Fatal feminine energy that is ready to conquer the world and have it at one's feet, that is how you can describe the aura of ARAKHNE, the young fashion brand founded by Athens-born Dimitris Karagiannakis. Just a year after graduating from the Royal College of Art in London, Dimitris made himself a name by his outstanding work that projects femininity as a moving power of the world.
Reimagining the archetype of the modern Greek goddess, he reminds us how powerful femininity is. His creations have momentous energy embracing softness, power, sensuality, boldness, seduction, independence, darkness and lightness derived from ancient Greek myths. Opening this motif in a modern light Arakhne became a synonym of empowering femininity in all people who embrace it, especially prominent faces from the LGBTQ+ community, who immediately connected with the narrative and became part of the lookbook and the film - Purgatorio: Canto XII, that discover at the end of the interview.
Hello Dimitris! Thank you for joining us! Let’s begin the discussion with your first steps in fashion. As far as I know, you started your creative journey as an architect, before studying fashion design; something one reads easily in your creations. They’re clean and geometrical, and your sharp shapes hint at architecture. How and when did you come up with the idea to pave your way in fashion? Was it something from your childhood?
Hi Nino, thank you so much for having me! Yes, for better or worse, I’m that cliché of an architect who likes to do a bit of everything. I originally studied Architecture in Germany and even though I loved it, I felt that something was missing, so I decided to pursue my interest in fashion with a MA in Fashion Design at the Royal College of Art. I was truly always occupied with all aspects of design, even as a kid, and I remember I used to have sketchbooks in which I would draw my dream house or furniture I’d like to make. Actually, fashion came last and it was through discovering designers like McQueen or Mugler that I understood this medium could be quite fantastical, that it could focus on world-building.
As an architect, do you envision fashion differently? Do you implement any architectural principles to your pieces?
It depends on the project. I am very interested in silhouette and tailoring and love working on the construction to create the illusion of a stylised body. At the same time, there have been instances where I explore architecture more abstractly, investigating its experiential aspects. I haven’t demonstrated that yet at ARAKHNE because the process currently is quite different.
So what does your process look like now? Could you describe to us how ideas are birthed at first and how you nourish your mind to produce your pieces?
I always begin with the narrative, a story that I connect with, which carries a message that I think could resonate with other people as well. We tend to forget how much power stories hold; they shape beliefs, give hope and inspire people to act one way or another. My work attempts to dissect those tales, turning them into symbolism that immerses the viewer in my mythology, keeping in mind, of course, that the result cannot be costume and thereby cannot lack a sense of realism. From there, elements find their way into details that make sense for the brand. I love experimenting with techniques, whether that be traditional handcraft or digital. However, the narrative remains the driving force, because at the end of the day, fashion has to have meaning, to be political. The world right now doesn’t need more clothes, so the least we can do as artists is initiate a conversation and hopefully, spark systemic change. Every choice you make matters.
Arakhne 3.jpg
It’s not difficult to spot a strong connection to your native Greek roots. How do you think your heritage helps you to envision fashion and what topics does it provoke in you?
Greek culture has a long tradition of favouring storytellers. From theatre, to philosophy and history, we tell stories to give meaning to the world and to pass knowledge onto the next generations. And in a way, that’s exactly what I try to do with fashion; I weave my truth into each collection and hope that others will understand and share my beliefs.
With creating your brand, ARAKHNE, you profoundly and frequently started talking about the notion of a “modern goddess”. What provoked that idea in you?
What sparked the idea is precisely the fact that those stories we hold near and dear are not always truthful - and unfortunately, we rarely question them. Upon rereading the myth of Arachne, I perceived her as an (anti-)heroine trapped in a society that did not understand her. Cursed by the gods because she used her gifts to speak up against their injustices, she represents myriads of women who suffer under the same patriarchal oppression. I felt that it was my responsibility to rewrite an apotheosis and showcase the importance of Arachne’s metamorphosis in a different light. Her story is the story of many women in my life, who are at the center of my work.
Let’s go further and discuss the power of the muse in these terms. Is there an archetype that informs your process?
I wouldn’t say there is an archetype. I’m inspired by the fearless; creative, passionate individuals who do not compromise their values for their ambition. I am very lucky to be working with some amazing people who are always contributing, actively or passively, to the work and often times, I start my creative process by envisioning them in the mythology. My friend, Sakeema Crook, for example, who I’ve been working with for a couple of years now is as much a muse as she is a contributor.
