Tags: creative director
I had seen the girl from the blog. She seemed fierce and extremely rock n’ roll about her style. But I had no idea the same girl was behind one of the most promising brands to appear in the Athenian landscape this summer. We had met online and talked for a couple of moths, until the time came to do the photo shoot. And I was so happy to find a woman that knows what she is doings, that sets her goals straight and can effortlessly stir his brand around the fashion industry. She goes for comfort and she wins! Super feminine trousers and bustiers filled her apartment and she hopped on her super tall heels, only to make me feel so tiny and to make a mental note to watch out for this one, because I suspect there’s a lot more coming from her and her newly launched fashion brand, Karavan. Here she is, Mariloo Katsoni, in her grace and amazing style, trying out her designs for imatiothiki.
Tell me a little bit about how it all began.
I’ve been in the fashion industry for quite a while. I’ve been into books and magazines and I am the one to bring back home fashion books from her travels abroad. When I finished High School I studied graphic design, but at the same time started working for a boutique downtown called DNA. I also started working for TV as a stylist for various shows. But when I finished my studies on graphic design, I enrolled at a fashion design school.
What made you go from styling to designing? How come you didn’t settle with styling?
I am not really into that. I see it more as a job, than as something I really love. Styling is like problem solving for me. You have a look to pull off, so you try to figure out what to match and what to leave out, in order to get the results you want.
So, after fashion design school, what happened?
My blog happened. A Sinner at your Dinner. I was making clothes for myself at the time, but somehow I decided to take this thing a step further, see it more professionally, in a more organized sort of way. Not just as a hobby, but as something that I focus regularly on. And even though fashion design is not the only thing I do, I am dedicating a lot of time and energy to it. I go downtown each week, try to find materials and fabrics and it’s a never ending process.
Do you believe blogs are trendsetters?
Yes. Mostly blogs. Magazines used to do that a few years back, but now it’s mostly blogs.
Are you a fashion magazine enthusiast?
Not any more. If you visit my parent’s house, you will find so many magazines stacked in my old room. I used to buy 10 magazines each month. Meaning 100 euros. That required a lot of pocket money! I have always been a fan of reading and I loved magazines. My mom would take me downtown each weekend when I was still a kid, 8 or 9 years old and we would buy all the foreign magazines and I would go through them. Even Seventeen magazine!
Wow! Seventeen! I used to read that too! My favorite column was Trauma Rauma, with all these embarrassing stories!
I know! And if you go through it now, you see a whole generation being molded into the American stereotype. The conservative, prom fans and preppy girls and boys…
Let’s get back to your studies. How has graphic design helped you as a fashion designer?
Mostly it helps me with aesthetics. I loved graphic design, but not so much as to make a profession out of it. It comes of great help when I have to choose my logos, or a presentation.
Would you like to use your graphic design skills to create your own fabrics?
Yes, I would love that. You can find a lot of nice fabrics, with amazing patterns here in Greece. And you can find even more if you travel abroad, which I intend to do. But the problem is that, at least here, there’s not much variety when it comes to fabrics. So you end up having many designers all using the same materials. I would like to avoid that.
What made you come up with the name Karavan?
I had a name in mind for my label, but then found out some other designers had come up with something similar. So I was doing a lot of research, making lists listening to music, trying to find inspiration. Then Black Sabbath’s Planet Caravan started to sound right, so I decided to name my label after their song. I had made my logo and all and one day I was talking to a beloved person, telling him that something still didn’t sound right. He told me to leave the Planet out of it, so I just had Caravan. It felt right. I turned my C into a K and had my label named.
How is the song related to your brand?
Planet Caravan is a psychedelic, really smooth song. But for me Karavan is not about the whole idea of living in a caravan. I don’t think I could ever live that way and I am not as hippie as that. Karavan is more about an idea, a bohemian way of life, that disregards material goods and doesn’t really pay much attention to them. Karavan is a bit bohemian, a bit gypsy. It even has a vintage feel to it, and I figured that out long after I had made my first designs.
