People have the power
He is the Founder of London based super cool independent store Machine-A, but fashion was not on his radar as he grew up in Greece. STAVROS KARELIS has a key to success as he creates genuine relationships both with upcoming designers and established brands. He will curate a special project for CIFF F/W 18-19 edition starting on Jan. 31st in Bella Center in Copenhagen and here's your chance to know more about him.
There is an intriguing contrast between Stavros Karelis and his voice. If you close your eyes while he's talking to you, you think of a sharp style hero. Someone whose unconventional way to conceive a store has consistently changed the game of retail by founding Machine-A in London, a shop where young designers showcase their first collections on the same rack as Raf Simons or Gosha Rubchinskiy. Then you look at him and you see a warm-hearted bloke, sparkling with enthusiasm. Maybe it's a consequence of growing up in sunny Crete, the largest of the Greek islands, without a fashion care in the world and eventually studying Political Science in Athens and London. The thing is that Karelis is 100% unpretentious and business focused at the same time.
Kristian W. Andersen, Director and Creative Director of Copenhagen International Fashion Fair must have sensed the natural excitement you feel when you get involved with him, so he invited Karelis to curate a special project for CIFF F/W 18-19 edition, kicking off on Jan. 31th in Bella Center, Copenhagen. The area will be located at the entrance of the CIFF venue where all the invited brands will be expressing their idea of fashion & art in ad hoc spaces.
Why did you accept CIFFs invitation to develop a concept for them?
"I previously joined the exhibition as a buyer and I was struck by the way brands' identities were highly respected. Each collection had been given the right space to represent their universe and I loved the selection the CIFF guys had been doing. It's been a natural process to get acquainted and when Kristian asked me to collaborate, it just seemed a great thing to do."
So what are we going to see?
"I don't want to give too much information because I would love exhibitors, visitors and guests to fully enjoy the experience. I asked some creative people I much admire to state their very peculiar vision about the many possible connections between fashion and art. We will all try to evolve the way we think about products, collections and display. There will be perfumes, images, music and eventually fashion. Let's call it a creativity backstage, where people will go through the process which leads to an actual item."
Why is it so important to reveal the behind the scenes of a collection?
"If people understand what made a product look the way it is, then they can start a conversation. I'm not saying that, because of that, they will like it, but at least there is a chance for a dialogue. The area I curated will be at the entrance of the exhibition, the perfect place to give people lots of stimuli."
The word 'people' often recurs in your words, how come?
"Machine-A wouldn't exist without me being organically connected with great minds. My sense for fashion bloomed in Athens when I accidentally got involved in a shooting for a magazine. I helped the stylist, we got acquainted and, as I was 18 years old, I started working for the Greek editions of GQ and Esquire magazines. Back then, I didn't think of a career in the fashion business and I felt the same when I moved to London in 2007. I spent my first year in UK clubbing a lot and confronting myself with such an incredible creative freedom. In London people dress up for a reason, they express deeper thoughts through clothing. I got all those messages and let myself be inspired by them."
That's cool, but still it doesn't explain why Machine-A is listed amongst the most influential stores worldwide.
"I met so many young designers with great talent and no way to show it. Because of global recession, I could afford to rent a space where I could invite them to showcase their work and this is how Machine-A started. At the same time, big fashion groups became more attracted by the new fashion generations and that helped too. But again, it's been a crucial meeting that turned Machine-A into the store you can see now in Brewer St. in Soho."
"Raf Simons is one of the main reasons we are still here. I thought it was essential for us to mix upcoming brands with big names, so I went to his showroom to explain my idea. I felt they really could see my point, they believed in the project and gave me the collection. To have Raf Simons meant that the whole world started paying attention to us. I will always be grateful to him. And the same goes for Machine-A partners, Slam Jam from Italy and SHOWstudio, founded by Nick Knight in London. There's more than just a business relationship berween us, we share the same feelings."
How do you select new brands?
"Basically, there is something inside me saying that I should go for them. It's not just about the clothes: if I see a graduate show I pay attention to the music, the models. When students can manage to convey a strong idea, it means they have the right confidence to make things happen when they will start producing their collection. I work very closely with all of the brands I pick. My team and I advice them on different aspects, from fabric selection, to accurate pricing or selling and shipping terms. I feel so proud when I see them getting bigger, because we grow together. There is special bond between us, we support each other. There are times when they have to go through a different path and I totally understand that, but we are still there for each other and I can just pick up the phone and say: "Let's do something together". You see, it's all about the people and how you connect with them. If you are genuine in your relationship, things can happen."
Words by Cristina Manfredi, an Italian fashion journalist. She always has an eye for upcoming brands whom she supports through her work.