Sydney student Stephanie Papoutsis on fusing ancient and modern Greece in her ‘Paralia’ designs

Sydney student Stephanie Papoutsis on fusing ancient and modern Greece in her ‘Paralia’ designs

Experiencing Stephanie Papoutsis’ design editorial is like silently digesting the elements of Greece – it drowns out the noisy and touristy perception of what people think the country is about (food, music and entertainment), and drives their thoughts into the deep architectural influence from Greece.

“In my editorial, I not only capture a model with beautiful garments, I capture what we forget to love most about Greece, but also subtly,” Stephanie tells The Greek Herald.

The 19-year-old Sydney graduate of Australia’s leading selective design school, Whitehouse Institute of Design, encompasses the architecture, sculpture, pottery and jewelery forms of Ancient Greece through a modern lens in her editorial, Paralia.

Paralia, which translates as ‘beach’, includes models posing like ancient Greek sculptures alongside modern jewelery – a testament to the ancient and modern Greek worlds coming together.

“At my exhibition, people asked me: ‘What was this inspired by?’ and I would say, ‘It’s like two worlds colliding. The images and style I like to create, and my Greek heritage’,” explains Stephanie.

The aspiring creative director says while conceptualizing Paralia, there was a natural inclination towards her Greek culture.

“I would be drawn to fabrics like linen and wool and silk and they all come from ancient Greece,” she says.

“I think the upbringing of all designers inspires what they create, and what I remember most is my culture.

“When I was little, I remember making dresses for my dolls out of handkerchiefs with my yiayia, who was a seamstress.

“It’s small moments like that that have influenced me.”

Stephanie’s love of design and materials runs in the family, as her father possesses an artistic hand that is often used in the design side of his electrical trade.

When designing Paralia, Stephanie’s father often recalled his time as an apprentice at the Sydney Opera House and she says this influenced her design thinking.

“You know, a lot of my advice, my love and patience for design, I’m going to be honest, comes from my dad,” says Stephanie.

So for the young creative, contextualizing her project in Australia with Sydney’s Opera House is a design choice that not only allows her project to resonate with an Australian audience, but is also a nod of appreciation to her father.

Talking about her father, Stephanie explains how being an artist has always been accepted by her family, and that their lack of opportunities to get creative motivated her to go to design school.

“My yiayia and father’s creativity became hobbies rather than careers for them,” she says.

“I wanted to take what they taught me about design and what they couldn’t do and become something.”

Appreciate Greek heritage through design:

Both Stephanie’s parents were children of Greek migrants and the young designer went to All Saints Grammar, a Greek Orthodox school in the Sydney suburb of Belmore.

Growing up Greek, Stephanie admits she was initially reluctant to delve into her heritage as a concept.

Stephanie Papoutsis.

“I didn’t want people to feel uncomfortable and like they couldn’t be included in understanding my editorial,” she says.

But after a fellow student in her design class started exploring her Swedish heritage, Stephanie says she was inspired: “I was like ‘wow, I really love that she’s just doing that’.”

Stephanie decided to show people the beauty of Greece, composed with Greek words like ‘ocean’ and ‘lake’, connecting the line between ancient and modern Greece. The soft, light colors and black and white photography exude an alluring sense of Greek culture.

“I pay attention to the ancient and modern elements through my photography and when I merge those two worlds, I think I have a very ethereal piece,” she says.

The soundtrack, for example, also features traditional Greek instruments with modern beats, transporting anyone watching to both ancient and modern Greece.

“That clip made me feel something … and I thought I want to make someone feel that a million times, with my entire editorial,” says Stephanie.

The Sydney designer adds that Paralia, while a depiction of Greek architectural elements, also has a deeper concept.

“As second generation Greek Australians, we are the first to grow up not really experiencing the country itself and not being educated to understand Greece for what it is,” she says.

“So, I wanted to show an appreciation for the ancient side that we forget to love, but I deliberately put in a modern role because I think it represents what our generation also loves.”

In doing so, Paralia brings all the best parts of Greece that second and third generation Greek Australians don’t enjoy tangibly every day: the statues, the ancient architecture, the beach and the water.

Through her piece of educational art, Stephanie creates a message of remembrance not to forget about this complicated part of Greece. She also hopes people, with or without Greek heritage, feel a newfound appreciation of ancient and modern Greek culture.

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