Minimalism, elegant geometry, sophisticated colors and original fabric design are all signature characteristics of «maRia aRistidou & maRis» — a fashion label known in Cyprus and abroad.
Meet our guest for today, Maria Aristidou. She is a fashion designer.
I am a Greek-Cypriot designer and the creator of a fashion label. Despite the fact that I received my bachelor’s degree in commerce and economics and my master’s degree in career guidance, it didn’t stop me from going into fashion.
I was a big fan of fashion for men and women even when I was a child. I liked playing with my Barbie dolls and designing their outfits up until the age of 13. We didn’t have access to the same kind of technology that children have now. Things were lot simpler back then. I remember playing hide-and-seek with the other kids in my neighborhood. We used to build castles and pretend to be different gods on Mount Olympus. We spent a lot of time outside without being afraid of anything…
When I was 16 my uncle, who owned a clothing factory, saw my sketches and told me to focus on developing my skills in fashion. This was the first time when I felt like I could accomplish something if I keep working on it. Unfortunately, in my final years at school I got into economics and couldn’t apply to a fashion school.
That’s why I ended up studying commerce. But at the same time I kept designing costumes for my friend who was a dancer in Toronto. Then I got a chance to participate in a competition for young Cypriot designers (Cymode ’97) organized by the Cyprus Chamber of Industry. I presented 3 separate fashion looks and won the 2nd place. I think that’s when my fashion career launched.
There was one person, however, who had the greatest influence on my decision to become a fashion designer. It was my grandfather. He was a very elegant and sharp-looking man and even had a personal tailor and footwear designer. My grandmother’s sister, who was a seamstress, also set a good example for me. There was a time when I thought I should become a journalist, but then I started drawing sketches of clothing for women. I guess I couldn’t get away from fashion [Maria smiles].
The most inspiring part of the process is seeing my clients smile when they feel beautiful wearing my clothes. I also love choosing and creating fabrics and designing new patterns. Photo shoots and fashion shows are also extremely exciting!
There are many funny stories from my photo shoots and fashion shows. I remember when I first started making men’s clothing, I was hired to design security uniforms for one club in Limassol. Most of those guards looked like bodybuilders. I was so shy and felt very awkward taking their measurements. They saw this and tried to make me laugh by playing with their chest muscles and biceps. They were big guys! I really liked working on that project.
As a hobby I collect vintage accessories and fabrics from around the world. I also collect antique pottery from China, buy different clutches. What else? I like reading, listening to music, walking and when I am particularly organized, I also do pilates.
When I graduated in 2000 and my contract ran out in London, I came back to Cyprus. This is obviously my home and where my family and friends live. At the same time I think it’s important to be able to adjust and assimilate when you move to a new place.
There are many different things that changed when I came back to Cyprus. It wasn’t anything bad, but I did face some challenges in my work. I miss some things about my life in Canada and Britain. At the same time I’ve gotten used to doing things differently here, while at the same time incorporating my experience abroad.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how Greek-Cypriots come together and help each other in times of trouble. It doesn’t matter if it’s at home or abroad — Cypriots are extremely responsive to calls for help.
I love our hospitality, culture, art, fashion and music. I can take a break and relax almost anywhere as long as there is a beach. I particularly love my hometown Limassol that has grown and prospered a lot over the recent years. Now it is a very beautiful city with beaches, restaurants, nightclubs, shops and large archeological sites and attractions.
Besides my main work, I am also involved in a few other projects. But as soon as I have free time I get back to designing clothes. It’s not easy, especially once you realize just how short on time you are. But when you have something you love doing, you will always find time to do it, right? Ireally hope that things will soon change for the better and I will be able to dedicate 100% of my time to my profession, which I love!
There are many places that I would like to visit and I hope I will soon. Russia is one of those countries. Last December I watched a very interesting documentary about fabrics used in traditional Russian costumes. I also follow a few talented Russian photographers and artists on Instagram.
But there is one country that I would like to visit more than all others.It is Japan. It’s been a great source of inspiration for me since I started working in fashion. Other cultures that fascinate me are India and the Arab Emirates (Abu Dabi, for instance). When your mind is open to other people’s ideas and opinions you can discover real treasures.
Cyprus is my country and I am proud to be its citizen. Whenever I travel abroad I tell everyone about Cyprus and try, as they say, to promote it. There is one funny thing I do whenever I travel: I bring with me different Cypriot delicacies and brochures to tell them about our island. I really want everyone to «taste» this place and learn about its history. I also really want to see Cyprus FREE!
I believe that no matter where you go, you need to respect the culture and customs of the country and people you come across. If you are open to other people and their lifestyle, then you can become a citizen of any country in the world.
I would like to recommend everyone to visit the Marina in Limassol and enjoy its amazing restaurants, cafes and the Old Port. It’s a great place during the day and at night. Those interested in archeology and history should visit Old Paphos as well as the city of Amathus (near the bay in Limassol). Don’t forget to stop by the scenic village Lefkara, known for its «lefkara» lace and agritourism. The island is not that big, so you won’t need a lot of time to visit these places.
There are a lot of things to like about Cyprus. Get to know it, learn its culture and keep discovering new things about it each day. There are many beautiful things about it that even its residents don’t know, things that are admirable and inspiring.
Welcome to Cyprus!
Interview by Evgeniya Kondakova.