Greek fashion designer Dimitra Petsa wants all women to love themselves. "Every form of love exists within you: platonic love, sexual love, motherly love, friendship, anything," she says via video call from her seaside home in Athens. "There are not only forms of love available for you to give to others, but also to yourself."
Between creating clothes for FKA twigs, Gigi Hadid, Kylie Jenner and American Vogue cover star Paloma Elsesser, the 26-year-old designer has held virtual self-care workshops every month since lockdowns began around the world. world in March 2020, during which time she perfected her collection (titled I am my own mother), as an ode to feminine self-care.
With a degree in performance and fashion from Central Saint Martins, Petsa's online workshops (a combination of movement-based work and poetry reading) aim to normalize conversations about the female body and bodily fluids. “If you cry in public, you have to hide it. If you breastfeed in public, you have to hide it,” adds Petsa. "[This season] we have nursing tops and more maternity clothes." The designer's AW21 collection and accompanying film also feature floor-skimming "wet look" garments, and she uses an elaborate draping technique that took her nearly six months to master that creates the effect of being submerged in water.
By Cecilia Suárez Olvera
Ahead of her film's premiere at Paris fashion week on March 3, Vogue caught up with the brilliant designer to discuss her dedication to self-care, how she created a collection during a global pandemic, and why it's crucial to maintain intimacy in performance art.
Directed by Petsa, the film was shot in a studio set against a forest-like backdrop, where the models stood in a singular but with an air of union in puddles of water, inspired by the essay by the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard Water and Dreams. The photo shoot shows the models standing on small ponds with artificial earth encased in crystal jewels. Keep an eye out for the patterned raincoats made from cotton waste and nursing pockets ("Not necessarily just for breastfeeding women, but a statement about treating yourself and feeding yourself") the all-seeing eye print on knitwear and one of her proudest garments this season, a silk-spun and gold-embroidered dress, which took two weeks to complete.
“I worked with the Lyceum Club of Greek Women, a local women's group that was born in 1911, and preserves traditional Greek techniques and crafts. I had to rethink my way of working due to the pandemic, as I was previously using a lot of tissue from dead material [whose availability has decreased due to Covid-19 production delays]. I was able to immerse myself in the experience of dyeing materials and using embroidery techniques that date back to Byzantine times. The goal was to experience how to turn really old crafts into new pieces. I am fascinated by the idea of creating garments that have history. The gold-embroidered Gorgona dress was made from 1960s raw silk that one of the women inherited from a sailor. In fact, I had the woman who made it add her initials to the front of the dress."
“This entire collection is inspired by the monthly full moon workshops that my team and I started running at the beginning of the lockdown a year ago because we miss performance art and that feeling of connection with fellow performers. The project became a powerful self-healing journey for me and my friends. Hugging yourself is encouraged during sessions because it's important to feel like you can always "fall back" on yourself - your body loves you and wants to protect you. In the workshops, we also discuss presentations on humidity [taking place in the class] and the body's connection to water, as well as topics related to self-love and self-mothering. The title of the AW21 collection, I Am My Own Mother, refers to how we give love to others versus the love we give ourselves."
By Anavi Acosta
“The collection's hand-carved jewelery is a continuation of SS21 – everything has a protective element to make you feel secure. I researched healing stones and semi-precious stones used in ancient Greek rituals for this collection. There are rings inscribed with little prayers, as well as necklaces of smoky quartz and amethyst, which have to do with grounding and self-cleansing. I have often been reassured by healing stones during turbulent times in my life."
“I've dealt with self-image issues, especially growing up, and I want to reinforce the idea that anyone can be beautiful. My clothes represent self love, manifestation and intentionality. The positive messages I have received from people who have attended the workshops or worn my clothes have been heartwarming. I met one of the models, Evelina, through a workshop. I find inspiration in many different people - my muses this season include my mother, close friends and my grandmother, who was a seamstress. I attribute my love of fashion to him. Her relationship with her clients was very intimate, almost like a psychologist and a client.”
“It was directed by me and shot in a studio to replicate a woodland setting and ethereal mood (with social distancing measures) and the we finished 10 days ago. Each interpreter is alone but maintains a certain stillness. “One of my best memories happened backstage with one of the pregnant models. While wearing a silver embroidered dress, all the models gathered around her and started congratulating her and then the baby started kicking. It was a very sweet moment. That intimacy and naturalness is what I love about performance." Watch Di Petsa's AW21 film I Am My Own Mother on YouTube.