She won the "Best New Designer Award 2017" at the Athens Xclusive Designers Week, the "Bronze Award" at the China International Fashion Designers Contest 2016: everything seems to smile for the Cyprus born fashion designer and creator Avgousta Theodoulou, our recent Bachelor in Fashion Design graduate.
Michel Temman: Could you first introduce yourself? You were born in Avgorou, Cyprus and later lived in Greece. Can you tell us more about your childhood and adolescence? What about your studies then?
Avgousta Theodoulou: I was born and raised in a village called Avgorou in Cyprus. I was a very shy and a sensitive child. I remember myself spending time alone, not with other kids. Instead of playing games of my age, I started learning crochet. I was 8 years old and an old lady living in our neighborhood showed me how to do it. Crochet is a tradition in my country; at that time almost all ladies over 50 years old knew the basics. I became more dynamic in my adolescence when I had more friends and started enjoying time with them. The years at school, I performed well but didn’t experiment much with activities besides my courses. However, there were some periods when I was seeking other ways of expressing myself, with poetry and crafting. After school, I moved to Greece to study Computer Science at the University of Ioannina where I earned both a Bachelor and a Master’s degree. I worked until 2013 as a teacher of Computer Science at different levels of education. I spent twelve years in Greece.
M.T.: Did being skilled in informatics and technologies help you later in your approach and work as a fashion designer?
Avgousta Theodoulou: Certainly! Having a university degree makes you more mature. It helps in grasping and using new knowledge. Having been an IT tutor made me more demanding of myself. The fact that I studied computer science made me comfortable working on computers and on developing technology, such as applications. However, during my studies as a fashion designer, I had to learn how to use technology to present my ideas - something that I had to learn from scratch. So, I cannot say that I have used my scientific knowledge yet as a designer, but I will definitely try in the future, since informatics are getting more involved in the process of realization of garments by developing innovative technology. Nevertheless, I believe that the best marriage of the traditional creation process and any sophisticated technology can happen only after an artist realizes the huge potentials of his two hands. And this is the road that I have picked.
M.T.: When and how did you discover fashion? What did attract you so much that you decided to turn to fashion?
Avgousta Theodoulou: I remember during my youth I enjoyed watching catwalks, but that never encouraged me to pay more attention to brands, famous fashion houses and to their history. I was only finding mesmerizing the garments and their details. At that point, I had never dreamed of becoming a designer and never felt the interest in learning about designer’s lives or how it related to their creations. I was just looking at the garments as particular creations. During my studies at the university, I forgot the creative part of myself so as not to disturb my academic life. But right after, while working as a teacher, I started doing crochet again and trying to adapt it in a modern way into accessories. Many friends were encouraging me to promote my work, so I started selling my creations, handmade accessories, to a small shop in Ioannina. I started experimenting into different kinds of techniques (macramé, working with beads and metal) and was also invited to organize a 3-month seminar on how to make crochet accessories. Then, I bought a sewing machine and did my first garments. The satisfaction I was getting every time I was creating something was indescribable. I was proud of what I was making. But despite my satisfaction, I was always considering it as a hobby or side-work. This, until my husband Argyris found job in Paris in 2013… I was loving my job as a teacher and moving to France without knowing French would mean that I probably had to change orientation in my career. I realized that this could be a call to follow my passion for creation and learn more about fashion, since Paris is one of the most famous fashion centres. So I did the wild turn, moved to Paris at the age of 31 to study my passion at IFA Paris.
M.T.: So then you enrolled in the Bachelor in Fashion Design and Technology at IFA Paris. How was it valuable? Did it change your vision of the fashion and luxury industries?
Avgousta Theodoulou: I graduated from IFA Paris in 2016. Those 3 years, I lived a completely new life. Finally, I had to learn about the designers behind all those luxury brands with all the beautiful creations I was admiring since my childhood! Who are they, how they became designers, what kind of mistakes they made, and all the hard work and difficulties hidden behind the lights of success. Studying at IFA Paris and meeting people from different countries, people with different skills and backgrounds, was one of the most important experiences for me. First of all, it makes you understand others, but also yourself: who you are, what makes you really special and unique. Moreover, you realize how competitive this field is, and how difficult it is to succeed when there are so many talented people around.
M.T.: You just received a key title: "Best New Designer Award" at the Athens Xclusive Designers Week 2017. Congratulations! Then a second title in Keqiao, China: "Bronze Award" at the China International Fashion Designers Contest 2016. Did these titles empower you to move ahead?
Avgousta Theodoulou: Indeed, the last months a lot of things happened. A lot of work, traveling, little sleep, and two awards that have been a great start for me. I am really happy to see my work, which took a lot of time and energy, to attract attention and enjoy recognition from contests in two countries. Yes, this kind of recognition fuels me with confidence and courage to continue. Hard work can help you to achieve things that you had never imagine. But after each successful step forward, I become more demanding of myself; I try not to disappoint those who believe in me, and - why not - to surprise them positively with something even better. Each new project though, is a whole new story. Once I start something new, I always feel uncertain first. It takes a long time, trials and disappointments to convince myself that I am on the right path. I quite believe that this uncertainty is what drives my experimentation and helps me improving my ideas.
M.T.: It seems that your creations are strongly inspired by the culture and traditions of Cyprus. I read that at some point you found inspiration from the costume called vraka?
Avgousta Theodoulou: I like to get inspiration from everything around me and also from the Cypriot and Greek culture and tradition. Vraka was one of the inspirations for the final project of the second year at IFA Paris. For my Graduation project, I took inspiration from Greek mythology Daedalus and Icarus. Although every time I like to get inspired from different things, there are details and elements that are written in my cultural DNA, which I like to reuse and make them evolve by looking at them from different perspectives.
M.T.: How do you define your own style? It seems extremely free, poetic and so artistic!
Avgousta Theodoulou: True! I see fashion from an artistic point of view, and it makes me happy to hear you classifying my designs in this way. I like to be free to experiment and transform the fabric using various techniques, to give texture and shape to my garments. Experimentations allow me to create designs that are free and beyond the trends. I also combine luxury with art! The quality of fabrics is very important for me; this is a way to respect the time I spend to create a garment, to the body that will wear it, and also to the environment because the aim is not be something that you will throw away any time soon after you get it.
M.T.: You are about to launch your eponym brand. How is this going? How do you challenge your objectives?
Avgousta Theodoulou: The last months since my graduation, I concentrated all my energy in showcasing my work in order to let people notice it and hoping that it would have been recognized. I applied to three contests for new designers and got accepted by all three of them. It was unfortunate that I didn’t make it to be at one of them, but it was fortunate that I got awarded by the two in which I finally participated. In the meantime, with additional personal work, I did the branding and launched the website of my brand at www.avgoustatheodoulou.com. Even after having done all these, if I look back in time, I will still say it’s a lot of work. Especially for someone who doesn’t have a team and I have worked alone until now.
M.T.: Any new or future project?
Avgousta Theodoulou: Currently, I am preparing my SS 18/19 collection for October’s AXDW - Athens Xclusive Designers Week. Some buyers also contacted me, so I hope to be soon able to produce more and make them available. Moreover, I would like to organize or participate in some fashion event in Paris in the next months. At the same time, I am looking for persons to join my team and to face all these challenges. It has to be people that I could trust and believe in, and of course they should believe in the potential of growing my brand as well!
To learn more about the program that Avgousta graduated from: Bachelor in Fashion Design & Technology at IFA Paris