As part of our interview series with up and coming and new fashion designers, Kreol was delighted to be able to chat with Aziina, the owner of the eponymous clothing label. As a Cypriot born in South Africa and raised in Vouliagmeni, Athens, Aziina’s international background and lifestyle allows her to draw inspiration from major fashion centres for her creations. Kreol explored her views on her past successes and her hopes for the future.
Aziina grew up in a seaside village on the outskirts of Athens, and it was at school that she first realised that she wanted to grow up to become a fashion designer. “I will always remember the moment I decided I wanted to be a fashion designer; I was at school and saw a girl from high school sketching clothes. She told me she was going to apply for fashion school… I made up my mind then and there to do the same!”
And so she did. Accepted onto a Fashion Design course at the University of Leeds, Aziina was quickly reassured that she had chosen the right career path for her. She went on to complete a Design Swim course at the London College of Fashion and fell in love with the city. She now splits her time between London and Athens and draws inspiration for her collections from each.
Kreol were curious about how she perceived fashion within those two famously stylish capital cities: are they very similar or do they have their own unique character when it comes to fashion? Aziina is quite clear that it is the latter:
“I would describe London as anything goes! It is a great place to experiment with fashion. Fashion in Athens is more toned down, simple and chic.”
Aziina also has the opportunity to spend time on the islands of Greece and this too has influenced her tastes in clothing design: “I really love island fashion during the summer in Greece; it is so unique and carefree.”
Travelling is therefore a major influence for Aziina, who enjoys exploring and observing different cultures. On a practical level she says that simply packing to go to another country makes her really think about what she will want to wear: “it forces you to edit and think of what clothes you can’t live without.”
She also told us that she most admires the work of high end fashion designers Donna Karan, Diane Von Furstenburg, Sass and Bide, Missoni and Chloe. Another influence has come from her family, whose strong work ethic has been an inspiration to her.
Aziina’s style is geared towards providing women with elegant clothing that is nevertheless practical and versatile. As someone who travels widely, Aziina is presumably more than familiar with the need for her own clothes to be adaptable to different climates and has naturally extended this to the items in her collections. Her pieces are therefore intended as investment articles for women who can then adapt them to make them wearable across different seasons and for different events (from daywear to eveningwear, for instance).
Her aptly-named Wanderlust dress is perhaps the most well-known example of that ethos. In its standard form, it is an elegant dress with classic lines but it has a scarf-like attachment that can be worn in any number of ways. It is therefore wonderfully convertible and ideal for packing for a trip, for instance, and can be made bespoke in different hem or sleeve lengths, colour and back coverage.
Aziina names this as the first item she was really proud of designing: “It was one of my first pieces that achieved the versatility and transformation qualities I wanted the brand to portray.” The innovative design is perhaps one of the main reasons she considers herself to be an inventor as well as an artist.
The process of design
Designing and constructing a new item or collection naturally takes time but Kreol were curious as to how long it takes Aziina to come up with ideas for a new piece. Well, apparently her record for finishing a design was a mere five minutes, though she admits with a wry smile that, “I used a sarong so not sure how much that counts!”
Once she has been inspired, perhaps by something that has triggered an idea, Aziina likes to research fabrics and styles to create a mood board and colour palette before moving on to sketching or even draping fabrics over different silhouettes. Of all the stages, from conception to creation to catwalk, she told us that she likes the creation part best, actually bringing her ideas to life with fabric, though she dislikes the wait between the sketching stage and the construction phase.
Her fabrics are sourced from all over Europe, though she has a particular weakness for shopping for samples or material for bespoke pieces in Shepherds Bush in London and the Monastiraki area in Greece. She believes that you can tell the quality of an item by the way that it allows the body to move naturally when worn. She usually wears her samples herself to check for this important feature. She is also careful about ensuring that the factory that makes her garments meets strict requirements.
When it comes to having her designs worn on the catwalk or for fashion shoots, top of her list of models whom she would love to see wearing her work are Taylor Hill and Kelly Gale. Aziina was also really pleased with her autumn/winter 2015/16 model Clair Doreen Tsournos, whom she counts as a friend. Above all, she feels most rewarded by, “Seeing confident women wearing my designs”, and thoroughly enjoyed watching them being worn at the Athens Xclusive Designers Week.
Her models sometimes come from agencies but she also recruits them herself from time to time, which she says takes longer and is harder work. The latter is often more rewarding as it allows her to find models with interesting and unique appearances that she feels add to the overall image of her brand.
Hopes for the future
In the long term, Aziina aims to turn her brand ethos of versatility into a lifestyle by introducing more products and expanding on combining fashion with travel. In the meantime she hopes to increase her stockists and be able to introduce her brand to more people.
As a fashion designer making a name for herself in a fiercely competitive market, she also hopes to inspire others. To budding fashion designers, she advises, “Just go for it! Get advice from people in the industry but don’t be afraid of doing things your way once in a while.” In Aziina’s considered opinion, the key skills a designer needs are, “Determination, creativity, knowledge of your own market and the ability to work well with others.”
She keeps up to date with fashion through magazines, blogs and good old fashioned people-watching, paying attention to the flow of trends and colours to predict with a practised eye what direction each new season will follow. Aspiring artists/designers can follow her brand on various social network sites and on her website’s blog. Her items can be bought from her online shop, too.