Alexandra Kehayoglou’s collaboration with Hermès Athens, which heralded Spring-Summer 2016, was not fortuitous. Being the granddaughter of Greek immigrants, the artist recalled the inspirational words of Cavafy, hoping that her “voyage (to Greece) would be a long one”. And so, Kehayoglou’s concept of “My Ithaca” took shelter in Hermès’ spring season window display.
Born into the first family of rug weavers in Argentina, the artist has always had a soft spot for nature, coupled with a resolve to weave as many landscapes as possible in faith that our natural world stops vanishing. Kehayoglou weaves the textile on a handtuft system using a pistol that she maneuvers in vertical racks to create the weft that yields the ultimate piece. Attuned with Greece’s infinite stretch of tranquil blue, she transported her “Ithaca” into an entire window display; a Greek island haven.
Do note this: Hermès invites artists to take part in its competition “Artist Window”, which focuses on fresh and innovative window displays for its shops around the world. Alexandra Kehayoglou’s creations were on display at the Hermès boutique (4 Stadiou and 1 Voukourestiou streets) in Athens throughout the spring-summer season.
And so, the few Hermès objects that she tactfully dropped off in the display window portrayed the bare essentials of a discerning traveler who seeks solitude and peace of mind; a towel, a bag, a pair of shoes… Traces left behind by the occasional visitor are testament to the trespassing of humans.
Passer-bys taking a leisure stroll along the bustling cross of Voukourestiou and Stadiou streets, would be allured to make a stop and “register” their Ithaca. Because, as Kehayoglou says: “I love that my rugs become a register of lives lived“.
But who exactly is Alexandra Kehayoglou? This should be of help: her collaboration with Hermès Athens aside, one of her most recent pieces is a carpeted runway for designer Dries Van Noten made in collaboration with artist Danish artist Olafur Eliasson. Another piece, titled No Longer Creek and curated by Artsy, was included at this year’s Design Miami/ Basel.
Yes, she is a very talented young artist – looking forward to a great future. And one I had the immense honour of meeting – after midnight at the Hermès boutique in Athens, over a few glasses of champagne. We were alone, it was a warm, quiet night and all clichés had us giggling – it felt as if we had known each other all our lives.
Nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than two women, being unapologetically themselves, surrounded by beautiful artwork. At a modern temple – such as the Hermès boutique.
Which are your absolute favorite colors?
Green, yellow, I really don’t have a favorite.
Is there a piece of clothing or accessory that you have Inherited from your father/grandfather that you adore?
A heavy wool sweater, from the 70’s. the warmest.
Name the man/woman you have looked up to, while growing up. Who inspired you to the woman you have become?
My big sister Ariadna. And my aunt Carmen, a strong woman who combined a creative carrer with raising her daughter on her own.
Name the most stylish man/woman on earth to you (dead or alive).
I must confess, I have no clue.
What is your favorite artist of all times?
Favorite destination to get away from all noise and be yourself.
The Pampas, the Argentinean countryside. But any natural place will do.
Describe Argentina using 5 words.
Intensity, nature, chaos, hope, politics.
Describe Greece using 5 words.
Food, natural, nostalgy, loud, origins.
Describe yourself using 5 words.
Creative, silence, perseverance, fire, laugh.
Rio y piedras, Atahualpa Yupanki.
Your guilty pleasure?
Dates and feta cheese of course.
Who would you ideally want to have dinner with tomorrow? (dead or alive)
My grandomther Elpiniki. I never met her.
-ON YOUR PHILOSOPHY
What is the most important lesson you were taught from your father and mother – while growing up in a family of rug weavers?
Not to fear, and to trust my abilities.
What is your creative modjo?
Man interacting with nature.
If you were a rug, what would it look like? Can you imagine and describe it?
I think a piece of myself lies on everyone of my carpets.
Favorite creation by another artist that made you even a tiny bit jealous?
I can’t relate art to jealousy, it’s just not the feeling that flows.
Favorite motto to live by?
Truth lies within.
How important is to you, to pass over with your work a certain message of ecology and green life? And why?
My intention is to focus on the way we interact with nature, to highlight the landscape we give for granted. We are consuming earth’s natural resources and we will regreat not taking action. It’s urgent.
The inevitable destiny.
How tough is it to mix strict business with strong creative emotions (family business), smells from the past (melting of two cultures) with today’s fashion waves and technology?
Quite difficult as everything that is meaningful. I guess the question is to have a good team and to know when and who to delegate.
Do you think that the way people think and consume has changed over the course of the last, say, 5-8 years?
I think this varies a lot within different cultures. But the situation has polarized. Those who care, who take responsibility on what they consume, are shifting faster to a more sustainable way, consuming less. And those who are blind to this, are still trying to fill that void with more things.
What does #AlexandraKehayoglou as an artist and an independent brand really, stand for? What does it represent?
Something to do with not falling into structures, but rather building new ones..Which achievement are you particularly proud of? Making the best tzatziki in Argentina?..
You have worked with/for giants of the fashion industry and history, just like Hermès Paris. What were the most important messages you wanted to pass out with your installations for them?
I was inspired in the way we relate to the landscape. The windows act as a capsule where time can be frozen. For us to see and think, how do we approach it? Where do we stand? The tapesttries capture an instant that is inmortilized in a way, but the landscaped doesn’t. And it is us that alternate it the most.
What was you very own journey to Ithaca? And what is the idealised Ithaca today?
My journey is quite intense. So many things have happened since I aligned with my mission as an artist. I’ve realized that Ithaca has to do with were you stand. Getting there is never really what it seems from outside. I enjoy much more the process than the culmination of projects. Success seen from an external point of view for me has never to do with what I feel succesful. Social media helps to build this idealised Ithacas today, what we see, what we imagine it is, what is shown, and what it really ends up being.
Do you also pray, just like Constantine Cavafy, for “the voyage to be a long one”? Why?
Of course, I find happiness In the process. I wish for a life full of this.
Where do you imagine yourself to be in –say- ten years from now, professionally speaking?
I imagine my life being similar to what it is now, but working on bigger projects, travelling and having more time to rest.
Describe a typical work day of yours in your atelier, in Buenos Aires.
I get there around 8,30, after leaving my child at school. Everyday is different. In the morning I usually meet with my team of asistants, give them instructions. I have days when I have a lot of drawing, sketching. I have or interviews or skype meetings. I have lunch. I work on the tapestries in the afternoons, and then I go and look for my son at school bring him to the studio, work some more, or leave home.