Designer Eleni Labrou first impressed by winning the AFI Fastrack competition at AFI Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Jo’burg last month with her hand-painted prints and minimalist tailoring that are perfectly in tune with this season’s minimalism. Join us as we step into the world of Eleni, creative, designer – in fact, the designer to watch – and the girl who prefers sipping tea at home to being out and about!
What is key to your designs?
Aesthetic appeal is the foundation for design. Beauty, mystery, interest, grandeur and glamour are all means of fascination and therefore central to our wellbeing. Design may be conceptual but it always has to have aesthetic appeal. My desire is to find the fine balance between sophistication and quirkiness, mixing two far-removed stories to create something cohesive and beautiful.
We loved your most recent collection. What was the inspiration?
The main concept was people’s perception of the body. At first, I designed prints based on the human anatomy, which then developed into the anatomy of the parrot. The concept is rooted in contemporary society, where the media has created a place where people analyse the intricacies of others’ bodies. Society is obsessed with the body. I decided to translate this obsession into something that is almost comical, a satire on society’s absurd physical standards. I chose the parrot, as it is known for its ability to mimic.
When designing I focus on classic, clean, minimalistic lines and silhouettes. Though I love elegant, classic elements, I never design without a quirky twist.
When did you start designing?
I think every designer is born with a need to create and appropriate. It would be an over-simplification to say that my passion for design started at one specific point. Instead, I think my interest in art and fascination with building and constructing my ideas have led me to design. Studying at LISOF gave me the tools to produce my ideas and express them in commercial pieces.
What was the first thing you designed?
An equestrian-themed collection. I was going through a very ‘back-to-nature-feeling-the-wind-in-your-face’ phase and there was a lot of linen and lightweight cottons involved.
Where does the magic happen?
I work from home with my partner, James. At the moment our workspace consists of a snooker table and a trestle table. As we’re just starting out, it is fairly basic and functional. A sewing machine, overlocker, patterns and many pieces of fabric, most of which are tiny, odd shapes that can’t be used for anything. But we keep them anyway.
What inspires you?
My inspiration doesn’t come from one particular source. I make a point of being observant and I believe this allows me to draw inspiration from almost anything. Different textures, fabrics and prints can be found everywhere if you look for them. Films, books, magazines and photography constantly feed my mind with what is current and relevant.
Do you have a work routine?
I am most creative in the evenings and I often wake up in the night with ideas, which I quickly make a note of, and then go back to sleep.
Your personal style?
I think my style is constantly changing and evolving. At the moment I am hooked on pimped-out gangsta street chic. It will most probably change soon, though. And why shouldn’t it?
On your radar for winter 2013?
Personally, gold, faux fur, Adidas Originals and Nike sneakers. In the design world, men’s coats, pastel-coloured coats, punk, menswear fabrics and fur.
Where can we buy your designs?
I am still in the start-up phase and a website, Facebook page and Twitter are in the pipeline.
What’s next for you?
Great things! I have quite a few exciting projects in the works. Watch this space…
Photographs: Dillon du Plessis