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Monday, October 15, 2001


Sophia Kokosalaki

With two university degrees, in Greek and English literature, Sophia Kokosalaki certainly does not share the standard education of a fashion designer. Nevertheless, she has been praised as “one of the most directional designers of her generation” by the European magazine Self Service and has been the subject of a profile in Vogue UK. At 28, her state-of-the-art collections have introduced a reworked Grecian elegance to today’s fashion. Partly responsible for last summer’s “Grecian meets ’80s drape” trend, she has decidedly arrived in the international fashion world.

Being accepted by the prestigious St. Martin’s School of Art, Athens-born Kokosalaki had her dream come true when, together with photographer boyfriend Bill Georgoussis, she moved to London in 1996 to complete her studies in fashion design. Two years later, her graduate collection was on display on the chic racks of trendy London boutique Pellicano, her first stepping-stone to the elite, high-end international market. Unconventional and hand-detailed, Kokosalaki’s early, if somehow overworked, punk-Gothic pieces were quickly noticed by the “vanguard” fashion editors of the “independent” press. Even before her graduation, her work had reached the style pages of the Sunday Times magazine.

By the beginning of 1999, Kokosalaki’s intellectual approach had been noticed by the expert eyes of important manufacturers and top fashion headhunters. It was time to get access to the industrial side of design. Her first, successful opportunity came in the form of a capsule knitwear collection commissioned by Joseph’s up-market private label just three months after her first London fashion show, and while she was still an outsider to the London fashion scene. One year later, however, her reinvented elegance was being showcased by actress-turned-style guru Chloe Chevigny, super-model Kate Moss, and rock goddess Courtney Love.

Joining the Italian leather house of Ruffo Research in March 2000 was a moment of recognition for the Greek designer. She was practically stepping on the heels of the rising stars of the new fashion generation. It was her turn to present her Ruffo Research vision, like the prestigious Belgian couple A.F. Vandervorst, the talented Paris-based Veronique Branquinho, and her “Gothic” menswear sidekick, Raff Simons, had done before her.

Experimenting with the finest suede and leather (which she draped, pleated, and twisted), and taking advantage of Italian expertise and tradition in the materials, Kokosalaki got the most favorable reviews, and was noticed for her color combinations and draping techniques. Generally, her Ruffo Research contract, which expired last March with the presentation of her “Amazon” fall-winter 2001 collection, was a happy affair. Kokosalaki was given total creative freedom and was thrilled to learn the “ways” of mass production; she even made a surprisingly interesting attempt at menswear, which eventually led her to launch a men’s line in September 2000 under her own label.

Choosing her next contract will be difficult for the rising designer. Last March and during the fall-winter 2001 fashion shows, everyone was talking of Kokosalaki replacing Narciso Rodriquez as the artistic director of LVMH-owned, Spanish label “Loewe.” Kokosalaki, however, rejected the offer.

One of her new projects is a deal with British retailer Top Shop, for which she will be designing and supervising in-store lines under the retailer’s TS label. The capsule collection should be available at Top Shop’s Oxford Circus branch by the end of October 2001, and will be displayed in a special boutique inside the store. Through this opportunity, she will get a much-needed outlet to make her work available to a much wider public.

  Combining “romance, dynamism, and decisiveness,” Kokosalaki is developing a feminine, hard-core, Amazon look for winter 2001-2002, which will include her signature unfinished leather-band details, asymmetrical pleating, and alternative draping. Taking a fresh direction, she also presents some breathtaking structured coats and fitted jackets, with intelligent piped details, straight trousers, and slim skirts. Her favorite colors of the season are red, olive, salmon, and brown. Minoan V-necks stood out as one of the finest moments of her collection. Boots were the leading catwalk detail.

“The more you develop, the more you learn,” comments Kokosalaki, regarding her latest summer 2002 collection. Inspired by ancient Cretan culture, she is introducing warm terracotta, old pink and apricot, cream shades, and tan. Leaving behind her “draping” days, Kokosalaki is expanding her winter 2001 Minoan details to a full-blown, and decisively Greek, “Minoan Pagan” summer. Even though she might be going over the top with her jersey jodhpur trousers, I loved her continuation of piped details, her high-waisted pagan cheesecloth dresses, the cobweb, and the macramé details.

Sophia Kokosalaki’s bittersweet collections can be found at Henri Bendel in New York, at Et Vous in Paris, and at London’s Something.

Lena Papachristophilou is a writer for the Greek edition of the French fashion magazine, L’Officiel, and is also a designer. In 1997, she won a European prize in the Masters of Linen design competition.
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