Vassilis Zoulias has been a wild-at-heart, hardworking, noble and love stroke slave of the fashion industry for all his life. And he would definitely agree with me on this. Besides, his career took off at a fairly young age, when he started working as a fashion editor for various publications (such as Gynaika, Status, Votre Beaute and Vogue Hellas). There was this young charismatic boy who dove right into that colourful world he simply could not get enough of. New York, Paris, Milan, Athens, Mykonos. He simply would not sit still.
But it was back in 2003, when he decided to take the leap of faith, so he ventured out on his own, creating shoes and bags under the label VASSILIS ZOULIAS OLD ATHENS. His first Prêt-a-Porter show took place in 2007 and ever since then, he designs two Prêt-a-Porter collections annually. And in February 2012, he presented his first show in New York: “NEW LOOK NEW YORK”.
One of my favourite places in the heart of Athens is his Haute Couture atelier, a magical space where time stands still, almost from a different era, where magnificent dresses and gowns, handmade shoes and bags, colourful hats and gloves could easily rule the world. That’s where we met 48 hours prior to his Spring/Summer 2017 fashion show, for the interview. With models quietly running around, gladly taking off their jeans and sneakers for the last fitting. On a very gloomy day, over green tea, Swiss chocolate and English breakfast biscuits, all served in the finest of porcelain. I had arrived a quarter of an hour late for our meeting, due to traffic. And my trench was all wet. But he immediately noticed the black Portugieser on my wrist. Probably because five of his models would wear Portofino watches by IWC Schaffhausen during the upcoming show. But time, and timing, as I would later find out, have always been very important to Vassilis Zoulias. “Time is the only luxury”, hε said.
The Korean celadon, a specific shade of pale green.
Bel Ami by Hermès.
Favorite fashion designer of all times?
Yves Saint Laurent.
Who would you absolutely love to collaborate with?
The House of Dior.
The woman who inspired you most while growing up?
Many. But it was at the early stages of my career as a stylist, when I met Mara Desypris that I absolutely fell for a woman. I was and still am obsessed with her. She inspired me the most. And she still does. As a model, as a photographer, as a woman. You can’t possibly be a part of the fashion industry if you don’t have obsessions…
Most stylish woman ever?
Amalia Megapanou. I can still remember the day Jackie Kennedy visited Athens. And she was there to welcome her. Jackie was the most stylish woman on earth back then. But Amalia “erased” her. Standing right next to her, she was far more confident, graceful, chic than she could ever be.
It was definitely the most captivating, charming and stylish era, between 1955 and 1965. The most creative era, too. In architecture, art, fashion, music, interior design.
What inspires you most?
Women. You think of a woman, you try to imagine what music she is listening to, what she wants, what she needs. “The eye has to travel”, said Diana Vreeland once. Antonioni, Fellini, those were true inspirations too. And although I always walk forward, I enjoy secretly looking back. To what once was. And it suddenly looks different, when you recreate it to fit into the “now”. It’s all about research in this industry. In my atelier you will find the richest fashion magazine and book archive there is in the country. So you go after inspiration. You haunt it down, at times. You research for it. Amy Winehouse did this with her music. I do it with my sketches. The secret lies in observation. You need to look closely, pay attention to everything, every day.
Your biggest dream?
To direct a movie. Pretty much like Tom Ford did (with “A Single Man” and “Nocturnal Animals”). I can understand why many fashion designers have gone into architecture, interior design or even the film industry. It simply completes them. Over the years I have managed to transform my atelier and body of work into a world of my own, almost. One feels like walking into a different era, once he or she steps in. Directing a short fashion film would simply be the next step. And a thought that has been drilling my head for many, many years. It would be a drama, most probably (I love drama!). But in a Billy Wilder way.
Did you always know you’d become a fashion designer?
Yes, I’ve always dreamed about it. I’ve always known it deep inside. Working as a fashion stylist was simply a necessary step on the way. And since that chapter of my life lasted for more than 25 years (from 1979 to 2005, more than 20,000 images), we are talking about a huge staircase, probably. And at 20, I was lucky enough to be a part of that booming generation of the ’80s, watching fashion shows of giants in Paris. Letting all that creativity and passion fill me. And then came New York, in the ’90s. Those were true romantic times. We had nothing, really. And still thought everything was possible. So we did it anyway, somehow.
Is there a fashion shooting you will never forget?
With Mara Desypris. She was the model, so graceful, so out-of-this-world. And we were at a club (called “Ergostasio”). It was past midnight. Everyone around us was dancing like in a trance. And we were actually shooting a fashion editorial for Gynaika magazine right then and there. At some point I even found a stuffed bird and somehow put it on her head. The images produced were magical. They still are among my absolute favourites.
What is luxury?
Time. Only time. There is no such thing as “I don’t have time for this”. You always do. You simply have to set priorities. And make sacrifices, to fit everything important and necessary to you within a 24 hour frame. Every minute counts, every second is important.
Is that why you chose some of the models to wear Portofino watches by IWC Schaffhausen?
IWC Schaffhausen is a Haute Horlogerie House with a great history. And the Portofino watches are very feminine, chic and sleek. Without being girly. They almost come from a different era. Just like myself, and my collections. An era of noble gestures and honesty, elegance and true beauty. Where luxury was in the details, silent and deafening.
Who was the woman that inspired you for the SS17 collection?
Fiona von Thyssen. I met her earlier this year. She is 83 years old and still as elegant as she was at 20. I’m obsessed with her. She is now even more beautiful than she was back then – having that tranquility that only time can bring along. See? Growing older is a luxury.
And where would you ideally be in, say, 30 years from now?
Creating. Dreaming. Only calmer. (Just like I was as a kid, growing up on the island of Andros, running through fields of hyacinths – this image falls into my mind, when I think of myself in such a tranquil state of mind).
[All images shot with Olympus Pen EPL-7.]