You’d be forgiven for assuming that 2020 has been a perennially hard time to be an independent fashion designer with a burgeoning brand.
“I just don’t feel that’s been the case for me,” asserts Greek designer, Eftychia Karamolegkou. “I actually think this is really a chance for smaller brands to do better, customers are fed up with fast fashion. This is a good opportunity for smaller brands. There might be a direct to consumer shift instead of retail, even if for smaller brands it’s harder to have e-commerce.”
While fashion brands across the board have grappled with the tumultuous state of the industry, Santorini native Karamolegkou was running all elements of her eponymous label Eftychia (ef-tee-hee-ah) single-handedly, long before the pandemic took hold. From the marketing to the sales to the production, the designer believes that for her, Covid-19 hasn’t been too difficult a transition.
“If coronavirus has impacted anything in my business, it’s my mental health!” she quips. “I’m everything from the cleaner to the CEO!”
Karamolegkou burst onto the London fashion scene in 2018 upon her graduation from Central Saint Martins with her namesake label which she dubbed ‘haute couture for tomboys.’ Her designs are characterised by languid tailoring that blurs the distinction between masculine and feminine and celebrates classic androgynous staples which stand the test of time.
The Hackney Wick inhabitant has remained resolute about crafting concise capsules of “11 to 13 looks, two times a year” which she resolves to continue doing “for as long as I’m just a team of one.”
“The consumption in the fashion industry is a lot. Not just that they’re producing too much for stores but their own actual collections are often comprising of 50 something looks, which is just crazy.”
But to assume that the transition to digital fashion was easy or preferred just because of her brand’s youth would be presumptuous.
“I’ve definitely used coronavirus as a chance to slow down slightly, but I don’t think physical shows will ever stop because fashion is not a digital thing, it’s based very much on craftsmanship and touch,” she states. “Otherwise it becomes like dressing an avatar and it’s not for real people anymore.”
Karamolegkou journey into the fashion industry began in Santorini, where she grew up with a painting father and spent her time crafting ceramics and “doing lots of things with my hands.”
“Although it was lonely, being isolated on islands,” she explains, “it was also full of creative possibility because of my father’s hobby, I knew that things were possible.”
Upon deciding that there was a dearth of opportunities in creative industries in her native Greece, Karamolegkou trained as a graphic designer before switching gears and embarking on a fashion degree at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, before completing her masters in Womenswear at Central Saint Martins, which she completed in 2017.
Having coincided with the ascendancy of the Internet, does she ever feel under pressure to design for the masses rather than the few?
“We’re all, in some ways or another, influenced by what’s around us,” she muses. “It’s something that’s happening quite a lot because of certain buzzwords, sustainability being a big one.”
Her brand, she states, is based on the “actual meaning of sustainability” which encapsulates creating small and limited-edition collections which are produced as much as possible in London. But that’s where Karamolegkou foresees an issue with Britain’s fashion industry.
“There’s a real focus on young designers in London so I think this is absolutely the best place in the world to grow your business,” she states, “but the only thing with the UK is there’s not an established production net, not like France or Italy’s.”
She is clear: “it can’t just be about having a fashion week, you must also have production here too to support young designers who are wanting to be more sustainable.”
Indeed it was with young designers in mind that the British Fashion Council launched its Foundation Fashion Fund for the Covid Crisis in March, a pot of £1million to burgeoning British brands in a bid to soften the blow of Covid. For Eftychia, the injection of cash has proved immensely beneficial.
“It has helped me so much,” she emphasises. “Without retailers being able to place deposits on my upcoming collection, there’s been a considerable lack of income, so this money is enabling me to carry on with the orders regardless.”
Despite her protestations, she will showcase her autumn/winter collection digitally at the upcoming London Fashion Week in the format of a short film. A new addition to the brand will be ushered in in the form of belts and silver cuffs, a stark contrast to the mellifluous form she’s garnered a reputation for.
“I’m at the very beginning of my journey really,” she concedes. “If brands have suffered, I don’t think we’ll see that until February, but I do hope that people can see that this is a chance to change the industry’s overconsumption.”