Cyprιοt Filep Motwary collaborates with the world’s most esteemed fashion brands. As aprominent figure in the international fashion scene, he never stops experimenting.
Interview: Pieris Panagi
Photos: Filep Motwary
Filep Motwary, a versatile international figure, has been a pioneering and award-winning blogger long before “influencing” became a trend. He’s also a celebrated designer, with creations now showcased in museums worldwide as subjects of study. In addition, he serves as a professor at the esteemed Polimoda in Florence. He’s an accomplished journalist who has interviewed some of fashion’s biggest names, a skilled photographer, a curator of fashion exhibitions, a creative director and a prolific writer. His extensive portfolio and collaborations are truly exhaustive.
Threads, Needles and Westerns
His multifaceted journey in the world of fashion commenced in the 1980s in the outskirts of Nicosia, specifically in the sparsely populated Kaimakli neighbourhood amidst expansive wheat fields. “My entry into fashion was inspired by my mother, a dedicated seamstress who worked tirelessly until the early hours of the morning, never uttering a complaint. I recall magazines scattered around the house, the presence of various fabrics, and the garments my mother meticulously crafted. I also remember the women who came to our home to try on her creations. Witnessing the meticulous process of draping fabric inch by inch across the body until the creator and the client were happy left me captivated. The act of wrapping a finished garment in paper for delivery felt like a magical ritual, a mosaic of intriguing details that piqued my curiosity.”
How simple was it for a child from an island to connect with the heartbeat of fashion, even from miles away? “What truly captivated me was the aesthetics and the emotions it evoked. My childhood was shaped by fantasies inspired by the movies I endlessly watched, particularly westerns. I found myself more enchanted by Native Americans than American cowboys. Hollywood portrayed them with unique hairstyles, vibrant colours, and adorned with feathers. They were flashier, more flamboyant than the cowboys who dressed in a pair of jeans, a shirt, and a gun belt.”
He remembers bike rides and playing with friends in their tree house that existed until recently. “There were stables along the Green Line with racehorses near the open areas where we played. We’d dare to ride them without consent.”
Exhibition Synergy: Art into Fashion, curated by Filep Motwary, presented at A. G. Leventis Gallery, 2022.
Anything for FASHION
His talent, keen eye, profound knowledge and deep passion opened doors to legendary fashion houses like Christian Dior and Chloé, where he interned. “Reflecting from a distance, my entry into the fashion industry was a need for belonging, a desire to be part of something significant. If you had asked me two decades ago, I would have said this was my destiny. It appeared that my way of thinking and understanding aligned seamlessly with the industry’s.” Being half Cypriot and half Syrian, Filep looks back on the period when he designed for his brand. “I failed at making clothes you and I would wear to work. They were creations out of reality because money was never an end or a priority. Some of those clothes now belong in museums and continue their journey as objects of study, and that’s good enough for me.”
At the Athens Concert Hall interviewing Olivier Rousteing, Balmain’s creative director (Changemakers, November 2022, Vogue Greece).
Olivier Rousteing, Rick Owens, Maria Grazia Chiuri, Christian Lacroix, Helmut Lang, Donatella Versace, Thomas Houseago, Dries Van Noten, Shirin Neshat, Nick Knight, Stella McCartney, Ann Demeulemeester and Yohji Yamamoto are just a few of the remarkable designers he has had the chance to meet. When asked about the differences between innovative designer-artists and those merely in a profession, he reflects, “I recently had a meeting with Yohji Yamamoto, and once again, I was reminded of the importance of consistency by a designer of his stature. They don’t merely float along with the current of the times.” He notes an affinity between Yohji Yamamoto and John Galliano. Elaborating, he says, “Yamamoto’s designs are primarily black. However, I see a similar conceptualization of the body in both, though it doesn’t imply they borrow ideas from one another. To me, their work engages in a profound dialogue. Visionary creators like them maintain unwavering consistency in their craft.”
When asked about emerging designers, he says, “Daniel Roseberry from Schiaparelli: I sense a remarkable consistency in him, too. He’s a rare breed among fashion designers, and I anticipate significant contributions from him in the future.”
Asked what advice he has for someone aspiring to work in fashion professionally, he replies, “Understand your purpose, be honest, and follow a methodology religiously. No one should deter others from pursuing what they believe they excel in. Success or failure will reveal if it’s their true calling. Because of my position and contact as a professor in Italy, I can say with certainty that young people today are much more daring. Due to their constant interaction with technology, the younger generation has developed remarkable abilities that my generation didn’t have the chance to cultivate. However, they lack the eagerness for depth and contemplation. Everything is swiftly bypassed with a simple scroll for the next piece of news, devoid of a spiritual dimension. Furthermore, study methods have transformed, leading to a loss of crucial connections with information, often resulting in misinformation.”
At 46, Filep appears to have experienced and achieved it all. His work vividly demonstrates that his creativity knows no bounds. He’s just returned from Paris Fashion Week and a flurry of activities. “During Fashion Week, I connect with designers and artists for upcoming Vogue features. Simultaneously, I’m launching the second series of films I created for the Cyprus Handicraft Service, supported by the Ministry of Culture and the Press and Information Office. I’ve also wrapped up the art direction and editing for a charity event, capturing the juxtaposition of yesterday and today.”
As the conversation winds down, he shares his perspective on sustainability in the fashion industry. “Inevitably, it must exist as a principle. We are at a tipping point where ignorance and a lack of education pose significant dangers. However, for sustainability to become a reality, substantial investment, specialised machinery, and deep knowledge are essential. A new designer discussing sustainability is unrealistic. Major fashion houses possess the capacity to introduce innovative creation methods and hold the responsibility to transform an industry that has long been detrimental to the environment.”