As the Greek capital’s fashion world expands, experienced designers behind the successful design brand Chris & Tonia continue to wow both the catwalk and high street. Their unique blend of sharp tailoring with feminine lines brings femme fatale fashion into the 21st century.
Chris & Tonia have taken Greece by storm in recent years, with their brand’s blend of fine fabrics and sleek lines, embodying a contemporary feminine spirit which has captured the imagination of fashionistas at catwalk shows and in stores across Athens.
The personalities behind the brand
Chris & Tonia are Athens-born Chris Stratikopoulos and Tonia Varveri. Both grew up in the center of the Greek capital, and come from very varied backgrounds. Chris has gained two Master’s degrees in economics, while Tonia is finishing her studies in philosophy at Ioannina University, after already gaining a degree in fashion from IEK DOMI.
Chris’ academic experience of economics was put into practice when, through his very first foray into the world of fashion, he opened his flagship retail shop in the capital under the name Mparok. Next came the building of a large network of wholesale stores.
He realized from the opening of his first store in Athens, aged just 18, that, rather than just supplying the clothes, he wanted to get into designing them himself, “I started up my first boutique when I was 18, and I realized it then.” After watching so many beautiful garments pass through his hands, he finally decided it was time to create some of his own, and so two years ago started to design his own collection.
Tonia, on the other hand, studies philosophy alongside her ever-expanding experience in fashion design, having already been awarded a degree from fashion school. She says she originally took inspiration for her current career from her mother, fashion designer Aggeliki Varveri, “I’ve wanted to be one since I was a kid, because my mom is also a fashion designer.”
Tonia worked with her mother taking customers for tailoring, which later became reflected in the unique, tailor-made clothing of the Chris & Tonia “Feminite” autumn/winter collection for 2015. Matching clean lines with 1970s-inspired geometrics in the decade’s iconic colors demonstrated the brand’s championing of femininity in women’s clothing. The collection aimed she explained is, “To highlight the absolutely feminine side that every woman hides, with 70’s colors and patterns, revived with a contemporary perspective, adapted to new lines and forms.”
The designers returned to this idea of feminine fashion with their spring/summer 2016 Venus collection which, as the name suggests, embodied more traditional ideas of feminine beauty and love, expressed through flowing fabrics in subtle colors and decorative flourishes on every design. This collection aimed to, “Relaunch the absolute feminine qualities of today’s woman.”
Fabric, design and customers
The pair believe the right fabric, along with the right tailoring, is what truly makes for a quality piece of clothing. They shop for their own fabric locally, as well as further afield.
“We mostly buy from Greece and Paris, especially from [global fabric show] Premiere Exhibition.” Fans of elegant, ready-to-wear brands are drawn to Chris & Tonia for their ability to create what the modern woman wants. But the draw of tailoring and hand-designed creations also continue to hold their allure to both the designers and their clients. They both agree, “One of our biggest accomplishments as designers is having famous and everyday customers that always want us to be part of their moments doing their made to measure clothes.”
Ideas nurtured to reality
While they describe the Athens’ style as mostly, “urban hippie”, they define their fashion as, “feminine, chic and simple”. The ideas process for the duo can be sparked in a multitude of ways, “We find inspiration from life, from everything, from a song or a street style.” Citing their favorite high fashion designers as Elle Saab, Christian Siriano and Alexander McQueen, they also make sure they attend as many catwalks as they can, and read fashion magazines too.
Once an idea takes hold, it’s impossible for the duo to say how long it can take a design to manifest, “It is a matter of inspiration,” they explain, “It can take one second or months. We love doing the whole process, from sketching designs, to constructing them, and then watching them come to life.” They value the models who sport their designs in shows. Preferring to be directly involved, rather than relying on faceless agencies to pick them.
“We have personal relationships with our models and we recruit them ourselves, because we also want them to be happy to work with us.”
They dismiss any suggestion they are artists or inventors with an honest and direct response typical of the duo, “None of this, no. We are just very passionate in what we are doing.”
“It’s vital to love what you do,” according to Chris and Tonia, “because it takes hard work to get where they are.” “Fashion design is our dream,” they explain, emphasizing the perseverance required, “Patience is the key word. And work, work, work.”