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How to wear Grecian blue

For centuries, one colour has defined Greek style and this season the country’s leading designers are using it to great effect, Elle Blakeman reports

Elle Blakeman portrait
Elle Blakeman ,

In Greece, there is a colour that not only defines the land, but is deeply entwined with its history and culture. The uplifting shade of blue is today synonymous with the beautiful islands, matching the clear sky and lapping Mediterranean sea surrounding them. This colour was originally believed to ward off evil and was therefore used to decorate windows, doors, walls, staircases and fences in a bid to head off the approach of bad spirits, and samaria – blue ‘belts’ – were painted around buildings. Cupolas – the small dome-like structures at the very top of Catholic churches – would be painted in bright sky blue and are now an iconic feature of Greece.

From these superstitious beginnings, the colour has gone on to become the shade most associated with Greek style. In art, highly revered pieces were painted with the expensive gemstone lapis lazuli, the dress of the Madonna would always be the brightest shade of blue that materials allowed for, while statues of heroes, such as the one of Zeus in Olympia, had eyes of turquoise added to them. The Greeks then started to wear jewellery made with blue-turquoise stones, such as the ‘evil eye’, which is still a popular souvenir for visitors to the country.

It is no surprise then, that Greece’s fashion designers will often look to this historically important colour when designing their collections. The aquatic shade fits perfectly with the country’s traditionally fluid shapes and materials, and while blue is often associated with summer, in Greece it works well year-round. ‘Grecian blue is a timeless and an any-season shade which is why people choose to wear it again and again,’ explains international stylist Anna Woodham whose clients have included the London department store Selfridges and asos.com.

Athens-based designer Samantha Sotos is known for her elegant, flowing shapes and use of colour. Originally from Australia, she combines relaxed Antipodean style with the glamorous clean lines of Greek and European tradition, and her collections are peppered with long, graceful dresses and figure-hugging draped tops and matching skirts. She has embraced the shade of her adopted country with gusto: hues of peacock, electric blue and navy all making a regular appearance in her collections, while her headpieces, such as the recent Bird of Paradise fascinator, featuring two entwined shades of blue, can be seen as a nod to the ancient accessories of Greece and as a modern talisman for the superstitious.

Meanwhile, Ioanna Kourbela is making waves at home and abroad with her stunning, easy-to-wear designs. Her family has been producing handmade knitwear since 1971 and her collections retain the minimal aesthetic favoured by her relatives. Kourbela’s pieces are beautiful homages to the textile traditions of Greece – fabrics such as cotton, linen, wool and silk are dyed in natural shades of stone, white and blue, giving a light and airy look, and all designs are kept modern through the use of laser cutting and flowing fabrics.

When seeking dramatic-looking eveningwear, style leaders including Kate Moss and Carla Bruni have turned to Athens-born designer Vassilios Kostetsos. Sea green, sky blue and golden yellow are used to great effect on everything from fitted suits to draped floor-length gowns. But don’t let the draping fool you, as this is no ancient Greece throwback, rather a modern spin on traditional ideas: gowns are split up to the thigh or down to the navel, huge batwing sleeves are pulled in with ruched corsetry, and netted skirts reveal bright, high-waisted underwear.

For an equally opulent, yet slightly more wearable aesthetic, consider an item by famed couture designer Makis Tselios, whose flattering, feminine aesthetic often favours shades of blue, from chic, powdery grey hues in Gatsby-like suits to the seductive creamy cerulean floor-length lace and silks, finished with several strings of pearls.

And it’s not just women’s clothing that is bursting with Greece’s first colour. Menswear designer Nikos Apostolopoulos never fails to include the shade in his collections, and his most popular wedding suits are a very fitted version in a cool metallic blue, and a suave, looser style in powder blue.  Meanwhile, Sotiris Georgiou has plumped for a navy shade this season which he has added to long, boxy jackets and to structured trousers finished with a bold flash of leather.

From flowing goddess gowns to the sculptural domes of Athens and Thessaloniki, the country’s saturated shade is one that transcends trends.



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