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Kyriakos Michaelides Tailor Museum
Kyriakos Michaelides Tailor Museum
Nicosia’s Most Renowned Tailor
348
Evgeniya Kondakova-Theodorou
Author: Evgeniya Kondakova-Theodorou
Translation: Jordan Worsley
Photo: Daria Saulskaia
24.05.2019

As with many other countries, clothing in Cyprus was traditionally manufactured either at a tailors or dressmakers (a needlewoman or seamstress) or by the owner themselves. Naturally, tailors were different, however, the most well known and skilful — as is the case with the best representatives of any profession — are long preserved in history and people’s memories. One of such famous Cypriots was the tailor Kyriacos Michaelides — the greatest master in Nicosia, who has been remembered for several generations.

The Museum (until recently a studio — in Greek “rafeio”) was founded in Nicosia in 2012, under the initiative of the modern stylist and designer Maria Irene Ioannou. She tells us:
“While preparing for the visual part of my master’s diploma in arts and museum management, I made repairs to the old studio of a men’s tailors — the entire job took me three months. This was necessary to my research on a practical basis, while the aim was to transform the closed and nowadays unused studio of Kyriacos Michaelides into an exhibition space. Items from the studio would be used for the background, forming a display which would be open to the public”.

So, this private museum lies in a small, glass pavilion in the very heart of the historical centre in the country’s capital.

The tailor museum is a rather well-known sight and an interesting visiting spot for both foreign tourists and the adolescent generation of Cypriots — a place where the youth will be able to comprehend the beauty and complexity of a traditional tailor’s craft, which in 1960s Cyprus went through a phase of active development.

The open display is located in a small space, featuring old furniture belonging to the former tailor, sewing machines and measurements of K. Michaelides’ regular clientele, as well as photos of him hard at work. Woollen fabrics with embroidered patterns lie on workbenches, ready to be cut and shaped, while you can see catalogues and fashion magazines from bygone years lying on tables.

Note that magazines were by and large Italian. Thus, evidently, Italy was already calling the shots in business and luxury style, even in those years.

A poster in colour, titled Facis [1] from 1973, lauding the “manliness of Italian style” and proving its influence.

Kyriacos Michaelides Tailor Museum in Nicosia, Cyprus

For those of you who sew independently, it will be interesting to examine the accessories from that time (threads, buttons, spools) as well as a set of regular and bottomless thimbles — convenient for sewing outdoor clothing. You can also see tailors’ instruments, such as French curves, a set square, ruler and tape measure.

The display features pieces which tell of how the fashion collections of past years were created, primarily for well-off Cypriots (after all, the services of a good tailor were not cheap, and Cyprus was no exception to this common rule): from concept creation to manufacturing new designs. You will be able to see mannequins and fashion journals, examine old sewing machines, French curves and other sewing accessories.

The most interesting and graphic moment for any guest will no doubt be seeing the torso mannequins dressed in coats and jackets (several of them were ready for clients; while others remained to be finished); or, if you look at the leg mannequin, you will see tailored trousers respectively.

It must be noted that many of the exhibits are gifts from previous clients and their families. The costumes (from 1968 and other years) as well as the coat (1948), for instance, were gifts from the families of Kapetaniou and Giorgos Theofanous.

Judging by the data from this archive, the average suit cost 75 pounds.

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Visitors are offered the chance to familiarise themselves with the biography of the studio’s former owner — once the most well known in Nicosia. Kyriacos was born in 1915 in a village south of Nicosia. There, he finished primary school and headed for the capital to learn about tailoring, working under the master Grigorios (Gregory), who was famous at that time.

Ten years later, in 1938, after having learnt the intricacies of sewing and tailoring men’s suits, young Michaelides opened his own studio.. at the end of Lidra street on Kalogiros square, in the Old City. In those years, this was the main trading street and constantly brimming with noise. In 1945 he married Yiannoula Kafisa, who not only became the mother to their three children; but also a loyal assistant to her husband and a capable seamstress. For this reason, in fact, several items from a woman’s wardrobe (a coat, women’s costumes etc) can be found in Michaelides’ workshop. You can also see a second working station with a sewing machine, at which Yiannoula used to work (her photo is hanging near it).

