Photography Agnieszka Chabros
For most students, your graduate collection is an opportunity to show the world what you can do. After years of study, you're asking others to bear witness to your skills and potential. Considering this, Panayota Theodore's decision to focus her collection, Into The Blue, near-exclusively on denim was a surprise. Sure we love jeans, but aren't a sure way to grab attention.
For Panayota, that was appeal. The collection demonstrates that the fabric isn't at all limiting-rather full of under-considered potential. Her considerable skill comes through in prints and detailing: she avoids any Canadian Tuxedo jokes while keeping true to the fabric's heritage and sense of ease. The results are high concept but impressively wearable. Most don't even limit you to a designated front or back. i-D chatted to the fresh graduate about elevating our expectations of fashion staples.
Why so much denim?
Denim has become a very special fabrication to me. I love physically working with it; it's easy to sew with and print on, I love the heavy drape and how it frays. More importantly, I'm a big supporter of the denim on denim look. It was perfect to use for my graduate collection; it's unusual for a collection to use just one fabric, but I think that's what gives my designs an interesting point of difference. I wanted to prove you can never have enough denim on denim.
You were part of the VAMFF The National Graduate Showcase, how was that experience?
It was such a pleasure, the Showcase was a huge opportunity for me-it was great exposure and such a surreal experience. They've created such a unique and amazing opportunity for emerging designers.
How do you see the opportunities open to student graduates in Australia?
It can be really difficult, the Australian industry is still small so you really have to work hard to break in. In uni I interned at various fashion and textile businesses and magazines, knowing and meeting people is very important. I've always found that if someone can help you they will. Saying that, I still feel I'm on the outskirts of the industry. It would be great if there were better support networks for student designers to take those first steps.
You're planning on staying in Australia to grow your practice, why did you decide against moving overseas?
I think it's important to do both. The overseas markets love Australian designers; we're so geographically removed it gives is a unique point of difference. But obviously, international markets provide a whole new element of knowledge. The experience overseas are endless, however I think it's important for more Australian designers to come back and use their skills in the Australian fashion industry. The local industry has the potential to grow and become something unique in its own right.
You've mentioned uniqueness a couple of times, what do you think of the idea of originality in fashion? Is it a realistic goal?
Nothing has ever been 100 percent original in fashion‚ it's constantly reusing elements from the past and everyday life. My graduate collection Into The Blue hasn't reinvented the wheel-its basic oversized pieces that are inspired by pre-existing shapes used throughout history and not overly complex patterns. But the sense of originality comes from how I have curated them to create a relationship between the layered organic prints reminiscent of the islands of the Mediterranean, with the urban street canvas of deep indigo. I'm reintroducing these elements to reveal my vision and originality.
How important is wearability?
Wearability is very important to how I design. The concept and aim was for the collection is to be comfortable and relaxed for the wearer through an exploration of oversized silhouettes, yet feel effortlessly cool. It's functional: there's lots of press-studs, and where I could I made seams, fastenings, and panels detachable. I also didn't want the garments to strictly have a front or back but rather let the wearer to control, play and experiment with how they want to style the pieces. The unfastening of the press studs embraces body movement and brings the garments to life.
Denim is interesting because depending how you look at it, it's eternally in style but also anti-trend. Do you think about trends when you're designing?
Not exactly. I believe in catering to what fits best to the research of my design work. To be honest, I am not a huge follower of fashion so I am never really drawing inspiration directly. However, my work is heavily influenced by street style and how to change the perception of simple pieces into my own way.
My graduate collection has provided me with so much already, the positive feedback has been so fulfilling. I was lucky enough to be one of the winners of a Australian Fashion Foundation scholarships; each year they select two emerging talents in fashion and provide them with the opportunity to intern for a fashion house in Europe or the USA for six months. For now what's set in stone is to gain as much experience in New York as I can for as long as I can, and come back to Australia to place my hand print on the Australian fashion industry.
Text and styling Jamie-Maree Shipton
Photography Agnieszka Chabros
Hair Phoenix Ly
Make Up Tara Lama
Model Kelsey @ Chadwicks