LONDON: A look back at MACHINE-A

Machine-A was a platform for emerging talented designers and concept store based in Soho, London. Designers were selected to showcase their work with a dynamic approach, using window spaces, and gallery space. Meet Stavros Karelis, the Creative Director of the now defunct MACHINE-A who explains why the of-a-kind MACHINE-A kepts pushing the boundaries of the fashion industry

Machine-A was the name of the wildly unpredictable store and was one of the few independent hubs for London creativity. The designers the brand worked with were presented in different ways, and in early 2011 Machine-A completed window installations for SELFRIDGES. MACHINE-A also operated as a PR- consultation agency for young designers with a great team of creatives focusing on how the designers can create successful brands. Stavros Karelis, Creative Director, gives us an insight into the brand:

Please give us some insight into your personal background within fashion/ art/ trade…

I started working in the fashion industry during my college years. I started as an assistant stylist then moved to fashion editor, then to fashion journalism before then consultant for different labels and shops. I then moved to London to complete my MA; that was the period when I started thinking to create a platform of young emerging designers. I was working with MACHINE-A for two years, and at the same time I joined a selection panels in different fashion show organizations and lectured for CSM.

Did you have a team of creatives who worked alongside you?

It was team work. I often say that no matter what is your vision if you don’t have the right team players you cannot achieve what you want. After a very hard process I considered myself lucky that I have created an amazing team of creatives, such as Anna Trevelyan the uber cool stylist that consulted for the store, and PR machines Ella Dror and Ashley Smith. Richie Kuncyusz was web developer for our online shop. Even the store assistants were one of a kind- such as Millie Cocton- an amazing young designer who’s collections were one of the most wanted- Aaron Frew- a model who recently did the campaign for Calvin Klein and Yasu, a Japanese fashion blogger.

What was the initial starting point for Machine-A?

To create a platform and push the boundaries.

What was your favourite event or highlight of the store’s history?

Each one of our events was completely different from each other, and as result I enjoyed them all. From Charlie Le Mindu’s infamous pop up salons, Anna Trevelyan’s graveyard, Craig Lawrence’s V.I.P. party, Dominic Jones’ ‘save the planet’ amazing window installations, Asger Juel Larsen ‘The Welding Man’ where we presented his s/s 11 collection with live performance from models for three days, and the Piers Atkinson exclusive pre-collection together with PLANarama.

Who were your favourite visitors at the store?

The curious, the ones that are willing to explore a different way to dress, they ones that they have a unique dress code. And of course, Lady Gaga.

Why did you choose to create the space within Soho?

I love Soho. Berwick St. Is one of my favourite streets in London. You have the buzz of Central London, you have the cool people, and still this street reminds you of how London used to be. Every corner used to be a hidden treasure.

Describe a typical day working with Machine-A…

There were no typical days at MACHINE-A. Usually it was a meeting point with all the creatives of London. New designers showcased their work to me, or we had PR meetings with our designers, consulting meetings with Anna, assisting clients, preparing and planning new events and window installations, meetings, and lots of emails!

What kept you and your team creatively driven?

Our passion for fashion.

Above: Karelis in Machine-A London store

What role do you think Machine-A played in London life?

To my understanding, it was a vital one. Many people in the beginning didn’t understand what we were doing. Some others told me that it will never work just with emerging designers. I had the feeling that I had to go against the usual, and create my own space within fashion. And it worked. After people seeing that it worked for us, they were more willing to take emerging designers seriously, and give them the opportunity that they need. Many shops after MACHINE-A opened, had a focus on young designers. When designers telling me that they wouldn’t exist if MACHINE-A didn’t take a chance on them I don’t need to say anything else because this is my biggest achievement. It was great that many fashion experts considered us as trendsetting boutique, and has give us more gravity to do what we do.

Do you love the new and ever-evolving face of London, or do you miss some of the more independent fashion boutiques/ concept stores shutting down?

We have to look in the future. Having said that I miss the independent fashion boutiques where things used to be differently. And this is not just a dreamer’s thought. It is vital for the economy as well. Government and financial institutions should create specific projects to help independent people to create their own space, and business otherwise London will lose its creativity, its unique identity, and as result tourists, and people who move in London to feel this energy will choose to go somewhere else. That happened with New York in the past. So I hope that the representatives are aware of this and they try to resolve this matter. It is sad to see that in the street that MACHINE-A was in the last year more than 5 shops had to shut down.

What books and music are inspiring you at the moment?

Anything goes. It depends from my mood, the time of the day, and the people that I am with. Lately I enjoy 90s rave – club music because I remembered when I grew up and the dreams I had. This makes me happy. Also a couple of weeks ago I watched again the movie ‘Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo’, that I haven’t seen for years and I really enjoyed it and started to read the book again. But my all time classic is ‘I AM A BEAUTIFUL MONSTER’ of Francis Picabia.

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