Greece, by Gogos

“This one goes much, much deeper...” The artist and designer’s first collection of wearables created and showcased in Greece is a soul-stirring odyssey through his ancestry, heritage and sense of identity.

 

Written by Alexia Petsinis June 2024

Image credit: Runway at Jordon Gogos’ Guest Designer collection for Haute Grecians, 2024. Photo: Panoulis Photography




Jordan Gogos is in Athens, and he’s spinning. The whirlwind of nostalgia, inspiration, and sensory (over) stimulation he’s experiencing in forty-degree heat here in the ‘motherland’ is almost too much for him to handle. The Greek-Australian artist and designer is here presenting his first collection of ‘wearables’ as Guest Designer at Hautes Grecians, the sixth edition of the country’s main haute couture event. It all feels rather colossal: Gogos in Greece, showing a collection of wearable art sculptures that reinterpret Greece, with the fabric of Greece literally stitched into each one. This is Greece, by Gogos. 

“It was like an out-of-body experience inside that house,” he says, recalling his visit to his ancestral family home in the Corinthian village of Kato Assos a week earlier. “When I stepped inside everything seemed exactly as it had probably been left sixty years ago. Men’s ties were flung over the open closet door, piles of folded clothes and blankets on the edge of the bed, and tattered lace curtains that hadn't been touched since they were last drawn. I was alone, but I felt people all around me in there,” he says without taking a breath.


 

Image credit: Jordon Gogos’ Guest Designer collection for Haute Grecians, 2024. Photo: Panoulis Photography

 

This visit to the now-abandoned home where several generations of Gogos’s family were born, raised and lived their whole lives sent ripples through his psyche. It transformed his perspectives on heritage and belonging, offering the most soul-stirring source of creative inspiration for his Hautes Grecians collection. Gogos, being Gogos, salvaged what he could from the home in the few hours he was there. Dodging crumbling walls, side-stepping decaying furniture, and risking his lungs with dust inhalation, he examined every textile and decorative object in plain sight: handmade laces, striped floor runners, boxes of buttons, bronze coins, tableware, haberdashery, trims…And as for the furniture that looked like it had been sat in only an hour ago, perhaps a project for next time.

Gogos, being Gogos, carted these ancestral relics back to his apartment in Athens, proceeding to wash them, mend them, polish them, and bring them back to life on his balcony in Monastiraki under the Athenian sun, already a fireball in early June. They will take pride of place in epic silhouettes alongside a spray of kitsch tourist paraphernalia, second-hand objects and other textiles he has scoured every back street in Athens for over the past two weeks. With no sewing machine to inflict hell upon, every piece of wearable art is hand-cut, hand-stitched and hand-embellished on his balcony, with the Acropolis as his witness over yonder on the Attica plateau. He’s not doing this alone. He has a crew here with him for this Athenian odyssey, including his studio team, supporters and muses, including Mary Argyropoulos, Brittany Wyper and Nathan Angelis, who have been by his side since day dot, along with creative collaborators Sophie Georgiou and Ross Blainey.

These two weeks in Athens leading up to Hautes Grecians have been a moveable feast for the group. Between hours-long production stints on his balcony where everyone is flexing their sketching, cutting and hand-sewing skills in helping to bring the collection to life against the clock, they make a beeline for cultural jewels such as the Benaki Museum, the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST), the Acropolis Museum, and of course, the top of the Acropolis itself, where Gogos sat in a limestone daze and sketched mythological scenes while tourists took selfies around him.


Image credit: Jordon Gogos’ Guest Designer collection for Haute Grecians, 2024. Photo: Panoulis Photography

 

Everything he sees, smells, tastes and touches seeps into his creative consciousness: the ouzo’s soothing anise burn, the scrappy street cats dozing on doorsteps, the ‘HELLAS’ typography on deadstock t-shirts from tourist shops, the gold brocade of Orthodox priest vestments that shimmer in shop windows. “Can you believe they sell these bookmarks for one euro, one euro!” he holds a bunch of fabric souvenir bookmarks embroidered with traditional Greek soldiers and turns them over. “Look at the stitching on the back. These aren’t bookmarks; they’re masterpieces!” Soon enough, they find their way onto a toga-style tunic with a patchwork of other tourist paraphernalia.