What are Karavan designs really all about?
They are about comfort, nothing too tight, nothing making you suffer, loose clothes, clothes that you can wear all day long.
What was the biggest challenge you had to face when starting your own brand?
I guess competition was one. I am not a competitive person and if you ask me, I can give you the names and numbers of all the people I work with. I have no problem sharing information. Even if it took me 5 hours or 5 days to solve some problem with my design, I will be more than happy to share my knowledge with you, because I believe there’s a lot to gain from sharing. So, that was a great challenge for me. Another is the fact that stores sometimes are very pushy when it comes to dates. I am a small production label and it’s hard to be exact on dates, you have to push things a bit. But I manage just fine.
You already sell your clothes in boutiques in Athens and other cities around Greece. How about an e-shop. Would you consider going online?
Even though I have already bought a domain name, and Greece is slowly starting to get the hang of online shopping, I think I prefer to stick to the boutiques. It’s just that I have been in this business for almost ten years now, and I know how someone in a store will promote your designs. They will care a great deal about them, they will consult people when buying them, it’s a very nice process. An online shop would compete all those wonderful people I am already collaborating with and I wouldn’t want to do that. I would only consider an online shop that is strictly for out of Greece customers. But that’s what I say today. Maybe tomorrow things change, or I change my mind. Until that happens I will fully support boutiques.
Which one of your designs was a major hit?
The bustiers! Women of all ages loved the bustiers. They paired them with pants and high wasted skirts, creating a dress effect. The loose trousers were also a big hit.
Which age group do you consider your target audience?
I don’t think I am referring to a particular age when designing for Karavan. I have very young customers, but I also have 70 year old women buying my kimonos! What I really love and appreciate is to receive messages from my customers telling me how much they loved what they bought, or pictures in my inbox showing me how they chose to style my designs.
What comments do you get from guys for your designs?
They like the clothes! I expected them to be less fond of the baggy trousers, but turns out they’re not!
I recently saw a photo shoot for Hermina Wristwear with your clothes in it. It looked great! Could you tell me about the collaborations you would like to do?
I would love to collaborate with Tonia of Nidodileda. She is an amazing person and I met her through her work, which by the way is amazing. Also I am into jewelry, so I am thinking of doing a small project with Prigkipw. And I couldn’t leave out my good friend and most talented man Charis, of Forever Classic Apparel.
It is really amazing, because you are naming people that are doing something completely different from what you are doing.
Well, that’s the whole point of doing a collaboration. I want the final outcome to be the representation of two different ideas and minds brought together. I wouldn’t want it to be all Karavan or some other brand.
Are you ready for the winter? Design wise?
I have started pulling out some mood boards and getting lots of inspiration, but I haven’t started designing something just yet.
Anything else you’d like to say about Karavan?
Karavan might still be a baby, but I have received a lot of help from Tatiana Papageorgiou, who is the person that helps me with all the social networking and communication with the stores. I would have done half as much without her. Also beloved and amazing artist Thodoris Manolopoulos, who is our official photographer and makes my day every day, through his support and help. My best friend Thanasis Giavridis, the guy responsible for the final touches on Karavan’s logo… and my second best friend Christos Katsanos, whose help is of unlimited value have made this process special. And of course two or three other people, who I deeply love, have been the reason behind all this. Without them this journey would make no sense.
A few comments on the things pictured above:
The other girl in the laptop picture is Agapi, a friend of Mariloo’s, whose life we made miserable during the photoshoot, moving her around constantly. / The grey dress, black kimono, pink bustier and floral pants are all Karavan. So is the floral backpack. / The orange bustier was designed by Nidodilenda. / The red blanket on the bed comes from Mariloo’s best friend’s village, in Creta. / The white doll comes from Japan. The other two dolls are Chinese. / Mariloo is extremely tall. You had to see her in her high heels. Model material, I tell you. / The rest of her apartment is going under major construction, and will eventually become a showroom.