If you’re wondering who Celia Kritharioti is, you’ve been out of circulation too long. She’s a preeminent bridal couturier, famous for gowns of incomparable beauty—museum-worthy works of art for which the world’s brides-to-be, among others, patiently queue to be fitted. Founded in 1906, the business operates out of a stylish atelier in Athens’ historical center, Plaka. She paused to give a little insight into the world of opulent fabrics, intricate embroideries, and dreamy fantasy—and how it feels to have presented at Paris Haute Couture.
The Celia Kritharioti fashion label is three years older than Chanel! That’s quite some heritage. Do you feel the weight of history on your shoulders?
It’s a privilege to be part of this great history—not just the history of the transition of fashion but the history of the changing role of women in Western society. I feel blessed that I can still work at the same atelier that was designed by Jean Desses, with seamstresses who are experts in the techniques of haute couture, and welcome clients from all over the world who want the experience of having a dress created only for them.
You grew up with fashion design in your blood because your family was in the industry. Did this mean you had to work even harder to prove your talent?
I was studying Business Economics, but my love of fashion won. My childhood was connected to fashion—travelling with my parents to Paris for the fashion shows at Dior, Chanel, and the couture houses; watching seamstresses creating a dress. I learned to work hard—always have and, hopefully, always will. It’s not to prove something, but because it’s my passion. I feel so lucky that I can do what I love and show my work in Athens, London, or Paris!
Do you have siblings to share the running of the Celia Kritharioti business?
Both my sister Lenia and brother Nikos are in the business: Lenia runs the 5226 prêt a porter Collection, 5226 Princess, and the Christening Collection; Nikos has his own Menswear Collection 5226, creating bespoke suits. 5226 is our father’s date of birth and our way of honoring him.
Congratulations on presenting your SS17 Collection at Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week—a very proud moment. Did you feel that all your efforts had paid off?
A few years ago the British edition of Vanity Fair wrote: “Celia Kritharioti is one of the six couturiers in the world worth watching,” as a tribute to our craftsmanship and the detailed handmade work. “Beautifully feminine and embellished concoctions from this couturier to the stars,” they said. It was a childhood dream to present my creations at Paris Haute Couture Week, and it’s an honor to get positive reviews in BritishVogue, or ELLE France, or L’Officiel. It’s also wonderful that my work is acknowledged in the heart of fashion industry, and that Greece, despite all the difficulties and challenges, can still create.
You have designed everything—Olympic Air uniforms; stage costumes for Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga, and the Greek National Ballet; fabulous wedding gowns; red carpet outfits. Celia Kritharioti haute couture and the brand’s 5226 ready-to-wear ranges are seen on stylish women all over the world. Have you achieved your ambitions?
It’s not a matter of ambition. As a designer, I always seek new means of expression. Either it’s a fashion show in Paris, London, New York or Athens, or it’s working with talented dancers, actors and directors to create costumes for Romeo and Juliet or Swan Lake. Designing different garments for special occasions is what I do.
The next show in Paris in July.
You opened a retail store—what was the motivation for this?
The first flagship 5226 store opened in 2014, where women can find the 5226 prêt a porter Collection and exclusive accessories made in Greece. It’s an opportunity for all those who love the Celia Kritharioti brand but whose budget doesn’t stretch to haute couture, to visit the 5226 store or the 5226 eShop and discover affordable luxury.
It’s tough coming up with new ideas year after year. Where do you find your creative inspiration?
Inspiration is everywhere as long as you’re ready to take it. From art and music to street fashion and my teenage daughters’ tastes, there’s always something to intrigue me that I can transform into fashion. Above all, I want to present a woman at her best. That goes beyond seasons and trends.
When did you discover Swarovski crystals? Can you describe the role of our crystal assortment in your collections?
Fashion is a game of fantasy and creativity, a magical world that glows. The most defining factor is the noble shine of Swarovski crystals. Having collaborated with the world-famous embroidery experts, Maison Lesage, I really appreciate the extensive color range and innovative designs that Swarovski presents at every collection.