Tags: creative director
I must say, I feel blessed to have met Elena Oikonomou. Yes she is that type of girl that will hug you till you have no breath left even if she just met you and then she will go on and on about how much she loves creating jewelry and she will ask you questions and have lots of humor about the difficulties she might face or the challenges that might come her way and you just feel like you’ ve known her forever. She is that kind of girl. And she is the type of person that won’t take anything for granted, but will take care of her brand Elspirit Creations and will even call it a child, a child that she loves and that she can’t always look after, but somehow finds a way to grow and leave her breathless and give her the strength to pick herself up even after spending two sleepless months working on her new line. I met her in her apartment, which also works as her studio, in Agia Paraskeui. We played around with many patterns and colors and I wish I had someone filming the photo shoot, so you could see how funny this girl is.
What made you become a jewelry designer? How does one start a whole new profession, when already having a day job?
I can’t really remember when, even though I have tried many times. It is something very close to who I really am. From my teen years, I would tear up my shirts and transform them into what I wanted them to look like before going out. I would take gifts from relatives and friends and tear them apart and rearrange them so as to make cool necklaces to match my outfits. My friends used to call me their stylist, and I have always been very fascinated with aesthetics and the idea of reusing and redefining things.
What was it that made you go for jewelry and not clothes?
I think it is the fact that I am drawn to changes. Clothes are a bigger project and you can wear something very simple. But jewelry is always about imagination, because it is not so much about fashion, as it is about art. I am the kind of person that loves to make jewelry that remind you of a certain era, a certain moment, a certain feeling. Clothes just deal with fabric, but jewelry and accessories are made of anything you can think of! I believe it gives the final touch on every outfit, and it certainly gives an identity, your identity to what you are wearing.
Plus any piece of jewelry or accessory can last forever and you don’t even have to worry about different body types.
That’s right. A garment is either in fashion or out of fashion, but accessories are really you. They define you. It’s your teenage years, your years spent at university, your past relationships, a gift from someone special, a moment you want to remember forever. But, you know, it is not so much about the design as it is about the design process. Accessories and jewelry are just the outcome. What triggered the whole situation is the need to create. You just sit there and play around with different materials and get lost in their textures and in your thoughts. The process of creation is my therapy. Seriously! I never thought I would be patient enough to stay for 5 hours under a table lamp and work on a piece of jewelry. I have always been the kind of person who does a million things per second, and through this whole process I have discovered myself. And that is priceless!
And you started…
I started doing all this for me. I started out with necklaces and bracelets, things I wanted to wear. Then my friends started liking it as well. Then friends of friends liked it and slowly it grew. At first I wasn’ t asking for money, because I was too shy and I had no idea. But then I said to myself I have got to cover my expenses. And that’s how I work. I am not the type of person to imagine themselves super famous and super successful. I have already reached a point where I feel very happy with all I have accomplished. It is amazing to receive messages or pictures of people wearing what you created and saying how much they enjoyed it.
How long have you been doing this?
Almost 5 years. It’s like having a kid. And sometimes you get so busy with dealing with everyday, that when you look back you go: wow! I have come a long way! Of course it can be exhausting. I might be having a rough night, meaning that I have to stay up late to finish my orders and sometimes I ask myself why I do this, but then you get the job done and you see happy faces and you see where you came from and where you are now and it is all worth it.
I guess sometimes you have to zoom out to get the whole picture.
That’s right. And I am glad this whole thing wasn’t something fake that just vanished into thin air. I had no business plan, no strategy behind all this, but I love what I am doing, and this is my child. It is growing day by day, sometimes on its own, sometimes other help as well, but it is growing and it has a life of its own. And I am proud of it.
Through this process, have you notices any changes in the way you design or create?
Yes of course. My designs are much more complicated and I dare to use different techniques and materials. Each night before going to bed I will be online searching for designs or inspiration. I have already started producing many things on my own, instead of just buying them. So yes, I do see evolution.
What would be your main design motto?
Simplicity! I say it is always simple to be simple!
Really? I think it is one of the most hard things! Because you are aiming for classic simple and it can become boring simple!
I believe it is all in your mind. Of course we are not going to boring simple. But you just need to see things in a laid back way. I have friends that have closets full of amazing pieces and they have absolutely no idea what to wear. They over-complicate things in their minds. And that is not the point!
Have you ever designed clothes?
I have made some details on t-shirts I wear, but no, in general I haven’t. I would love to, though.
Apart from your ‘main line’, you also make custom jewelry for friends.
Yes, and for this I follow an interview process. I am interrogating the customer what they want, where they want to wear it, what shoes they will be matching the jewelry with, their mood… everything! I want to know it all!
What was the most challenging design you have ever done?
It was one for a New Year’s party. I was so scared, because my boss had seen my work and asked me to design something for her to wear at a party. The party would be filled with artists and all sorts of intellectuals and my boss is a very skinny lady, black hair and always in black pencil dresses, but with just one statement jewel. She asked for a huge piece that would start from her neck and finish below her waist. And I made something I really liked. When she saw it she commented on how theatrical it was, and I tell you, I nearly fainted at the sound of that! I was so pleased she enjoyed wearing it. This is really who I am. Of course, I will make more mainstream pieces that will then allow me to work on more artsy designs.
Are there any materials that you find yourself constantly using?
No, I have no obsessions. And if you take a look at my collection you will find that I work in different styles and with different techniques. I don’t have a certain identity, and I don’t intend to have one real soon. I want to be a brand that refers to many people, like a book that can be read by many.
Apart from your custom designs you also have your main collections and you also participate in bazaars a couple of times per year.
Yes, that’s right. And I really appreciate talking with the people, commenting on what looks good on them, taking their advice. It is really helpful.
When did you start getting involved with these events?
About four years ago. I had been making jewelry then for two years and many people showed up. The motto of the event was: come join me on my first journey. A lot of people came from my day job came and it was very touching, because they didn’t know me that well. Everyone was so supportive and told me to quit my day job and go for jewelry design full time. When I reached home, I let all the stress out and just cried. I am that king of person. If I go to the theater, I will always cry in the end, because I get so into the play. So, I remember back then, when I closed the door behind me and I just cried. it seemed impossible. It is a hard process, sometimes. Many times I have said to myself, ok I quit. In order to prepare myself for a bazaar, I won’t sleep regularly for at least two months. And then maybe you say ok I will not do it anymore. But then it all comes back to you, and you pick yourself up and you keep on doing what you love. Because there is no pressure behind it. You just do it because you love it.
A few comments on the things pictured and said above: All the jewelry and accessories Elena is wearing were made by her. A couple of those were made in a few minutes time, just to match the outfits we chose she would wear. / The black light bulb in the bathroom holds liquid soap in it. I was so amazed by its design I had to take a picture of it. / The small red plastic hands she is holding is actually a fly-killer. Her husband got it from a recent trip to the UK. Notice the score circles on the hands. / Again, I must say this, Elena is the sweetest person you could ever meet. If you have a chance to visit her studio or attend one of her bazaars, don’t hesitate to say hi. She will amaze you.