Orsalia Parthenis: The Bare Necessities
The catch-phrase “timeless classic” could have been created with Parthenis in mind. With their sleek and noble designs that elevate the everyday, this prosperous Greek fashion house has managed the feat of staying relevant and sought-after for more than four decades. How? By creating “less is more” wardrobe necessities for generations of appreciative fans. Michail-Alexander Passos catches up with Orsalia Parthenis, daughter of founder Dimitris, and now the creative helm of this historic fashion force.
Before devoting yourself to fashion design and taking over your father’s fashion house, you studied History of Art. Why the change of course?
My first degree was in History of Art and Architecture, but my Masters was in History of Dress, so I was already steering towards a fashion career. After I graduated, I worked in fashion magazines, so I was finally prepared. But Fashion was always in my blood.
Does directing such an historic fashion house as Parthenis restrict your own creativity?
Having clear boundaries on my creativity can be restricting. But it can also be liberating to have a true identity and clear vision. Although it may sometimes feel to me that I cannot reinvent the wheel, the wheel always seems to be the only way to go forward. It is important to me to create clothes that are immediately recognizable as Parthenis, but always with some small new detail to make them relevant. It’s also important to me to make things that will endure. I don’t want to make disposable fashion and quality is always my number one priority, along with timeless design.
What have been the standout moments of your career so far?
Fashion always puts us in the mood to move forward and await the future. However, I also like to dwell in the past and study not only the history of my own brand but fashion in general. The favourite moment of my brand’s history? It’s not been written yet. Every season to come always seems to be the best.
Under your father, Parthenis enjoyed a golden era in the ‘80s. How has the fashion game since then?
The appreciation for quality was higher in the past and fashion stardom, although always influenced by the ephemeral nature of fashion, was earned by repeatedly proving and excelling yourself. The whims of fleeting celebrities dictate today’s fashion trends. But fashion does not seem to have become more democratic despite the plethora of lower budget options. On the contrary, street fashion that was once the key influence behind most fashion trends came from tight budgets and creative minds, while today’s “democratization” does not lead to any truly creative trends.
How personally involved are you with the business and retail side of things?
I try to be present as much as my schedule allows. I enjoy being in touch with my customers because it gives me great satisfaction to see them happy and beautiful in my clothes. It’s also important to know who your customers are to keep them satisfied.
And who is the Orsalia Parthenis customer?
Someone who knows themselves and is true to themselves. Someone who does not need the trappings of extreme fashion declarations to prove themselves beautiful or worthy and who puts quality and comfort above all. We have managed to dress two generations and have already moved to the third. It is not rare to witness grandmother, daughter and granddaughter shopping simultaneously in one of our stores. This is what makes me the proudest.
What is the narrative behind your design concept?
Each season I try to have something different to give each collection a new twist but also to keep it coherent. AW2017-18 was “Out of Space” while SS2018 was “Exaggerated Individualism” in 19th century Patagonia. These concepts give me the season’s narrative, but they do not steer me away from the core of the brand.
What kind of legacy do you aspire to leave to the Greek luxury landscape?
High quality, timeless design, longevity and necessity.
I hope that Parthenis items will be the least likely ones to be disposed of once they enter someone’s closet. I want them to become necessary favourites.
Do you feel there’s a significant interest in young Greek designers at the moment?
Economic downturns sometimes give birth to new sprouts of creativity. This has not only led Greeks being more interested in buying and wearing Greek fashion, since imports have been a little tricky for some retailers, but also, for some Greek designers to seek international recognition. However, I do not think that Greek fashion should focus on Greek folklore, as is mostly the case, because I do not believe this is a path with longevity.
Which area of Athens do you live in and what do you see from your window?
I have lived in Philoppapou, Ano Petralona for some time now and I love it. I am in the centre of Athens but enjoy a view of the sea from my roof and of the natural beauty of Philoppapou Hill.
A restaurant or bar in Athens you’d highly recommend – and why.
Oikonomou Tavern in Ano Petralona has been in the same spot since 1930 and has remained largely unchanged. The food is humble Greek. The place is also simple, like a house, with white walls, a few frames, rattan chairs, and in the summer, tables out on the pedestrianised street. There is no music or special lighting, but the paintings and the books on the walls all pay tribute to the numerous intellectuals that have dined in this place. One learns to love this place not only for the quality of its food but for its constancy.
+30 210.272.3844, www.orsalis-parthenis.gr