have collections inspired by olives and Venus de Milo. I have been working with traditional Greek pleat since 1987. But my inspiration is not connected with fashion. I could even say that I've created anti fashion. I have never followed what others do. I have never kept in step with them. When suits were fashionable, for example, I made lace blouses. Why should everyone wear the same things? It was a bit difficult and lonely way but finally I see my customers wear my clothes for many years. They have no time sequence. They have constant value.

What are your favorite colours?

I love black. I sold black clothes twice as much compared to others when I made collections. Overall, however, I like calm tones, earth colours, beige. I turn to other combinations from time to time. The last collection I made was based solely on strong colours. And I saw how people liked it. People love colours.... I am calm as a person, but sometimes I like to do something stronger.

You studied in New York and London. What did you learn there?

I learned the technique in New York. Patron’s basics, history of fashion ... But our work was not so creative. I learned to be creative in London. I was lucky that I made such a good choice. The biggest names in the fashion world come from St. Martin's School. I was given great impetus to create. I needed this because I was a little distant at first. Then, my graduation work was sold in one of the best restaurants in London. It was a great success for me.

How easy it was to conquer the catwalks in Greece?

It was difficult to return to Greece with something new. I had to go through many difficulties to be understood. Here xenomania existed and continues to exist. The Greek woman will put whatever foreign designers offer. But it is not the same with Greek designers. I remember when a customer tried on a jacket once. While she was wondering whether to buy it, she whispered to her husband: "If this was Paul Gaultier's I would buy it ..." This complex continues to exist. Greek designers have to struggle a lot to draw the attention.

Is the Greek woman fashionable nowadays?

Yes, the Greek woman is fashionable. She chooses the appropriate clothing depending on her social status. However, I would prefer to see women here have style. Not to be just fashionable, because it is easy to be fashionable. But few are those who decide that they like to wear a specific colour, to have their own style. This is what Greek women lack. But, of course, they are fashionable. I would also like them to have more courage. It seems now that women are confined to a specific type of clothing determined by some brands. I'd like people here to experiment a little more.

Many things were found in fashion. There is no ‘fever’ for something new ...

That is true. But there is big difference in clothing in England though. You could see a lot of crazy clothes. I like that. I have always liked it. That's why I say that I want people here to look for themselves in clothing more.

Isn’t the Greek woman creative in her everyday life? Doesn’t she seek, experiment with her clothing?

Look, as things are going lately in our country, the last thing of interest to the Greek woman is how to combine fashion. Fashion began to lose its strength a little. You understand what I mean. As to creativity, yes, she is creative. However, I would like to see a little more culture and personal style come out from this creativity. I do not care so much that someone will buy nice clothes and combine them with other clothes. I want to see the personal element, the personal stamp. But this is just a personal opinion of mine.

Let's talk a little about the crisis and fashion. This is a worldwide phenomenon. It is felt more strongly in Greece perhaps. Do you think that better days for fashion will come?

I have no definitive answer to this question. I wish this to happen. I talk to people and there is much of pessimism. Everyone expects the crisis to continue and worse days to come. When you have no money, you have no mood to dress nice. Logically, one of the first things you give up in times of crisis is fashion. You can not give up food or your children’s school, for example. There is no room for a new pair of shoes or a dress. So, I offer smart solutions. A dress looks different with a scarf. You change things with an accessory. And you are at ease because you didn’t spend a lot of money, but your style has changed.

They say that fashion has always existed. And it will exist with or without a crisis ...

That’s right. This is because every one of us wants to belong somewhere. Fashion originated from the hierarchy. I will give a child at school for example. The child wants to wear the blouse the others wear. Or pants. When at a social event, women are watching each other and making assessments: Here's this woman, she has shoes of that brand, and so she is one of us.Or men’s watches... We place the other at a particular social level, depending on the clothes he or she wears. This is not the case in nudists’ society. But we dress the way the group we want to belong dresses. Fashion is very strong. Accordingly, fashion continues to exist in times of crisis. It existed during the war. Only it was much modest, much stringent. There was no extreme stuff then; things were much more classic and simple. In my opinion, fashion then was much more correct as the garment was perceived as something that protects us. We could see then that we dress for an everyday life. The three canons of fashion are: hierarchy, sexuality, prevention of cold or heat. Now, during the crisis, we might turn more to the base, which is simply to dress for everyday life. And not to buy clothes for a reception that we dress only once.

In that case, could fashion become ‘healthier’? 

Consumerism that existed in recent years has been terminated now. And yes, fashion will become healthier. There are many things we do not need. I'll tell you something else. It is bad taste already when someone demonstrates he or she has money. We have become monsters in terms of receptions and other events of excessiveness in recent years. Let us now calm down a little. We do not need all that. We have come to a level to judge what we need and what we do not need.

What are your plans for the future? Jewelry or clothing...?

I no longer have the courage to do apparel collections at this stage of my life. This made me very tired. To do a fashion show has become a nightmare for me at one point. Last summer I dreamt that I had a fashion show and the collection was not ready, or I forgot to send invitations, or no one had come. So, I realized that I am not strong enough to do such things. Fittings made me very tired too. To dress a garment on a body needs a lot of fittings. I do not want to get involved with clothes in this period of my life. Of course, I can change my mind tomorrow. But I turn to jewelry for now. I plan to sell them at art stores and website that I will develop. I want to do exhibitions too. I like this very much.

Will you continue to be the chairman of the Union of Greek Fashion Designers?

No, I won’t. The entire board resigned. And I did not re-apply because I am tired. I took the whole organization of the Fashion Week. There was the presentation of my collection in parallel. It was very difficult. The Union collapsed as its members were not inclined to engage in organizational activities. No one has submitted an application again. All have problems now. Clothing companies have difficulties. I hope things will get better when the crisis is over. This is very important for young people. I hope they will be able to proceed and the Greek fashion will develop because we made many important steps, which were interrupted mainly because of the crisis. The Fashion Week, we organized, relied on sponsors. Things stopped the time the sponsors withdrew their participation.

The exhibition will last until December 4

Free entrance


1, Gr. Avksentiu Str. and 18 Kasaveti, Kifisia

Tel.: 210 80 19 975

Tags: Daphne ValenteFashionLightness of beingJewelry Apparel
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