Daphne Valente

Daphne Valente | Lesoleilfoundation

Daphne Valente

Daphne Valente

The garments made by Daphne Valente are nothing short of ethereal poetry. Through the technique of moulage, fine pleated fabrics gracefully embrace the body. The ideal choice for any woman in touch with her feminine side but also endowed with a strong intellectual side.

In order to design her collections, Daphne's inner child is encouraged to combine, deconstruct, break straight lines and create movement in a loving and delicate way, bringing balance between the contemporary mood and past memories.

L.S.: What were your first fashion-related experiences?

D.V.: I grew up surrounded by elegant women! My mother, my grandmother, my aunts and cousins, were really paying a lot of attention to their appearance, always well dressed and made up, so inevitably they became my first role models.

I was a very artistic child, with a great ability to mold and sculpt, but extremely shy. I overcame my shyness when I decided to express my creativity in the crazy clothes I designed for myself, in my need to stand out in the crowd. Although I was at first drawn to the theater, I finally decided to study fashion design.

L.S.: What was your first creation?

D.V.: My first design was in jewelry when I was 12! I used to spend my summers in a spa resort with my Grandmother and being testless I started making bead jewelry and selling them to my Granny’s friends, eaching pocket money.

L.S.: What lies at the heart of your fashion house mentality?

D.V.: When I was a student at St Martin’s School of Art, visiting Brighton Museum to see the exhibition of Mariano Fortuny, I fell in love with the designer's pleated, Greek-inspired gowns. This unforgettable experience opened my horizons towards my creative expression.

Coming back to Greece to launch my first collection, I started experimenting with pleated fabrics and I follow the same path for 35 odd years!

I can summarize quoting that: I am influenced by my Greek roots, creating timeless, sculptural, feminine, contemporary designs.

L.S.: Tell us about your current collection.

D.V.: ‘Rainforest blues’, my Summer 2020 collection is inspired by the need to save all of our planets forests, and in particular the Amazon rainforests, from massive destruction. (Strangely enough, the collection was completed in July 2019 and sadly, in August, the Amazon was devastated by wildfires).

In this poetic, yet sensual collection, the clothes resemble exotic flowers, sculpted by a repeat pattern of pleated fabric petals. The dresses have organic shaped panels forming gigantic exotic leaves or they are masterfully fashioned to resemble tree trunks.

The pleated fabrics come in earthy tones or they are printed in a camouflage of dense foliage and tropical flowers, creating an inspired collection that shifts the agony cry for Nature’s slow death, to a sweet song of hope, because only by raising awareness we can make a difference.

L.S.: What inspired you to choose pleating that has now become your signature style, rendering your designs into sculptures?

D.V.: I express myself better in three, instead of two, dimensions. The pleated fabrics in their sculptural quality, revealed to me an exciting way to drape on the female form, creating as I say... “floating sculptures”!

L.S.: What would you say influences you the most?

D.V.: I’m influenced a lot by the arts, by nature, by the Ancient Greek aesthetics and I am guided by my “less is more” mentality.

L.S.: How did you manage to incorporate soft geometric patterns and your Ancient Greek approach to the modern way of life?

D.V.: I never follow trends, I just do what my instinct tells me. My customers appreciate the timeless quality of my designs, the comfort in wearing them, the easy way my clothes travel in a suitcase and the unpretentious way they capture the attention in their elegant simplicity.

My designs are classic, but in a very contemporary way!

Theatec costumes

Photos: Tassos Vrettos

L.S.: Your work is at the same time an eco-statement. Tell us about that. Do you consider yourself an activist?

D.V.: I strongly believe that fashion, just like art, has a voice and can pass a statement. In the 35 years of my career, I never used fur or leather in my designs. I am an animal lover and I stopped eating meat when I was 10 years old because I couldn’t understand why we cherish our puppy but eat a young lamb. In my young mind, eating meat was a form of cannibalism. I believe that people should stop and think, before the consequences of Earth's overexploitation will be irreversible. Now, everybody’s top priority should be the need to save the planet in any way we can. I just hope that the ecological movement will not be just a trend in fashion but will become a conscious decision for vital changes.

I am not an organized activist, in the sense that I don’t participate in demonstrations, I just voice my beliefs and hope to create awareness.

L.S.: Besides fashions shows, you have also participated in two individual exhibitions and several group exhibitions in art galleries. Tell us about that.

D.V.: At some point along my path, I became disillusioned by catwalk presentations and clothes, so I decided to concentrate on Sculptural Jewelry, presenting my work in art galleries. I felt the need to interact with art lovers and the space of a gallery was the perfect location.

L.S.: Would you like to share a few significant moments from your career?

D.V.: My degree show at St Martin’s was the highlight of my student years. My collection of dresses with printed optical illusions was featured in the press and got me an order from Brown’s, one of the top London designer stores.

My first fashion magazine cover only months after I established myself in business!

Representing Greece in a European designers show in Düsseldorf and seeing my designs in British Vogue!

The thrill of seeing the Hellenic Fashion Week materialize after months of hard work!

So many precious moments in the past and hoping for many more to come in the future!

Daphne Valente

L.S.: In your opinion, how will the fashion world look like in the post-COVID times?

D.V.: During the lockdown, most of us reviewed our lives, our values, our needs. We all discovered, the hard way, that fewer things in life matter than we thought before. We are all geared now towards comfort, sustainability and slow fashion. Trends that expire in a few months are now considered a waste of money.

Therefore, I think that fashion will follow in this track of new values.

L.S.: How about future trends? Or is it time for a style linked to the creator and not to seasonality?

I believe that as long as the situation is unsteady due to COVID, the trends will ease down and the need for comfort will prevail. I never believed in trends so I hope that each designer will be free to express their own style.

But fashion moves in unpredictable ways so we should always be prepared for surprises!

L.S.: Tell us about the jewelry and the accessories that you design.

D.V.: I love working on my jewelry! They express my character in a big way being fun, lighthearted! And colorful!

L.S.: Is there a particular garment that is recurrently inspiring you?

The “chiton”, the seamless, ancient Greek garment that drapes around the body is constantly my inspiration, because in my designs I avoid unnecessary seams and let the fabrics free, keeping my garments as simple as possible.

L.S.: Share with us a phrase that reveals everything about you.

Being a highly sensitive person, my character is described in this quote by Cati Vanden Breul:

“One of my favorite aspects of high sensitivity is finding wonder in the smallest of things.”