Stephan Caras, who was born in Corinth, Greece has designed some of the most sophisticated and distinctive creations for men and women around the world.
After attending the Fashion Designer’s Academy of Melbourne, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and the St Martin’s Theatre School in Australia as a teenager, he has gone on to establish the prestigious couture fashion house, ‘Stephan Caras Design Inc.’ in the heart of downtown Toronto in Canada.
Today, he is not only considered an internationally renowned designer, but also a sensitive man who understands, respects and can define a woman’s femininity and sensuality. This is what has enabled him to successfully and masterfully create intriguing collections that promote elegance, class and self assurance.
Here in an exclusive interview, Stephan Caras talks about his philosophy, his inspiration, his family and life in general.
Stephan, how did you first become interested in fashion design?
The fact that my older sister was a designer has something to do with it. At a very early age I spent most of my time in her studio playing and experimenting with various scraps of fabric that I could find in a box where she kept all of the left over fabrics.
What was the first article of clothing you ever designed and do you still have it?
A pair of shorts for myself with matching sandals made from scrap fabrics that I found on the floor of my sister’s studio. I regret not having kept them.
Where do you get your design inspiration?
Femininity and beauty in general gives me a lot of inspiration. Also my previous work inspires me a lot.
You have said that your inspiration comes from the femininity that women exude. Do all women exude femininty?
In my opinion, yes. Women naturally possess femininity within. What inhibits some women from exuding their natural femininity is the lack of self assurance. A woman will naturally exude her femininity if she wears something that looks good on her in style and in colour rather than what is promoted as something in ‘style.’ Besides black, no other colour is suitable for everybody, nor any trendy shape or look. Women need to wear what expresses their character the best, and what is compatible with their personality and colour complexity. In my view, fashion is an expression of self.
What do you enjoy most about designing clothes?
When I can transform an idea of a specific shape into a physical form that was conceived out of nowhere. This process is the ultimate pleasure for any artist.
What is the most challenging part?
Just when you think that you have completed everything, you realize that what you have just created can be re-invented. Once you direct your imagination into this path, a new horizon of design unveils itself.
How does designing jewellery differ from designing clothes?
The concept is the same, creativity transforms itself into shapes. The only thing that differs is your medium.
How long does it take to construct a piece from beginning to end?
This can never be determined! Some items take only a few hours and some can take days. It depends on the style complexity, and on the materials that are being used. Some fabrics do not agree with a specific shape or form. Like most things in life, a compatible chemistry is necessary.
Stephan Caras Design Inc. is located in an extraordinary landmark building which the interior has been designed by yourself. How do you feel when you step inside this splendid working environment?
We designed the interior of this magnificent building to suit our personalities and to serve our needs. We wanted to have an environment that is pleasant
creative, and unique. We achieved this by combining classy modernity to this neoclassic landmark. I feel a sense of pride when I walk into this splendid space.
Tell me a little about ‘Corporate Career Wear.’ How do you manage to combine comfort and durability to achieve a contemporary look?
I put a lot of emphasis on comfort. My belief is that a woman can not exude femininity if she feels uncomfortable. Sometimes women will go to certain degrees of discomfort to wear something more contemporary. This is unnecessary if the engineering and the construction of the garment is planned properly. Durability applies more to timeless styling or corporate wear. Durability depends on the quality of materials and the construction of the garment. There is no reason why a garment should not have longevity and be comfortable at the same time. ( In 2000, Stephan Caras was chosen amongst other designers by one of Canada’s most valuable brands, ‘Tim Hortons’ to design and develop its career wear and update its image. Today, all Tim Hortons employees and owner operators are dressed in the career wear designed by Stephan Caras.)
What is the most difficult aspect of running your own label?
It is extremely difficult to run your own business and be creative at the same time. Over the years I have learned how to separate my entrepreneurial from my artistic roles. It is a very complex process and it requires long hours and dedication. I have a wonderful team headed by my wife Sharida and my son Kyriako that support all aspects of the business. Kyriako is also my design assistant. The most difficult aspect for any independent designer is the business financing.
Do you support the community and try to use local models for your collections?
I like to support the local models. In any professional and artistic community, local cooperation creates better strength for the community. Canada has excellent models and I am happy to use them.
