INTERVIEW WITH Eva Karayiannis,
FOUNDER of caramel
Clouds cushion the sky but there is still no hint of rain as we walk along King’s Road, a charming street filled with boutiques in West London on the way to Caramel’s headquarters.
Eva KARAYIANNIS, the brand’s founder, welcomes us on the first floor of the building dressed in an extremely dapper Caramel outfit. Her style is as distinctive and unique as her brand, which captures the magic of childhood and vintage charm in handcrafted pieces created with exquisite attention to detail.
Eva believes it is possible to run a successful business driven by intuition, creativity and passion. We speak with her about the brand’s identity, her sources of inspiration, family life and her secret spots in London.
Who’s hiding behind Caramel and what is your role in the company?
Ha, no one is hiding behind Caramel. Caramel is filled with talented people who love the process of making Caramel. The love for the brand is contagious. My job is to make sure we are pushing the brand forward to create better designs every year and give people the best there is. I try to fill the studio with creative and exciting material which will allow us to start the creative process of each collection.
When and how did you decide to work in the fashion industry? Do you remember a moment as a child, or a little story that pushed you into this area?
I was one of those girls who loved their baby dolls, from Sindy to Barbie, I was dressing dollies all day long and when I had a piece of paper I was drawing clothes for them. I was playing with them until I was 12…which sounds a bit strange. And then I was dressing me. I’ve always loved clothes and fashion. I sat in on many fittings as my mother had many of her clothes made to measure. She would pick up the fabric and the style and a seamstress would make the pattern and the garment.
My first dress was an Alaia one. I used to buy a few pieces but they were special and very considered. The relationship my generation had with clothes is a totally different to the one that today’s generation has with clothes. We had an appreciation of the craftsmanship and the design. That is what I want people to experience with my clothes, to remember how it feels to wear those clothes.
What was your desire when you first created your own brand?
I was looking to give children the design and the quality it lacked. I treated it the way you might womenswear, that is to use amazing fabrics and stop the taboo of colour and fabric. D’où vient le nom de votre marque ?
Le Caramel est quelque chose d’à la fois tendre et fort et qui peut être addictif parfois, je trouvais que la marque rassemblait toutes ces choses.
What is the identity of the brand, how would you describe it?
I knew the minute that I opened my shop that I had created something new that people reacted to it. That gave me the strength and the encouragement to develop and grown my brand.
Where does the name of your brand come from?
Caramel is both sweet and strong and sometimes addictive and I felt that the brand was all of those things.
Today, what are the places, designers, photographers, musicians that inspire you?
I love putting chaos into order and I like cities that have chaotic elements to them and I bring bits of them back to London and put them into order. I love New Delhi, Marrakesh, New York, Athens and Milan. Musicians that I love are Shuggie Otis and Sade. Photographers that I admire are Paolo Roversi, Stephen Meisel and Jamie Hawkesworth who has just photographed the new Loewe campaign. Our childrenswear has also just been called in for a Bruce Weber shoot for W magazine so I'm curious to see how that looks.
You have grown up in Greece, have you kept any family Greek traditions?
I believe I have kept most of them. I am close to my parents, my children and I celebrate religious traditions and I have come to accept that I can’t be me, happy and complete without those references and traditions.
What do you do to balance your work and family life?
After years of looking to find the balance I feel that now, I have found it. I know I can’t be happy with just work or just family life so I give them both the time and dedication they require and it is a wonderful feeling balancing both. I am no longer one or the other, I am both the working and family person.
What are your brand’s day-to-day challenges?
We are still a small brand next to the mega brands and in order to compete we need to produce excellence every day. We don’t take anything for granted and this means working hard every day.
Can you tell us about some of your current and upcoming projects?
Womenswear was a big project, it is not something you put out there lightheartedly. It needs a lot of attention and was in an area we needed to educate ourselves, understand fabrics, shapes etc.
How do you spend your time when you are not working?
I have a young boy who I play football with and read stories to. On the other hand, I have older daughters who I share my love for flea markets, lazy Sunday lunches and delicious cocktails. I also love myme time in bed reading or relaxing. I enjoy being at home or watching a movie with my husband.
Best activity to do with kids in London:
London has the best parks in the world, Aris loves the pirate ship in Kensington gardens and Battersea park. We also have a communal garden, something unique to London and we frequently go to ours on the weekend.
Could you share with us your address book of secret spots in London?
The Greek Agia Sofia church for mediation, Howe in Pimlico for great English vintage pieces, the shops near Alfie's Antiques for great Persian Tribal Sumac carpets and dinner at 5, Hertford Street or Scotts.
What do you like most about smallable?
I see them growing their brand in a similar way, patiently and I admire their integrity.