In the years 1955-59, during the Cypriot fight for liberation from British rule, the neighbouring Lidra became a place of intense clashes, even acquiring the nickname from the British “The Murder Mile”. In the 1960s, when clashes between both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities had begun, not only were businesses in danger, but also the lives of the tailor and other artisans; they moved to the village of Alambra, where they remained until 1973.

The owner of the former building, where the studio was situated, was the Faneromeni church, whose Council decided to demolish the previous build and construct a new location for commercial use.

The tailor moved to a new place (the one which we are in today); where he laboured for a long time, from the years 1973 to 2006.

Linking to this, today we can see items relating mainly to the 1970s era: irons similar to those used by our parents, a rotary dial telephone, high-backed chairs with cushioning for clients and replicas which have faded away in the sunlight. On the shelves of an open wardrobe with glass doors, the master’s workbook is displayed, with samples inserted from his modelling orders; there are also diplomas and even wedding photos in an album, as well as, amongst other things, invoices issued by high ranking clients. Various items and accessories relating to everyday life in bygone years are rather touching in their level of unsophistication: a decorated glass tray, a wooden framed mirror with a pull-out drawer, old lamps and a small stove (possibly used for brewing coffee or heating the room when it was cold?).

Kyriacos Michaelides Tailor Museum in Nicosia, Cyprus

In other words, here you have life as a whole, with all its troubles, labour and joys, both small and large — right before your eyes!

Michaelides is well known for having loved his work and he considered the main factor to be the ideal tailoring of clothing, that is — to the highest standard for every client: he would always help them in advising on how to choose the correct material and design. Unsurprisingly, he tailored garments for the so-called “creme de la creme” of local society: diplomats, bankers, businessmen and politicians.

Those who knew him personally remember that Mr. Michaelides was a very quiet man, who loved his art. He and his wife were both great fans of the theatre and classical chamber music. Being a famous tailor and considered the best in Nicosia, Kyriacos worked here for many years and passed away very recently, in 2009.

We strongly recommend you pop in and have a look, at least in passing: the authenticity of the items, in particular, the preserved atmosphere of a departed way of life, contrasting to the pastiche mode of filling spaces with themed items for show — all of this truly drags you in and allows you to learn more about past generations of Cypriots.

Strange though it may seem, this place is perceived as completely alive; by no means is it a relic of the past.


The museum is open all year round (please arrange visits in advance by telephoning +357 22681570 or +357 99796333).
A paid municipal parking facility is located underground, close to the premises (see here), with 126 spaces.
Address: Nikokleous Street, next to Faneromeni church.


For your information

Nowadays, Old Nicosia has preserved quite a number of active workshops which tailor men’s suits and women’s outdoor wear.

Amongst them, there is: Neocleous Panagiotis (Thermopylon street), Angelos Korniotis (62D Ippokratous, tel: +357 226609020), Costas Artemiou (58 Arsinois, tel: +357 22662325); and not far from the centre — Koulla’s Needle and Thread (13B Dimitsanis, tel: +357 22760599) and others.

For those in Cyprus who wish to order something fitted, see here for a list of tailors across the island.

 

Until next time!


[1] The brand’s history began in 1930s Turin when the company Donato Levi and merged with Rivetti wool mills to form GFT (Gruppo Finanziario Tessile) and the brand Facis (the name stands for “Fabbrica Abiti Confezionati in Serie”). In 1932, Facis immediately qualified as a manufacturer of men’s clothing, including suits. This occurred thanks to the use of the best raw materials and the most advanced manufacturing technology, as well as the outstanding quality of its work. This resulted in shops opening, which offered their customers works from the brands Marus and Facis. This poster relates to 1973 in particular when the brand was becoming a genuine Italian prêt-à-porter.

In fact, beginning in the 1970s, with the development of world fashion, GFT was turning into a licentiate for the rising stars of that time in the world of fashion, amongst which there were today’s maestros Georgio Armani and Valentino.

Italian prêt à porter collections, produced under the Facis brand, had already begun to stand out amongst the rest, thanks to their unrivalled creativity and the highest quality finishing.