Long flowing sheers that fly around the physique like the winged goddess of Victory; shimmering whites offset by glints of gold and traditional architectural motifs mold the figures of a woman’s body so that costume and body become an extension of the psyche. This, the amalgam of traditional with modern design, is the hallmark of up-and-coming Greek-Cypriot designer Tatiana Raftis. At last, a Greek woman with Greek-inspired designs who caters to the Greekesque in you.
Raftis, a long-time resident of Astoria, first came under the spell of thread and needle under the tutelage of her giagia. “I come from a long line of professional tailors from both my mother’s and father’s sides of the family,” she states. “My great grandmother Maria was the youngest tailor in her village of Athienou, Cyprus. They would call her “raftou” which means little tailor. Our family’s surname eventually changed from Simillis to Raftis.” Raftis, especially remembers her grandmother Panayiota who would tailor suits for herself, her mother and aunts. “She was a true inspiration and made all her garments with perfect construction, fit and professional detail,” she recounts. Her ancestral memories are made up of her mother’s grandmother Elizabeth who herself had been a well-known tailor in her village of Mosfiloti, specializing in men’s pants and tailored shirts.
Perhaps it runs in the blood. As a child Raftis remembers her mother giving her scraps of fabric or old pieces of clothing to make clothes for her dolls. “At about 8 or 9 I started making jewelry out of beads. I would obsess and for hours, coming up with different techniques to make necklaces, earrings, rings etc. I brought them into school and sold them to teachers and friends.”
Raftis credits her bicultural upbringing as a source of inspiration for her designs. “I was born and raised in New York City, and my parents immigrated here from Cyprus,” she states. “I value both ends of my background and feel like it has given me the best of both worlds, culturally. I think my connection to urban environments and the Mediterranean each make their own distinct presence in my work.” Her designs reveal her fascination with antiquity and her meticulous attention to detail. “I love the classical Mediterranean style, and do my best to modernize it while still remaining tasteful,” she proclaims.
She holds a penchant for Balmain and Sass and Bide because they share the same asthetic: the combination of textures and designs to reveal the relationship between boldness and femininity. What makes a great designer, Raftis contends, is how passionate you are. However, she does put a stake in understanding the female body and knowing how to really construct a garment from every angle. And even though she knows all too intimately the bumps and curves of the Greek female body, she believes every female body is beautiful, whether petite or voluptuous. Raftis aims to create designs for the overlooked body of women, herself included, those with short, petite figures. “It has always been a challenge for me trying to find clothes that fit me without having to alter them,” Raftis confesses. Taking this as a razon d’etre for her line, Raftis proceeded to create for the petite set who were tired of not being able to buy a piece of clothing and wear it immediately as it would need refitting, shortening, and alterations. “I design because it’s a passion of mine and create things just like any type of artist,” she says. “I do try to create my designs to flatter all body types, but I don’t start my design thinking how am I going to design this to hide a big bum.”
Raftis along with some other Greek designers was featured during Greek Fashion Week last year. She is currently in the process of designing the next Spring/Summer collection for 2014. It will feature more separates to mix and match in contrast to her previous line which involved more dresses.