When it comes to fashion designers and their contemporary work, I find, we don’t use the term “timeless” often enough. Mainly, because there aren’t many who could be such a perfect fit. Parthenis is a label, of clear Greek DNA, that has managed the impossible: to remain for more than four decades relevant and extremely interesting, nurturing its clear, sharp and sleek identity, dressing up generations of creative, noble individuals who know exactly what they want and simply go after it. Now this is timeless.
Founder Dimitris Parthenis established his first store in Athens in 1970. Nine years later he opened the boutique in Mykonos, a constant source of inspiration, and a stepping-stone for an international career. Today, with his daughter Orsalia Parthenis at the creative helm, the identity remains timeless with a gender-bending, minimal feel, and elegant Greek aesthetic. Premium basics in high quality fabrics, interspersed with statement pieces, create wardrobe staples for a refined and elevated everyday look – with all collections designed and produced in Athens, Greece.
And, do note this: the brand operates stand-alone boutiques in Greece with flagship stores in Athens and Mykonos, alongside stockists in its native country, in Cyprus, Lebanon, Kuwait, USA and UK. Recently, in February 2016, Parthenis presented a temporary concept store on East London’s Rivington Street.
Personally, I can still remember my very first Parthenis piece: it was a sleek, black mini dress, made of cotton, a gift from my mother (who was a religious fan of the brand, and still remains – at her 76) for my 16th birthday. And I still wear it quite often – it has the immensely silent power of turning heads every time, 20 years after.
Many, many, many dresses later, as you can imagine, it was only a matter of time before I would finally arrange a meeting alone with Orsalia Parthenis – on an extremely hot day in Athens, in the Philopappou district, downtown, where her beautiful apartment is located. Over some iced tea and light lunch, to ask all those questions, I have always wanted to.
ON PERSONAL STYLE
Who is your favourite fashion designer in the world?
I love what Phoebe Philo has done for Celine, but my all-time favorite is Jean Paul Gaultier.
Who would you die to collaborate with?
A major sports brand. I would love to do athletic wear.
What was your last purchased item? Can you remember?
A pair of Stan Smiths.
What perfume do you wear?
Rosabotanica by Balenciaga, but have also been wearing Cristalle by Chanel for more than 20 years.
What watch do you wear?
Rolex Air King, and sometimes Samsung Gear.
Deep Shallow Exposition x Parthenis.
Which are your favorite colors?
Black always, and white for summer, off-white for winter. However, I increasingly wear navy instead of black.
Which fabric describes you and your personal style best?
Cotton for day, silk for night.
Name the woman you have looked up to, while growing up. Who inspired you to be the woman you have become now?
I never believed in idols and stayed close to the people that were there for me. Besides my mother, I also look up to my godmother for guidance and inspiration.
What is the first thing you would teach your children, in things style?
I am teaching them to have fun with clothes and I let them choose. That’s the only way they will be able to learn.
Name the most stylish woman (dead or alive).
The most stylish Greek woman ever was Melina Mercouri. The most stylish celebrity today is Tilda Swinton.
What inspires you the most for your designs?
The history of the brand guides me to remain true to the core of Parthenis style. However, I am always inspired by music bands, architecture and design in general.
Designing– was it a wish from your childhood days? When did you know that this is exactly what you wanted to do?
It was kind of an epiphany. During my childhood I shunned the idea, but I think I was purposefully groomed by my family to take over some day.
Will the Greek-heritage-influence be visible in your next collections too? As part of who you are? If yes, what does it translate to, when it comes to clothes?
I think Greek heritage in the case of Parthenis has to do more with the light, the pure lines of Cycladic architecture, the Doric lack of ornament and the laid back holiday spirit of Greece. Who I am is not defined by Greek folklore and I would rather be making contemporary, relevant clothes than “Grecian” clothes. I think an ethnocentric approach does not help a brand travel abroad.
How important are the components/materials used? What constitutes luxury, when it comes to clothes?
The materials are of outmost importance. They are the ones that define design usually and not the other way around. Materials have to be soft on our skin, almost feel like a caress. They also have to be natural for environmental reasons. Those same reasons are the ones that dictate the creation of designs that can pass the test of time and the materials should also be part of that journey. They have to become better the more they are worn. This is the meaning of luxury to me. Clothes that make us feel unique because they make us feel ourselves, not clothes that shield our personality.
Which piece are you particularly proud of creating? Is there one you consider to be archetypal for the very essence of your own brand’s DNA?
I have not been able to surpass the simple tank ribbed cotton dress that was created by my father almost 30 years ago. I think it will always be relevant. However, my creations in silk jersey I think marked my own design identity. I think that they are the types of pieces one can wear again and again and they will always feel contemporary.
What was the most important lesson you have learned from working with your father, Dimitris Parthenis?
“Never care what other people think”. “Mark your own territory”. And off course “less is more”.
Did he influence your own creativity in any ways?
Along with my mother, they are always my reference and my most severe critics. However, I have complete creative freedom.
Who is really the woman in your imagination/creation process? What does she look like? How does she think?
She thinks a mind of her own, she likes her body, whatever its shape, and is also creative. I think women in creative professions understand the “less is more” credo more than anyone. She is a woman that loves essence and understands quality.
What can we expect from you in the future? What will be different?
I have been designing new collections as for example a special collection for men. I think I may also go into home wear more extensively. I like to think of the future as full of new challenges. I like to be kept on my toes.
Where do you imagine yourself to be ideally in –say- ten years from now, professionally speaking?
I hope to spread the Parthenis spirit to more countries and achieve something bigger, beyond my local market.
All portraits by Orsalia Parthenis were shot by Yiorgos Kaplanidis.
All other images were shot by Nikos Vardakastanis, Studio 112 Photography.