Do you have any preferences between women’s fashion or men’s?
I definitely prefer women’s fashion. You get very creative with various shapes and have many different fabrics to work with. I am also inspired by femininity, this alone gives me the incentive to be creative. I enjoy designing men’s clothes too, but you are limited to what you can do in shapes and restricted to only a few fabrics. That can be a challenge at times, but the interesting thing is that you work more with details.
Who is your most influential designer?
I don’t allow myself to be influenced by other designers, everyone expresses fashion in their own way. I like to express that with my own vision of femininity. I admire the works of Valentino for its femininity, Ungaro for for its fluid construction, and Yves Saint Laurent for its classic modernity.
How have women changed over the years? Are they more self assured compared with women from the golden age such as Sophia Loren or Jayne Mansfield?
Ava Gardner, Brigitte Bardot, Gina Lollobrigida, and Raquel Welch. This was the golden movie age! They all portrayed the self assured woman of this era. In my opinion, it was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis that made the difference. She did not follow trends, she had her own style that influenced the public and the fashion world. As a result, yes! Women of today are more self assured.
Talking of women, Sharida, your wife is a wonderful example of elegance and femininity. Is this where some of your inspiration comes from?
She has always been elegant and feminine. She inspires me to a certain degree, but I don’t focus on her alone. Every women has her own femininity in her own way. My designs are for all women.
How involved is Sharida in the business? Do you listen to her views and follow her advice?
Sharida is very involved in many ways in the business. We listen to each others views but we do not necessarily agree all the time. At the end of the day, we both have one common interest, and that is what will benefit the Stephan Caras brand. We respect each others opinions and we find a way to connect them. She is my sounding board and bears me with grace. I can be difficult at times.
Kyriakos, your son is already following in his father’s footsteps. What are his plans for the future?
Kyriakos’ future depends on his desire and the ability to materialize his dreams. He is uniquely educated academically as well as in all aspects of these business. He has been technically groomed ever since he was a child, and he has an amazing flair for style. A style that is his own and he has the ability to transform and materialize his concepts. In due time, he will decide when he is ready and it is the right time for him to venture out and pursue his dreams.
On a more personal note, how would you describe yourself as a person……do you have any weaknesses?
Internally, I see myself as gentle, romantic, and compassionate. My weakness is that I have too many strengths.
I know that you appreciate art. Which architect or artist do you particularly admire?
My favourite architects are Frank Darling and John A. Pearson. They were iconic Canadian architects in the early 20th century famous for their Beaux-Arts and Classical revival styles. They were commissioned by the Canadian Bank of Commerce at the time to design their banks, including the building that we currently own and operate as our World Headquarters. Their inspiration was influenced by a Greek revival at the time, and saw the construction of many buildings with a Neo-Classical aesthetic. This, in many ways, has tied a personal connection to my roots in Greece.
How often do you travel to Greece and where do you like to go?
I visit Greece 2-4 times a year. I love being with my family and I enjoy cruising the islands. The mainland has a lot to offer and there is so much to see. The enchantment of Greek history makes it a unique place.
Are you afraid of what the future holds in the present global economic crisis?
I am concerned but not afraid. I never fear a materialistic crisis. I have learned to be a realist and a survivor. Nothing is ever permanent, we must accept all situations, and be prepared to face diversity within uncertain times. There are millions upon millions of people who go through an economic crisis all the time. I feel that I am blessed, and it will be an insult to God and to the people who are truly having difficulties during this time if I fear the fact that I may have to do with less.
Do you encourage youth of today to take risks and help them to realize their dreams?
Absolutely! Life without dreams is a journey without destination. We need to pursue our dreams with all its risks. The biggest risk in life is not taking risks. “It does not matter if we win or lose, what matters is that we follow our quest” (Don Quixote).
What piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to start a career in fashion?
One must be prepared to work extremely hard, have absolute faith in his/her design ability, and must have a lot of technical knowledge. He/she must be properly financed and to always work by this philosophy… “There is always someone more talented out there”.
Stephan Caras, will be shooting his exquisite Spring/Summer Collection 2012 at the Club Hotel Casino, in Loutraki and unveiling it during the Athens Xclusive Designer’s week in October. For more information and to receive a newsletter: www.stephancaras.com.