Let’s not forget that just over two weeks ago, Gogos had Australia on its feet applauding his monumental ‘Chapter Four: The Woven Trojan Horse’ collection presented at Australian Fashion Week under his eponymous label, Iordanes Spyridon Gogos. This collection of ‘wearables’ included collaborations with Australian fashion and art legends such as Akira Isogawa, Jenny Bannister and Linda Jackson. The designer and his team were still out of breath from pulling off that epic spectacle when they boarded the plane for Athens, shifting their focus to this first collection in Greece and an official ‘entry’ into the European fashion-art scene. It’s the day before Hautes Grecians, and his hands are so raw from the intensity of the sewing that he feels like he needs a cortisone injection. Model fittings, adjustments, behind-the-scenes filming and press interviews will endure on his balcony until the early hours of the morning.

“This feels like so much more than fashion or even art for me. This one goes much, much deeper in a way I can’t even put into words,” he says.

“I feel like everything I pick up is layered with history, culture and symbolism. There are layers and layers of meaning in one single object, whether it’s something from my ancestry or something I’ve picked up in a shop. Whereas when I work in Australia, I feel I have to create that meaning. So, in many ways, I feel a bit more like a curator in what I’m doing here. I’m arranging all these symbols and references, not actually creating meaning from scratch.”

It’s a hazy evening at an abandoned power station in the outer Athens suburb of Neo Faliro. Gogos, being Gogos, didn’t pack an outfit for himself to wear to Hautes Grecians, so he borrowed a shirt and shorts from his studio right-hand Mary and attacked them with scissors. He is one of five designers showing his collection at the esteemed couture event and the only international Guest Designer. His thirteen-piece collection of wearables will beguile this Athenian audience of fashion, design and media personalities with a vision of Greece that has welled up from his psyche over the past two weeks - Greece by Gogos, a Greek-Australian. They have probably never seen Athenian metro cards sewn into a skirt like this before. Sandal-clad models charge down the runway like warriors, each ‘wearable’ like a feat of art-armour in itself. They are urged on by a gripping remix of a Mikis Theodorakis composition from the 1969 film ‘Z’, chosen by Gogos.

Image credit: Detail at Jordon Gogos’ Guest Designer collection for Haute Grecians, 2024. Photo: Detail Astrinos Alexakis

 

Anyone who has seen, touched, or worn a Gogos 'wearable’ is aware that each is a sculpture unto itself. The tattered lace curtain he saved from his ancestral home now cascades like a fishing net down the front of an asymmetrical white dress, and the kitsch ‘Adonis’ apron he bought in Plaka is the hero of a boxy tunic patchworked together with a series of ‘70s fabrics that seem to have come straight from Yiayia’s living room. There’s a regal hand-painted hessian robe with knotted shoulders and Greek soldier-doll embellishments that could be an offering for Poseidon and a toga-style patchwork ensemble that’s fit for the ‘god of tourism and travel’ (if only there were one…), complete with everything from Greek bus cards to tourist bookmarks and Hellenic motifs from pencil cases.

It takes Trojan courage and belief in one’s own vision to present a collection like this, in the country that has always been at the heart of Gogos’s creative musings spanning culture, heritage, mythology and beyond. It’s a collection that reinterprets an experience of ‘Hellenism,’ past, present and future, in sculptures for the body that people might queue up at a museum in Greece to see one day. But Gogos isn’t overly concerned by how this audience in Athens will receive his work. He smiles, watching the show unfold, knowing he has achieved something he has long had a calling to fulfil, something that is utterly part of his story as an artist and designer. With his ancestors and the gods watching on, no doubt.

 

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