by Fanny Khoo
An all-over flower print dress by Mastori*Motwari Studio—aka Maria Mastori and Filep Motwary—features all over the poster for a fashion exhibit currently on view at the Mode Museum Hasselt in Belgium. In very good company, the duo counts Hermès, Pucci, Dries Van Noten and Lanvin as fellow contributors. It's just the latest triumph for the Athens-born, Paris-based designers. Here, they discuss their Grecian formula.
The two of you are well-known as a Greek fashion partnership. Can you describe how you got together?
Filep: It was never planned, really. We were both working for a designer [in Athens]. Maria was responsible for the jewelry and I was working as the first assistant designer. We would only say hi or smile to each other. Then I left for Paris to see if I was meant for this business. Maria supported me in this decision. I decided to stay in Paris, working as an intern for John Galliano, Dior, Chloé and as a sales boy for Erotokritos. Two years later I went back to Athens. Maria wanted some costumes to present her new jewelry pieces with. I guess the rest is history.
You said in an interview that you’re not sure where you stand in the Greek fashion landscape. Has that changed at all?
Filep: Unfortunately, Athens hasn’t really changed. Indeed there are a lot of talented Greeks, but 90% of them receive the recognition they deserve outside their birthplace. It’s not normal. On the other hand, there is this 10% that is talented and still live in Athens. With their precious support, faith and help, we have created some of our most memorable Mastori*Motwary creations.
Your designs work together like a dream. Have you considered collaborating with other people as well?
Maria: We always work with other people. Our project Nuptialis stars in a great fashion film directed by French directors and photographers Suzie Q and Leo Siboni, with the support of Moonwalking films, Vogue.it and Stimuleye.com. None of these people live in Greece, but to get it finished, it would have been impossible without the help of our Greek friends.
From what I’ve seen of the Nuptialis exhibition, it’s almost like an epic Gothic romance. Can you take us through your inspiration behind it?
Maria: Nuptialis is a story based on womanhood, wisdom, virginity, sex, tradition, the marital ceremony and the symbolism of flowers. The collection is about two complete outfits, made in 2010, by using vintage couture techniques and finished in approximately three weeks. When we placed them on the mannequins in our Athens studio, we received an email from [fashion curator and author] Lydia Kamitsis. She was preparing an exhibition in Athens based on traditional garments, with the participation of foreign and local designers. She asked if we had something to show her. We did, and instantly she chose one of the two Nuptialis outfits. We had already photographed it with our close collaborators Thanassis Krikis and fashion editor Nicholas Georgiou, so there was a complete concept around it, even before Madame Kamitsis contacted us. Nevertheless, her exhibition was a success and one year later we received a request to participate in PRINTS, an exhibition hosted by the Hasselt Mode Museum in Belgium, featuring other designers like Dries Van Noten, Hermès, Pucci and Miu Miu. We feel honored to be on the cover of the exhibition catalog.
Some have described your work as taking fabric and textures to the "next level." How do you feel about that?
Filep: Maybe is true as year by year people get older, more experienced and more solid. It’s the nature of things. If this evolution is also visible in our work, then we take it as a compliment.
Filep, it’s been years since you started designing under your own label. How has the journey been?
It’s been long and not easy. You see, I have always been a dreamer. I am more in the subconscious than in the conscious. I see fashion as a language through which I can express myself. The sounds of this language are the fabrics, the models, the storyboards, the feeling I get when I see my creations put in a context or in movement. I tried almost everything in order to make my work more accessible: retailing, selling one-off pieces, made-to-measure garments. Each of these communicative categories demands a different point of view and approach. I reject them all. I want to make clothes when I am ready and when my consciousness asks for it. A collection could be only one dress; another collection could be 40 dresses. It makes no difference to me, as long as I get pleasure from what I created. I make my own rules and hopefully there is someone out there, apart from Maria, who understands my point of view. But I am young still. There is so much to learn, so many people that will come across my way. Fashion is a way for me to be. This is why I serve it in many other ways, apart from making clothes. I am also a journalist who's interviewed many fashion pioneers.
How do you think your clothes best represent women of today?
That’s a tough one. Yes, I do design for women, but I am not sure if all women could be represented by my clothes. They are for the few, those few who need something more than a dress. The dress should be just a small detail to the whole of a personality.
Maria, your jewelry has been touted as quasi-couture. How has the collaboration with Filep and his costumes been?
Naturally, anything created under the context of a common project with Filep is under the same vision. I am never worried whether or not a piece can go with a garment. My jewelry becomes an attachment to the garment, like the aliens in that Sigourney Weaver movie. Then, together they are reborn as something complete. This is how we always do it. Of course we discuss the collections before we move to production, but not everything can be always controlled, otherwise there would be no room for surprises.
You’ve obviously had a strong legacy in jewelry. What do you think the future of jewelry is?
I am very optimistic for the future of jewelry since they have become much more current than they were a decade ago. A necklace, ring or bracelet always brings happiness when worn. It represents a personal attire message. Regarding the design process, I am glad the industry has evolved to such a high level, introducing new materials for me to work with day by day.