Dimitris Strepkos – creative persona, imaginative fashion designer, one half of dynamic duo of Avant-garde fashion brand: Celebrity Skin formed with Eleni Barla, art director and fashion editor, fashion teacher, stage designer,  theatre passionate… Known for his bright optimistic personality and broad charming smile, Dimitris is a man of passions for art, fashion and Avant-garde.

I had the chance to meet him personally on the Eve of New Year’s Eve, in one of these artistically climatic coffees on the way to Plaka, in the heart of Athens to have a great talk about his passions, inspirations and experiences …

Dimitris could you outline your rich experience. Did you always know that fashion will be your future destination?

I started working as a stylist assistant when I was 15 years old. Then I studied Fashion Stage design & Fashion Styling in London's school of Fashion. I have been working many years as the costume designer. After stage designing I became a stylist which is easier to transform. When you are creator it’s more difficult to take creations from other people and make them beautiful. Apart from being a stylist, I was making video clips, editorials, catalogues, commercials and everything of such stuff. I was creating costumes for the theatres simultaneously with other projects.
Celebrity Skin
Eleni Barla & Dimitris Strepkos
But always it was my great desire to create my own clothes. Two years ago I had a meeting with Eleni Barla, that time she was my assistant for 5 years. I told her about my plans concerning new fashion brand “Celebrity Skin”, and that I would like to create a duo with her in this project. It was a very challenging step, we worked very hard and with no budget on our first collection. We entitled it: “Tim Burton’s Impossible Nightmare, because one of my passions is cinema. We didn’t expect such great success. All that we wanted was to create clothes that give personality.

Avant Garde is the flagship label of your fashion brand “Celebrity Skin”. Could you tell me about the philosophy and vision of “Celebrity Skin”?

“Celebrity Skin” existing for 18 months, has been very successful, it’s like a fashion industry helping everyone to feel that he or she is special. “Dare to Wear” is our main philosophy, clothes that we treat like our second skin.  I like to meet people with something special that catch my attention – this irresistible charm. I want them to wear my clothes and feel very special.

For my photo shoots I am creating my own visions, magic and I like skinny models to present them. But in real life I would like to transform my visions into my clients who are normal size or plus size, and I like it. I don’t want them to be skinny wearing my clothes. I want them to feel nice in my clothes just as they are.

We are working with many professionals – photographers, stylists, make-up artists and many more. Many magazines use our clothes in their editorials. Celebrities wear our clothes – factors we consider big success but we don’t consider ourselves a big brand; some steps have been taken and time will show.
Clothes - Hats: CelebritySkin
Photographer: Nikol Bartzoka
Make-up - Hair: Mathew Alatsatianos
How do you create the concept of “Celebrity Skin” collections?

It is like a process. First of all I have to create the title. This is my indicator of every further step. The second is music. I am listening to different kind of music in my Ipod looking for inspirations. I select it; I have to be in “that” mood for designing because I am also involved in numerous projects apart from creating a collection for “Celebrity Skin”. But, when I hear the music, it inspires me to create the collection, whenever I am, in Munich, Athens or anywhere else.

If I have a title, the music, and my small sketchbook - I am able to create my ideas.

Could you tell me about the inspirations for your collections? What ideas are hidden behind the titles?

I love to have the complexity of my titles because I am not a simple person.

I’m always looking for my identity in my work. Not just to show off but to catch attention, to show my point of view, to breathe freely.

“Tim Burton’s Impossible Nightmare” was our first collection that we got two awards on Athens’ Xclusive Designers WeekBest New Designer and Best Catwalk. We entitled it like that because of our passion for Tim Burton movies, the classical suspense of Hitchcock and Hollywood glamour icons such as Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo.
Tim Burton’s Impossible Nightmare
Photographer: G. Kaplanidis
“Immortal Extravaganza”, our second collection I found very difficult. It was the most tiring collection of all, I have to say. The task was difficult mostly due to the large number of the outfits, hats & accessories. We used difficult techniques of sewing from London with little time for preparation. It was a challenging experiment for us; it went well but I would never take such a step again. Immortal Extravaganza made us aware about a very important issue – it gave us bad publicity giving the power to the rumour that you can adore the clothes but the clothes are not wearable.
Immortal Extravaganza
Photographer: Panagiotis Parissis
Clothes: CelebritySkin
Make-up: Danai Tselou
The previous experience gave us a lesson – we will be avant-garde, but we will skip the Extravaganza’s part and we will focus more on technique; something to wear but with our DNA design. This collection allowed us to breathe – people could trust us to wear it. We named it Desireless Humanoid” as an ironic expression, because I observed a very strange and striking problem. We have forgotten to be people with desires and I wanted the title to remind it . We have desires; it’s nice to have feelings whether positive or negative; we should never be a humanoid – a creature without feelings. We don’t have to be perfect. Imperfections can be considered as our precious values. I love imperfection both in people and in my clothes. When I take the clean material, I like to scratch it a bit because I want my clothes to be alive, to be worn. I don’t want to create perfect clothes, just ironed and nobody wears them. My goal is to create wearable clothes and to feel that is yours for years like a part of personality. You will notice that most of my clothes are loose – so one can breath in them.
Desireless Humanoid
Photographer: C. Karantzolas
Clothes: Celebrity Skin
Make up Hair: K. Kontogiorgou
Model: Natalia

