“THE GREEK IS... VERY BRAVE. A WARRIOR & RESILIENT... THE GREEK IS ALSO
A DRAMA QUEEN.”
Having collaborated with some of the most renowned designers globally, Greece’s very own vogue icon and entrepreneur Lakis Gavalas is above all an eccentric, down to earth character who gracefully applies a touch of Greece to the world of fashion.
Gavalas welcomes Portes Magazine editor to his residence and studio in the posh Athenian neighborhood of Kolonaki to discuss the evolution of fashion and his love for Greece, just before embarking on his summer escapades to the islands of Tinos, Mykonos, Paros and beyond.
An avid traveler and admirer of the country he calls home, aside from the islands, Gavalas frequently visits the lakeside city of Ioannina, colloquially known as Yannena. Once the headquarters of the famous Ottoman-Albanian ruler Ali Pasha and his favorite wife Lady Vassiliki, Ioannina also served as a hub for artisans specializing in the technique of intricate gold and silver thread embroidery.
On one of his visits there, Gavalas discovered and acquired two exceptionally rare antique children’s vests. With an eye for creating extraordinary flair, Gavalas added the heavily embroidered vests to an Anatolian style robe as eloquent extensions to its sleeves. “I respect the historical significance and value of the era these pieces belong to, after which, I use them to create something for today,” he says, posing in embrace of a Charioteer of Delphi statue replica adorning his apartment.
A paradox of sorts who combines the vintage with the modern, the extravagant with the simple, Gavalas has no doubt derived inspiration from the elements of Greece that captivate and inspire. When it comes to color, he is a fan of the bold, rich palette characteristic of Byzantium and the intricate attire of the revolutionaries: gold, silver, black, and the dark red and blue hues of πορφυρό and Klein Blue.
Exploring the history of fashion and garment construction influences Gavalas’ creativity. Fashion trends, he explains, are very much connected to people’s daily needs and the era’s existing and emerging technology. “Fashion really begins with textile manufacturers who create fabrics with the technology available at the time,” Gavalas says.
“For example, in the past in Greece we had the κουρελού and the heavy woolen attire, and thus the trend of the βοσκός (shepherd) style, the σεγκούνι and other pieces derived from wool and animal skins.”
Gavalas’ blending of conservative and bold details is reflected in his personal style, though less so in his fashion line. “Because I am very daring, I enjoy combining the vintage with the modern,” he says. “It is not something I recommend for daily wear, however. The .Lak collection is very basic.”
A trailblazing fashion icon of the 70s and 80s, Gavalas says that like his fashion line, today, he is pretty basic for his standards. “Nowadays, I’m as basic as the Lacoste logo,” he says smiling. Even so, the designer loves to don creative hats and headdresses of his own design, sometimes flowers or even lamp shades. And let us not forget his famous collaboration with Hermès in creating the limited edition Kelly Lakis bag, along with his custom made Greek flag-inspired Hermès Kelly.
When it comes to fashion trends, while Gavalas acknowledges their benefit as a guiding force and industry money maker, he hesitates to embrace fast fashion. “It’s one thing to be fashion-oriented on a budget, and another to become a victim of cheap, fast fashion… to buy and buy and not know what it is you actually need,” he says.
For Gavalas, Greece, and particularly Athens, serves not only as a striking inspiration, but also as grounds for developing one’s perspective and personal outlook on life. On his way to dance classes, he would often pass by Hadrian’s Arch, the old entrance to Athens.
“I was always captivated by those towering columns… I never understood with what scaffolding they built these,” he says. “I realized that to become or build something significant in life, you have to build your way to the top yourself, and then support it for the rest to see… I live by this idea.”
As a man with extensive international travel and artistic vision, Gavalas has made other facets of the arts part of his life. In a parallel universe that best characterizes his inner self, Gavalas envisions himself having been born in Egypt, traveled to Persia, tasted caviar in France, and, to no surprise, vacationed in the one and only Greece. “In my dreams, I see myself dancing the sufi in my youth, then oriental, then ρεμπέτικα, χασάπικα and ζεϊμπέκικα. This is how I feel. This is who I am,” he says.
Appreciative of the rich creative attributes of other cultures, Gavalas is a proud Greek in love with his country. And how does the designer and businessman define the Greek? “The Greek is very brave, a warrior and resilient, something influenced by our ancient roots,” he says. “The Greek is also a drama queen. Socrates drank poison for the fame, Kolokotronis was locked up high in Palamidi to show that he was wronged for being jailed… Greeks therefore, are drama queens, and I like that. Because that’s how I am too sometimes,” he says with a smile. Gavalas, who has lived his very own challenges, spent over a year in prison for a business fallout he dealt with with humor and resilience.
“The Greek is also a coward, however, because while he is a μάγκα, he doesn’t emphasize his feminine side very well. It doesn’t stop at the φουστανέλα, you know… the Greek can also add some lipstick… meaning, he doesn’t decorate himself as much as he could,” Gavalas says, pausing. “I’d love to see how you’re going to translate all this now,” he says with a smile.
Like the timeless, classic pieces of fashion, despite the challenges he’s faced in the country he adores and calls home, Gavalas demonstrates creativity and endurance with a sense of grace. “I would like to be remembered as a person who, despite my plural existence, always strived to bring calmness and progress to what lifestyle means,” he says.