Scandinavian MANScandinavian MANScandinavian MAN
Style, innovation & equality

With a passion for the unexpected

After opening up fashion store Machine-A in London six years ago, Stavros Karelis has teamed up with CIFF to add an artistic expression to the traditional trade fair offering. For Scandinavian MAN, he explains his vision for the special installations, featuring some of the leading names in the industry, and what an emerging brand needs to catch his attention.

Words: Olivia Palmqvist Photography: Lucas Frisk Bergqvist

Karelis is the founder and Buying Director of Machine-A. The fashion boutique opened up in London six years ago with a mind-blowing concept and have stated their pioneering status throughout the years. When we scale it down, we can see why Karelis is doing his third project with the fashion fair CIFF in Copenhagen. It comes to the raw bones in fashion industry, when people and ideas are the true heart of the machine.

— My background is not in fashion. I was born in Greece where I studied political science, he says. I moved to London to get my master’s degree in international studies, but it was this city that moved my direction. Fashion was always in my head and London was a big explosion. The people, style, fashion, creative scene and clubbing. I saw a new world.

He became close friend with soon-to-be graduates in fashion and design.

— Their collections was amazing and I remember asking them where they would sell. I quickly got the answer ”nowhere, no-one wants to buy them”. Long story short, for that reason, I opened Machine-A.

Yeah, tell us more about the store.

— It was 7 years ago, in 2012 in Soho, London, says Karelis. I wanted to have a space for creativity in any sense, mixing rays of mens- and womenswear, high-end brands with new brands. Always, though, focusing on emerging fashion designers. Back then, Soho was an area for bars, restaurants, and party. Everyone said ”don’t do it, it won’t work”. Today it is one of London’s most exciting and unique shopping areas.

How come you started working with CIFF?

— It has been a loving relationship from first sight. Their director Kristian W. Andersen is one visionary man with great ideas. Machine-A and CIFF are very similar to its soul, with curiosity for new creativity and talents, with our core to support emerging designers. We both like the unexpected. These elements were enough for us to just go for it two years ago. It was a very fun and beautiful process, which naturally made us do it again. I love working with CIFF and the Scandinavian energy in it. I get amazed by the efficiency, organization, hard work, politeness, and kindness. I think the people are kind and do things because they think it’s the right way to do it, not to be the loudest.

This summer saw the first edition of CIFF Paris. For Karelis, it meant new challenges; to find a balance in the differences between Copenhagen and Paris.

— Even though it is international, CIFF in Copenhagen is a strong national fashion core. In Copenhagen it’s a place to connect, absorb the surroundings and relax. In Paris, on the other hand, it had another approach. The fair had almost no branding at all, which made it more democratic to the city and the venue. It was more of a celebration for creatives, talents, ideas, social issues, politics, and craftsmanship. Fashion Weeks are hectic, especially in Paris, and this was a space for everyone to absorb, enjoy, and relax.

Being non-Scandinavian, what do you see in the Scandinavian fashion industry?

— A lot of talent, in many ways. Everyone knows about the minimalistic style in Scandinavian fashion, but it is also a huge cultural industry to embrace, especially talking about sustainability. It’s such a big issue and the Scandinavians are miles ahead of many leading fashion houses. Since you are such a leader you should lead the others in the right direction. Push it to be more experimental in some ways, having an in-depth knowledge, and show the rest of us how to do things the right way.

Which Scandinavian menswear brands do you find the most interesting?

— I get amazed by Martin Asbjørn. His design, aesthetics, and approach is very exciting and unique — I truly value him.

As a buyer, what are the most important qualities you are looking for in a brand?

— First of all, it’s always about talent, he states. After that comes newness and innovation. Another thing is that everyone gives references but it’s about how you reference. Product, design and the execution to it has to be unique and fresh with a high-end result. The last but not least is the value to the price. People spend a lot of money on fashion and clothing, the cost doesn’t matter as long as it carries the value.

While CIFF Copenhagen takes place this week, the next edition of CIFF Paris will be in January.