“Cemeterial Purity”– can seem weird but I took my inspiration from funerals because it is the only time and place I see people with bare feelings. And I don’t mean the feeling of pain and loss  that nobody wants to experience. I mean these genuine feelings when people are real. On a funeral you see that people have feelings and that is beautiful. That is why I found some kind of purity in cemeteries and that’s how the title came. I like when people are real, whenever they are laughing or feeling sorrow, whenever they are moody or gloomy.
Cemeterial Purity
Photographer: Nectarios Papazacharias
Clothes: Celebrity Skin
Make up/hair: Marina Koutsoumba
Model: Julia
Location: Chin up studio
About the oncoming collection “Dramatic Discipline”, we will have lots of drama in this collection. We will put a pressure on strict structure and design that’s why we call it discipline. The collection will be based on black, grey and nude colours. As the collection for winter, which is my favourite season of the year, it gives us more opportunity for creation and experimentation. So far, we have created about 5 looks for the oncoming collection. We are preparing some photo shoots, and promotion material. We will celebrate our 2 years of existence in the fashion industry. We will also include a fashion movie to the show which will last for about 5 minutes. Its main aim will be the extension of the subject for the show. We plan to invite models, actresses and celebrities to the film. We will have the mix of photo shoots plus the movie. My intention is to give some strong message through both the movie and the show, treating them as a performance.

Your fashion shows are exceptional; they differ from typical catwalks…

We want to create fashion shows like a performance starting with the logo – made like from an old typewriter, then a small intro with music to give you feelings and models–divas going out together with the music for the whole show. I dislike the idea of a typical fashion show. My intention is not just to show the clothes. When you see the catwalk, the stage design, the make up, I want you - as the observer to have feelings; it’s dramatic, it’s funny, it’s hilarious, it’s strange… even if you don’t like it. Many people after my fashion shows have told me that they were strong.

That is why I invited five Greek celebrities to participate in the catwalk of my latest show “Cemeterial Purity”. Celebrities being on the public eye catch lots of bad interest.  I wanted to picture them in a more different way than the usual way we see them in glossy magazines or television shows. My intention was to emphasize some of their vices and virtues as something very interesting to show.
Nature Still
Photographer: Nikol Bartzoka
Clothes: Celebrity Skin
Make up: Costantinos Bez
Hair: Mathew Alatsatianos

You are also a teacher at fashion schools. What could you say about your teaching experience? 

I have been teaching at fashion schools for 11 years. I have had many students that I cooperate with & work on many projects up to the present - like Eleni Barla – currently my partner in Celebrity Skin”, Christina Skarpeli and many more that have won awards in fashion competitions. I am very proud of their success.

According to you, what is the most important factor while working on any project?

I believe in teamwork. Every project that I am involved in it's not only my work; it’s always a great team standing behind – models, photographers, make-up artists. Everyone involved in it contributes a lot. It’s like a chain. All my shootings it’s not me, not you, it’s the teamwork which I respect. “Celebrity Skin” would be nothing without the contribution of great and talented people.

Let’s focus on photo shoots. How is your attitude to such kind of teamwork as photo sessions?

I have been working on photo shoots for 20 years so far and always with the same energy. I’m always involved into every single photo shoot; I come first and leave last. I am always collaborating with photographers, setting the concept, selecting photos, speaking with models in order to guide theme express some feelings ranging from anger to euphoria. Art is the state of lots of expressions and I am asking models to give me more. I’m treating them like my muses. I really enjoy it. I prefer to work with female models because of their complexity. They can make great magic with thousands of poses. Men are the opposition with their simplicity.

I’m always creating the concept for my editorials. The whole idea that is very important to follow and process in the particular photo shoot. If you see my work, every photo shoot tells a story, gives you feelings. I am not interestied in just showing a beautiful body, a nice face and so on. My intention is to arouse the interest of the viewers. I want to create it like a small theatrical play. This also applies to Celebrity Skin” shows.
Location: ZAPEIO, Athens, Greece
Photographer: Anna Roussos
Make up/hair: Danai Tselou
Model: Natalia

Considering your experience as a stage designer what does theatre mean to you?

Theatre is a magical place that I couldn’t live without. It is the most difficult state of art which has a lot of expression, passion and demands - loads of work that I really love. I see the bodies, I see the expressions. It’s like you create a reality.

