vasilis loizides’s collection is inspired by queer pride and mediterranean history
The Cypriot designer talks to i-D ahead of his autumn/winter 19 presentation next week.
Photography James Emmerman
This article originally appeared on i-D US.
Growing up in Cyprus, Vasilis Loizides loved history and collecting “beautiful little chachkis." Later, he surprised himself by moving to New York and attending Parson’s, only two months after applying. After cutting his teeth as a designer at Marc Jacobs and Nicopanda, Vasilis launched his own brand fueled by his appreciation of Greek-Cypriot culture, and the love he holds for the New York City queer community. Vasilis sat down with i-D a week before his fall/winter 19 presentation to talk ancient artifacts, commercial viability, and the afterlife.
It’s the Tuesday night before the presentation. Run me through your day.
I’ve been working really hard this past week on finalizing the garments for next season. Since it’s the week before the show, everything is really intense. Tomorrow, I have casting. Today, I participated in a Fashion Week podcast. I have hair and makeup tests and fittings. Every single day has things that I have to accomplish on deadlines - all these other things you wouldn’t even imagine, like making the credit list for the show, and your guest list. I’m kind of chaotic but I think I’m coping okay with it [laughs].
What’s the concept for this upcoming season?
Kind of creating this allegory of a circus, but it actually serves as a symbolism of society, and how things are. It’s experimenting with the concept of performance and the relationship between the performer, the viewer, and the trainer, and how these roles interact with each other in society. It’s taking that and creating this fairytale of a retro circus, and playing with all of these roles together, and who holds agency over each other, or power - the power dynamics between all these figures.
Your casting is tomorrow. What are you looking for in your models?
There’s definitely a look that I’m usually going for. I really like to use people that haven’t been seen before, or haven’t been in other things so much. I would say the look is not so much a next-door kind of face, but more like a cinematic face - if you think of people that Wes Anderson would use or Pedro Almodóvar. These interesting faces that, with themselves, can tell a story and can really pull off the clothes. The clothes are very editorial, so that it makes sense for these kind of figures to be wearing them, so that they almost own the clothes, which I find beautiful. Of course, always, for the brand, queer visibility is very important for us. And diversity, obviously, which I think is a term that is used a lot nowadays. We try to really actually be honest and include a lot of people and convey a lot of stories that haven’t really been seen or heard through our casting.
Especially considering that your last collection was based off the inspiration from your home country Cyprus, a part of the world which is a meeting of continents.
Yes, that’s so true. It’s in the middle of three continents, which is why it’s always been invaded throughout history [laughs].
Is every collection inspired specifically by Cyprus in some way?
In general, as a designer - and an artist by extension - my living in Cyprus for so many years really influenced my references and, my - if you want to say - design vocabulary. But every season I pursue a different fairytale. The first season was a retro horror movie, the second season was a Floridian-environment crime noir story, and then the third season was about Cyprus. I wanted to do it because I really miss home and I love where I’m coming from. I guess because I was born and raised in Cyprus, my work must reflect that, even subconsciously. But not every collection is necessarily addressing Cyprus, or inspired by Cyprus.
You’ve returned to region in your SS19 images which are full of Greek mythological motifs. Did you grow up learning these or did you research them for this collection?
Back home, we have a really good education in terms of history. I also studied the history of art at Parson’s. I had a lot of classes that had to do with history. I always love watching stuff on YouTube and interviews of historians and people who research history. It’s kind of an ongoing interest of mine, I’m very fascinated by the past.
For this collection, I was actually very fascinated in the collection of the photos. I was fascinated with artifacts from my own country that are actually prehistoric, like thousands of years before Christ. I loved them for all of their character, and how they’re still standing proud, kind of serving as gatekeepers of the island - considering how torturous the history of the island was.
I also wanted to symbolize and create this allegory again, as these artifacts, to me, symbolize how the soul is. I believe the soul stands the passage of time and it’s eternal. If you die, your soul transcends to the ethers. I used a lot of these allegories and playing with the concept of these beautiful statues. And in following, a lot of the volumes and the shapes that I used are inspired by them. And the color palettes are very Cyprus - seafoam color palettes, lilac, natural tones like blues, like the color palette that you find on the island.
I used poppy flowers, which in Greek tradition - because I’m Greek Cypriot, and half of the island is Greek and half is occupied - symbolize eternal sleep. And Cyprus’ name comes from the Latin word for copper because it was the biggest trade spot for copper in ancient times. That’s why I use a lot of copper tones in the collection as well, and a lot of poppies.
Are these concepts of history, death, and the afterlife things you’ve thought about your whole life?
Absolutely. I’m very interested in spiritual matters. I’m always in progress and I try to figure out ways to enrich myself and my soul. I’m also fascinated by the occult. It’s always a dialogue that I have within myself, I guess. I’m kind of finding answers and I love reading books about these subjects as well.
And history in terms of gender?
I think if you look in history, a lot of ancient civilizations were matriarchal, like the Minoan civilization in Italy, which was actually in an island next to mine. It was a huge civilization and women had the power and the authority. I think history has beautiful examples of cultures in the past that have been not so patriarchal and masculine in a way, but really prosperous and successful.
When you talk about your community, are you referring simultaneously to the people of Cyprus and also to the queer community in New York?
Definitely, definitely. For sure. I would say in the queer community in New York, even though I’m coming from such a far place, I really feel close to the people here that I’ve met. Obviously, back home the gender stereotypes are more prominent so coming here from a small island, and seeing how everybody is celebrated and how everybody is accepted and loved, it’s a really beautiful thing. It’s very inspiring for me, in terms of the brand also, to make what I make and be here, living in New York City where it is okay.
It’s perfect timing for you as a designer, as genderless clothing is becoming more normalized.
That’s so true. I do think that it’s kind of become a buzzworthy concept or a little bit of a trend, which is not good - it’s always not good to make something a trend. I do think that after the trend, things will be normalized.
It’s certainly a double-edged sword to be at the forefront of challenging gender norms in fashion, when you want it normalized but you have to be the one to do it. I feel like you also have an interest in creating through mediums like video and film as a designer, rather than, say, social media.
I don’t feel like I’m a grandiose personality kind of designer that goes out and parties or is more crazy in terms of posting content that’s super… cool. I’m a little bit of an introvert in a way, I like to do things private, I like being private. I like the brand to feel organic and I love creating, using all these mediums, working with film - I’m working with my friend who’s a director and we just made an amazing film. Collaborating with all these people and using all these mediums to convey different ideas. But I don’t post that much crazy stuff (laughs).
Vasilis Loizides will show FW19 at Creative Drive on Monday, February 4th.
Photography James Emmerman
Video Directed by James Emmerman
Edited by Nikita Merrin