The Fashion Folk S02 ep6 : Dimitris Parthenis, Orsalia Partheni, [Athens]
Interview with Dimitris Parthenis
Dimitris Parthenis opened his first store in Athens in 1970 and his second in Mykonos in 1978 which launched his label internationally with flagship stores in Brussels and Los Angeles. Daughter Orsalia continues her father's tradition of "chic sportif".
Partheni: Parthenis is the brand and I’m second generation so I didn’t start it, I had the rules to
follow and rules to break.
Partheni: The brand Partheni started in 1978 and when this store was first opened and the store in
Mykonos, that’s part of the reason the brand says Partheni Athens Mykonos and I would say in the
beginning of the 80’s it started having a very distinct style because it was mostly known for its
black and white cottons, more like underwear used as outerwear, a little bit of an athletic feel, but
also very roomy and easy clothes and mostly in natural fibres. That’s what we do I mean I still
Partheni: I actually did not study this either, I’m an art historian by I would say education. I went
into studying history of dress as a Masters Degree in London and kind of slowly decided to do this,
although I was fighting it for a very long time. But I would say if you grow up in this business and
grow up means that because it was a family run company, even at home it was business, fashion
shoots, trade agreements, pricing, designing everything happened at home.
Partheni: I think it’s very important to have a concept and it’s also very important to know what
your brand is and I’m not saying that in a commercial way, I’m saying it in the sense of it’s very
important I think for someone to recognise a design, the designer from a design, without reading
Partheni: I came back after six years of studying, stayed for six months, could not bear being in the
family business, left again and then came back a year later. I decided that I had to prove myself to
the family and basically take over the business and I did it quite fast, I sort of said there can only
be one person running this and I will take the risk and I will do it. My father is also a very strong
personality and we had a clash, so one had to run this.
Partheni: It’s very different to be designing as a woman than as a man because I would say
although both my parents were in the business, the whole sort of idea and line was, the aesthetics
were mostly formed by my father and he has a sort of more monastic kind of aesthetic and I’m not
saying he, he resists sexy looks, but I would say that he not conservative in the sense of boring, but
I would say more clean lines and more not so girly. I’m not saying that I design girly clothes, I
don’t like them either, but I think when you wear them as a woman you actually see them in a very
different way than when you see them as a third party.
Partheni: You can’t always be objective because when you design only for yourself, everyone has
different body types, different ideas and sometimes you don’t actually get it. I’m not saying that I
only design clothes for myself, I actually like to have them tried on by many different people and
body sizes because we do a one size concept, which his also something quite unique. I’m not
saying that all our designs fit all the sizes, it’s actually the design that makes the difference and it’s
not just a different sizing of the same design.
Partheni: There are clothes that I would like to design that I think do not fit the brand so I don’t do
them, or I actually do them and then I scratch them out of the collection. I have a very distinct idea
of what the Partheni style is and I try to sort of invent new things and have the interest of new
designs, but still follow certain recipes that make it the brand.
Partheni: I try not to look at what the current trends are, that’s I think what makes designs look
similar, when people, I’m not saying necessarily copy each other, but when you always try to sort
of be in the beat, I think sometimes you actually end up looking similar. Trying to design style and
not fashion makes I think certain designs unique.
Partheni: Part of the whole idea of Grecian sort of ancient Greece and Grecian style I think has
been so overused by so many different designers, yes I do do drapery and I do use jersey so a lot of
designs will look a little Grecian, but I try to avoid it as a general trend of course there’ll be
Grecian designs in every collection. All ideas are recyclable and you get ideas from many different
places, not necessarily clothes themselves, it can be a mood, it can be the music that you are
listening to, what’s happening in music group, how they dress, I mean the whole idea of street
fashion always interests, and culture, interests designers.
Partheni: My brand has been mostly daywear. I’ve been steering towards evening wear lately but
again simpler evening wear, sort of not so dressed up. Most Greek designers make evening wear
because they mostly do not make a prêt a porte clothes, it’s more made to measure.
Partheni: For the purposes of a fashion show you have to show layering, you have to sort of have
different textures, but sometimes you know we design for a fashion show and then we re-design the
collection for commercial purpose because it’s not necessarily saleable in the Greek climate. And
yes, we do have an extended summer and for that reason I think a lot of Greek design is a bit bare
and sexy because of that. I try not to do that so much because I don’t think it’s the brands identity
Partheni: The whole concept of you know black tie and cocktail again is kind of blurred. People
tend to not necessarily dress up for occasions or dress too much for occasions. I think it has to do
with how the lifestyle, the workday has extended so much I think you don’t usually have time to go
home and change, so daywear turns into evening wear quite easily with a few accessories or by
Partheni: In terms of style I like very simple not necessarily minimal, my designs have been
described in the past as minimal, I wouldn’t say it’s 100% minimal, because there are intricate
designs in simple designs in terms of cut or in terms of proportion and sometimes the simplest
clothes have the most difficult cuts. It’s very easy to basically embroider something maybe it’s not
easy to actually do it, but nowadays a lot of embroidery is done in countries where embroidery is
done in big quantities and sometimes I think I find it with customers as well, they tend to sort of
over pay for decorated items, which are not necessarily more intricate than simple items. Or
basically a lot of the you know the Zvarovsky and all that I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan of that.
Partheni: A lot of the fabric I have it manufactured from scratch and especially with the jerseys
they’re made by order. I actually order a lot of yarn and then have it made into fabric … yes, I also
have some imported fabric, for example silk production in Greece is very small, it’s only in T…
and it’s quite expensive there. There are some interesting fabrics I’ve used in past collections.
Partheni: I’m not saying that we’d never go to Premiere Visian, it’s just that I haven’t been, it’s
also I have a very distinct idea of what I want to use so I don’t want to confuse myself very much
and that’s another thing that actually leads to a lot of similar things because people tend to go to
the same exhibitions and be shown similar things, similar trends, similar ideas and you end up
having similar collections. Even if you ask for something to be made just for you, let’s say just for
the Greek market, you find an importer and you say I want this fabric just for me, someone else in
some other country is going to use the same fabric.
Partheni: We’ve had Jeremy Irons shop in this actual store here, we’ve had other designers shop in
Mykonos, I know Kenzle has shopped in Mykonos, Gianfranco Fereray used to shop in the 80’s so
we’ve had other foreign designers shop from us.
That must be a compliment.
Partheni: Yes it is a compliment.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Dimitri Parthenis, Orsalia Partheni, Athens