If I could choose the one thing in my life, it would be creating costumes for theatre. If I couldn’t do only that, I could also create editorials for magazines  which I really enjoy. Even now, I have my own theatre in Patra, MHXANH TEXNHS (ART MACHINE) which I lead together with my brother, Christos.

Tell me about your work as a costume designer in theatre. Do you have any favourite plays or stories that you have designed costumes for?

I have worked on many classical performances like Shakespeare plays and Chekhov whom I adore as a writer. My favourite theatrical play that I designed costumes for was a story called “MUD”. There was a very good chemistry in this project.

Is there any other city, apart from Athens, that you would like to live, work, create?

There is only one city – New York … I adore New York.

Even if I've been to many places. I still choose New York. For me it’s a place to live and create. Whenever I’m listening to Alicia Keys “Empire State of Mind” it gives me a nice chill. This is the place with great energy.
Bois de mystere
Photographer: Christos Karantzolas
Clothes: CelebritySkin
Make up and Hair: Morfee
Model: Ramone
Photo assistant: Kostis Fokas
As a stylist, your work is related with the trends. Could you tell me your own opinion about trendsetting nowadays?

I believe in mix and match style to create your own vision. I never follow the trends. I have to say that I dislike the form of trends presented nowadays. I believe in personal style – that is the trend. Such times came that you can be the trendsetter – opening your closet and choosing a different style for every day. The most important thing for me is comfort. I believe simplicity is the key. Personally I don’t spend lots of money on clothes, I like to wear simple but smart. I just combine the elements to look interesting.

The term “fashion victim”… how do you consider that?

I love fashion people, I hate fashion victims. You should never be a victim of anything, whether we are speaking about addictions, bad habits or inability of free mind. I want you to speak up your opinion. For example, you don’t like my clothes? OK…it’s nice to have your own judgement. Not everyone has to be perfect, and to be confirmed with his perfection.

A great example could be Alexander McQueen; he was very talented and innovative, but not always acceptable.

When I released my first collection, it was a very challenging task. For some people it was difficult to understand what I was up to. Presently I receive better understanding. Eventually more people read my message more clearly. It’s still difficult, but I love to create clothes and images.
Photographer: Nectarios Papazacharias
Clothes: Celebrity Skin / Cemeterial Purity Collection
Make up/hair: Marina Koutsoumba
Model: Julia
Location: Chin up studio

There is a wide spreading wave entering the fashion stage: fashion bloggers. What do you think about them?

First, of all I respect fashion bloggers; I embrace them in all my kindness and invite them on the first rows of my fashion shows. I like to browse  through the blogs, see their content, their point of view, find something fresh. I have some fashion bloggers that I really admire like Alecca Rox, life full of fashion, fashion algorithms, smells like fashion, go stylish, and many more.

I am also an owner of a blog; it gives me lots of fun, but because of lack of time I don’t update it very often.

Do you think that fashion blogs can somehow replace fashion magazines?

No. They will virtually have power; they will virtually have art and advertising. They are the new trend, but it’s difficult to replace magazines.

It’s a fresh and new form of power and information that I completely admire. It’s really nice to know big fashion bloggers. Of course not all blogs are perfect; there are blogs that I dislike, I see some kind of arrogance from them.

How do you reflect the power of the internet nowadays?

Internet is very powerful, especially Facebook, YouTube, My Space. They are new sources of information, they give long-lived view; the number of people checking my fashion on the internet is double the number of people who personally attend my shows.
In Denial
Photographer: P.Hatzianastasiou
Concept, Clothes: Celebrity Skin
Make up: Danae Tselou
Model: Nikie, VN models
Location, Acropoli, Athens, Greece

What do you think about fashion becoming widespread? What kind of changes it can bring?

Fashion has always been changing.  Before years we had only few designers having the most influential position, dictating new trends. Now we have such kind of fashion that people dictate you, they give you the aim, what you need. It’s nice to have this cooperation, an exchange of preferences.

While considering your experience in fashion industry what was the most challenging for you?

I’m trying to set my own mark - significance. I’m not the best designer, I am aware of that, but whatever I do, create, design, I do my best. All of our designs have a specific technique – the fusion of pattern and moulage; we combine them together and as a result it’s very difficult to duplicate our designs. Although I have noticed many designers have attempted to do so. It’s very strange for me because fashion has great space. Even if some of my students attempt to copy, I’m telling them to show me themselves in their designs, show what they really like, not what I like.

You consider yourself as an image maker, whether you are a stylist, a stage designer, a fashion designer…

Every kind of work I've been involved in has to do with images. I cannot do anything else since I was 5 years old.  As a small boy I was decorating my room, creating gifts for my friends. All my life is creating.

Special thanks to Dimitris Strepkos for his creative participation and interesting talk to EyeCandies.

Images: Courtesy of Dimitris Strepkos.

LINKS: […]

Celebrity Skin
Dimitris Strepkos Blog

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