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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 13 December 2014
SATURDAY 13 DECEMBER 2014 in fashion Liking the effect the soft trimmings had against the other materials, she got in contact with the company that makes the trimmings in Greece. Surprised by and interested in her concept, they agreed to produce her custom-made pieces for one of her collections. "It made me really happy to find these materials in Greece," she says. "In London some of the trimmings come from Greece and then they sell them in London for five times the price." With a romantic yet modern aesthetic, Melissanthi Spei likens her work to her personality. Known to use bondage elements such as wooden clips, leather straps and harnesses, her work has been interpreted as having sado-masochism as a big influence. This is particularly interesting considering her use of the church robe trimmings. "As a person I come across as very quiet and sweet, so for me it was trying to keep a balance between light and darkness in a way. That's why my work is always a bit fetish," she says. The designer was actually quite surprised when she was asked to take part in an exhibition on fetishism. Divided into different sections, she didn't expect that folklore would fall under the umbrella of fetishism. Despite living abroad, the designer has maintained her ties with family and friends back home and recognises that although she has developed and changed, things in Greece have remained quite static. People, in particular young people of her age group, she feels, are quite disappointed and feel they have been let down by the system. Melissanthi shared in this sentiment upon embarking on her research about Greek folklore. The designer found that when she reached out to various institutions for support, not of the monetary kind, but help with conducting her research, that she was met with confusion and a disinterest in helping her with her project. "I just find it really disappointing because I didn't ask for money, I just asked for help to explore this further," she says. "I think for a young person to do that, they should be more excited because it means there are people out there who want to do that from the next generation. We need the government to support other parts of the culture." While living away, she has had the opportunity to look in on Greece as an outsider and believes the problem with the Greeks moving forward and out of the crisis is negatively impacted by "the Greek way of thinking" and the education system. "I think it's our mentality in a way. I think they just like to be in their comfort zone, they don't question things sometimes. "It's the education system as well; it doesn't really push you to think individually," she says. As a person I come across as very quiet and sweet, so for me it was trying to keep a balance between light and darkness in a way. That’s why my work is always a bit fetish. Despite the external influence however, Melissanthi still sees herself as a Greek designer as she recognises that all of her work has been inspired by Greece. "In a way I think it's about trying to find who I am through my work. All the projects I've done, they're all very personal, so there's always an element of Greece in it." For her next project she is once again taking her inspiration from Greek mythology, with a focus on the Myth of Sisyphus. The collection, she explains, will look at life from the view point of being a cycle and explore the role of routine in the life of the individual. Although she has a passion for fashion, when envisaging her future, she doesn't see it taking place in the confines of a studio. Aside from working as a designer and writing for a fashion blog based in Greece, she would also like to explore the world outside of fashion to inspire her interest in the research and inspiration behind her creations. "I'd like to work in museums and do more research on history and costume," she says. Young and ambitious Greeks like Melissanthi appear to be the hope and future of what a country like Greece needs, bringing a necessary breath of fresh air. "A lot of people actually studied abroad and came back and they bring a different way 15 of thinking. So slowly I think there's hope for improvement," says the designer. Does she want to return to Greece? There's not a hint of hesitation in her voice. "For sure. In a dramatic way, I don't want to live away from home for too long. It's already been eight years. I go home and I feel like an outsider now because I have a different way of thinking. "I see people who have lived here for 20 years now and they don't want to go back anymore. I don't want to lose part of who I am." The designer uses softer materials to contradict the roughness of the hardware textures. PHOTO: NIKOLAS VENTOURAKIS.
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