The future of the fashion sector in Cyprus is promising one designer tells NIKI CHARALAMBOUS, but it needs creative solutions

Eleni Gircalli has come a long way since her university days in the United Kingdom. Today, she is an assistant professor and award-winning fashion designer at Frederick University, where she oversees the Bachelor of Arts in Fashion and Image Design programme. In addition to taking part in local and international exhibitions, she has designed and produced costumes for several theatrical productions.

Eleni’s first degree in fashion design, where she learnt every aspect of the process, from research and experimentation through garment fabrication and the finished result, has had a significant impact on her career. Through her education, she developed a fascination for the potential that a costume may have. “It seems obvious to me that design is intimately associated with experimentation,” Eleni said.

fashion eleni gircalliAccording to Eleni, fashion is a medium that represents realities across cultures and histories. “For me, design is a method of thinking that helps create previously unimagined new realities.”

She has explored many issues associated with identities and the performative aspect of fashion, emphasising the importance of costume design as a way of storytelling. “Costumes and their histories can provide an observation point for both cultural representations as well as cultural change,” she added.

Over the years, Eleni has experimented with artistic educational projects, including several dance performances. The central challenge she encountered was to design without a strict agenda, other than the predetermined style of choreography. “This freedom allowed me to creatively combine aspects of my work from my own research and work together with different materials in an innovative way.”

In 2017, Eleni was commissioned by the Cyprus Theatre Organisation of (Thoc) to create the costumes for Aeschylus’ The Persians, which was presented in Cyprus and at the Epidaurus Festival in Athens. Through her sketches, Eleni created a narrative of ideas and thoughts for the garments showcasing a distinctive product in terms of vision and design. “The clear goal for the production was to identify what the character would represent through wardrobe,” Gircalli told Living. “Working with other artists and exchanging ideas was an invaluable experience that helped me develop both my professional and personal style and philosophy.”

As a practicing fashion designer involved in the industry, as well as creating costumes for theatre and other performing groups, Eleni has noticed an evolution in creativity over time, encouraging her to modify her teaching strategies. She insists that research, innovation, critical thinking and experimentation are the hallmarks of academic success and sees her students as the future designers and problem solvers who are working towards creative solutions and products. “I undertake external projects in collaboration with the industry to give my students the opportunity to prepare for their future as fashion professionals,” Eleni explained.

fashion design (2)She encourages her students to plan, design, execute and present a unique project that will improve their ability to think critically and interpret correctly. “Their work is reviewed and discussed with me and with the other students, giving them the chance to work in groups, articulate their ideas, receive constructive criticism, and even make modifications if necessary. Outside research is also encouraged by visits to galleries, museums, exhibitions, fashion shows, retailers and suppliers.”

Frederick University’s Fashion and Image Design programme provides alternative pathways for students whose special interests and future aspirations lie in the fields of fashion media and fashion styling. “This programme fully addresses the industry’s current challenges.

“It examines the various media through which fashion and clothing can be artistically communicated, promoted and presented to various audiences, whether this is through photography, film, digital media, performance, music, advertising, fashion marketing and fashion journalism,” she said.

frederick university fashion show

Frederick University fashion show

Eleni wants to work with emerging designers to give Cyprus’ fashion industry a distinctive character that encompasses more than just fashion design and production but a wider scope of areas that include theatre, film, fashion photography, digital media, and more. “We want our graduates to be fashion designers who can work in a multidisciplinary context, create, communicate, promote, and exhibit fashion in a creative way to varied audiences,” she added.

The future of Cyprus’ fashion sector, she said, is promising. “The ability to conceptualise and create clothing that demonstrates in-depth and critical analysis, initiative, inventiveness and uniqueness will determine fashion in the future, providing designers take into account the key cultural, socio-political and economic factors driving present trends.”