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October 23, 2017
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From Athena Procopiou's S/S 2013 Garden of Majorelle campaign. Source: athenaprocopiou.com.
Athena Procopiou
Scarf from Athena Procopiou's S/S 2013 collection.
Source: athenaprocopiou.com.

Athena Procopiou's delicate designs have been quickly snapped up by the likes of Harvey Nichols, Liberty London and Net-a-Porter; however, little has been written about the designer that has made a career from spinning fairytales into fashion - somewhat surprising given her eclectic life so rich in achievements and travel.

Procopiou first trained at the Conservatoire Royal de Musique de Geneve as a pianist, before travelling to Paris to study History of Art at Christie's Education. Two years later, she began studying for a degree in Illustration and Graphic Design at Central Saint Martins, and then eventually started work as a freelance designer and illustrator in London for various magazines, fashion labels and fashion brands.

Establishing the "Athena Procopiou" label itself was unexpected for her, though, and according to Procopiou, "happened very naturally". She recalls, "I had no idea I would end up with a brand! […] My first 'small big break' was with my second collection, entitled The Island. It was all about tropical prints and my travels in the Indian Ocean. That's when Liberty picked me up. But I would say that people went crazy over my last S/S 2013 collection, entitled The Garden of Majorelle. This collection is about my trip in Morocco and the oriental fairytales behind it."

With each passing season, Procopiou continues to be picked up by a growing roster of shops. "I am truly blessed I'm in Net-a-Porter, Barney's, Liberty, Harvey Nichols, Matches and Harrods. But I am also really happy to be part of smaller shops that I absolutely love, like Shop at Bluebird and Salt in London and Owen in NYC."

In a kaleidoscope of ethereal colour, the delicate cashmere blend scarves have been given names such as Sunset at Narnia, The Ice Queen, The Sky of Red Butterflies, The Legend of the Dandelion, and The Luxurious Fairy Flowers.

It has taken a great deal of hard work to reach this enviable point, not to mention a lot of trial-and-error. "I started with scarves… they are a blank canvas for me. It's like a painting. But then, I am this kind of woman who likes hippies, the boho style and the beach. So I thought I needed to make some kimonos that would suit my kind of woman. I'm glad I did. People really like the kimonos and kaftans, and I plan on making more every year."

The "Athena Procopiou" woman is "chic yet a little bohemian. She likes travelling and chasing the sun. There's a print for every woman in my collections," explains Greek-born Procopiou. This is perhaps an apt summary of the ideal muse, given that the utopian designs are stocked across the world. However, it also feels like a particularly fitting description for the designer herself.

Raised in Switzerland, Procopiou has long been inspired by her surroundings. "My home is artistic. My mother paints, my brother plays the guitar and the piano and writes music, my sister likes photography and art and is a designer. I studied the piano until I was 19," she told The Genteel. "My whole family is very musical, we love music, we love dancing and we love stories. Growing up in a home filled with music, art and so on, made me what I am today."

These intriguing moments certainly captured Procopiou's youthful imagination and have since become submerged throughout her designs; most particularly, within her A/W 2013 Fairytales collection. "I needed to bring back all my childhood memories and all the stories I've been told," Procopiou explained. "It is a darker collection… at the end of the day… it's winter! So you will find lions, tigers, owls, wolves, foxes, birds, snakes… It's based on all the magical creatures and characters of stories that I will treasure forever."

Growing up, "I was a huge fan of [German-American epic fantasy film] The NeverEnding Story. I love Atreyu and the Flying Dragon and felt really scared of the Wolf. I was also really scared of witches (from Sleeping Beauty) and kept on waking up at night to go snuggle with my mother! I can't say there was one character that epitomises my childhood… it was all of them. From Cinderella to the Red Riding Hood… and all the feelings I had when I was told the stories."

In a kaleidoscope of ethereal colour, the delicate cashmere blend scarves have been given names such as Sunset at Narnia, The Ice Queen, The Sky of Red Butterflies, The Legend of the Dandelion, and The Luxurious Fairy Flowers. With each pattern laid out in a unique repeated motif, the whimsical graphics capture a fleeting fairytale moment while establishing a distinct sense of depth and movement within the hand fringed scarf.

Athena Procopiou
Scarf from Athena Procopiou's S/S 2013 collection.
Source: athenaprocopiou.com.

However, beautiful designs alone don't guarantee to keep the label afloat in this economic climate, and the designer has rapidly recognised the need to keep developing the business model. "People buy less and prefer to buy high street accessories," explains Procopiou. "But you still get clients who want to invest in a beautiful print on a luxurious fabric. It's a difficult economic climate but I am positive we will get through this."

Along with a web shop launching at the beginning of June, the ready-to-wear collection has also opened up to include a "bespoke" service. "I had a lot of requests," says Procopiou, "from someone who wanted to use my prints for her wedding dress, to someone who wanted me to create prints for their hotel bedding. I love working closely with my clients, getting feedback from them and seeing them happy with their new customised product!"

For Procopiou, the secret to this survival is in fact quite simple. "You have to be strong and try to please everyone. It's a difficult business… You have to stay creative and feel inspired most of the time. And most of all, you have to be happy and keep on smiling."

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