Arakhne 4.jpg
You graduated from the Royal College of Art just over a year ago, and already your garments have been worn by Shygirl, Sevdaliza, Cara Delevinge for the Pirelli calendar and much more. It feels like each of these women embody the myth of Arachne and are ultimate personas for your brand. Can you describe, from your standpoint, who is your ideal customer, the face or representative?
That is very hard to pinpoint in today’s world. There are so many different people that could be a part of the brand that I wouldn’t want to limit it to an ideal.
Most recently, with launching your brand, you also created a fashion film for the collection, featuring an incredibly inspiring cast of people. What was the collective message there?
The film reflects heavily on the notion of interconnectedness and collaborative storytelling through the lens of the queer experience. It reimagines the story of Arachne, locating her in Dante’s Purgatory where she’s been cursed by Athena and setting her on a path toward atonement and self-acceptance, where she discovers the importance of humility and weaves a network of resistance for her divine punishment. Working together with other condemned souls she finds their way to salvation, a transformation that allows them collectively to leave Inferno behind and ascend towards Paradiso.
How did you come up with the concept of the film? How do you think it communicates your brand?
We collaborated with my very talented friends, musician and director, Malthus, and performance artist, Ekin Bernay, as I wanted to elaborate on the origin of Arachne’s myth and expand the world-building by bringing a sense of lyricism to the otherwise silent collection. Directed and scored by Malthus, Bernay’s performance design sees a cast of trans, queer and non-binary performers move to an industrial opera, before a runway presentation unfolds in front of a heavenly light, our Paradiso.
In all honesty, ideas flow naturally when you are working in an environment where you feel appreciated, so the process felt very organic. Knowing each other well and fully trusting their vision, meant that I could rely on them to grow the project creatively in every direction. For the first time, I could let my otherwise controlling instincts take a back seat while I kept overview of the brand’s identity, ensuring that we stay on theme.
Arakhne 6.jpg
Flowing from here, as I understand that in your work there is a special place for collaboration and connection with other people who bring some of their stories, thoughts and interpretations to the brand, how did each collaborator contribute to the final outcome?
Every single person who participated in the project, from the performers, to the videographers and the production team, all contributed in creating the outcome. For example, Sakeema, who I mentioned before, was the protagonist, our Arachne, and she brought so much characterisation to the role. A project like that requires a lot more than modelling, so being a performer and dancer certainly helped her add dimension to the choreography. Similarly, all our models went above and beyond for the project, investing themselves and being vulnerable for the story.
Even the editing process is such an important part of creating the final outcome that you get see, so without the vision of our amazing editor, Lousiane Trotobas, and colourist, Alex Dow, we would have ended up at a very different place. I think people underestimate just how much goes into what ends up on your screen. Somehow that makes me anxious for our first live show!
Looking throughout scenes of the film, it gives the feeling that your pieces are very performative - there is some kind of movement that makes garments alive. Do you think a multidisciplinary approach, such as a film, elaborates a collection differently than a lookbook?
Absolutely, a lookbook offers a very limited perspective of the whole picture. It is a window into our world, but you have to balance between commercial and artistic vision, to allow the clothes to speak for themselves while translating an often-times very complex message. A film, on the other hand can be longer, layered, and the movement definitely brings a sense of life into the garments.
What’s next for you and ARAKHNE?
I have been working on my next collection, Hyacinth’s Rebirth, that will hopefully be presented at the beginning of spring, which I am very excited about! It’s the retelling of the myth of Apollo, Zephyr and Hyacinth; a story about love, envy and metamorphosis, and although it’s taken a bit longer than expected, I realise that I have to work through the emotions.
Arakhne 5.jpg
Arakhne 8.jpg
Arakhne 7.jpg
Arakhne 9.jpg
Arakhne 10.jpg
Arakhne 12.jpg
Arakhne 11.jpg
Arakhne 13.jpg
Arakhne 14.jpg
Arakhne 15.jpg
Arakhne 16.jpg
Arakhne 18.jpg
Arakhne 20.jpg
Arakhne 19.jpg
Arakhne 21.jpg
Arakhne 22.jpg