IN CONVERSATION WITH: MELBOURNE-BASED FASHION DESIGNER, DIIDA PAPAFOTIOU
The fashion industry is one that is notoriously hard to break into. Once you discover and refine your point of difference, there's the matter of sourcing suppliers, sticking to brand ethics and getting your designs in front of the right eyes (or any eyes at all!).
So, when we heard about brand new Melbourne-based fashion designer, Diida Papafotiou, who's made a serious name for herself in the last four years, our interest immediately piqued. We picked her brains about her label, DIIDA, including process, her background and her cultural influence.
[TLSE] Tell us about the face behind the brand; what’s your background and how did you find yourself with your own fashion label?
[Diida] I founded DIIDA in 2016, so we celebrated our fourth birthday in the midst of the lockdown restrictions. Born and raised in Melbourne, I always loved design and fashion and this became undeniably true as I ploughed through a Business Degree at Victorian University and found myself needing to create. So whilst I was working in retail and helping my parents at their cafe during the day I started night school at RMIT to study fashion design. It was a busy time, but really… when are you not busy when you are running your own business?! So in hindsight, this time helped me prepare for now.
Over the last 15 years, after starting out as an intern, I’ve worked as a buyer and designer in the fashion industry across several brands, travelling the globe learning about the design and production process, honing my craft and preparing myself to bring my dream of having my own label to life.
Growing up in Melbourne with it’s rich connection to the Greek community, I’ve been able to stay connected to my cultural heritage. These roots are fundamental to DIIDA and they reveal themselves in our commitment to make our collection in Melbourne and in my designs; the silhouettes and draping are inspired by the whimsical styles that are as much synonymous with ancient Greece as they are realised in contemporary culture and style.
Creating DIIDA has given me the opportunity to continue to design, create and grow. I’ve learnt so much throughout this experience and have built a team of inspiring, passionate young women who work with me to bring my vision for the brand to life every day.
Describe DIIDA in 25 words or less…
DIIDA celebrates the feminine silhouette through attention to detail, high quality fabrics and just the right amount of shimmer. DIIDA is proudly made in Melbourne.
What’s your design process?
First step is get inspired! I travel generally twice a year to Europe or America. Inspiration stems from the local artists, prints, the social scene and current economic factors, these are all contributors to my initial thoughts and stimulus of my designs.
Once I pull together all my thoughts and inspirations, I start working and reaching out to all my fabrics and trim suppliers. They pull together options based on my brief for that season, and then I spend a few weeks collating all of this. I work closely with my pattern maker and machinist to bring together the prototype samples of the collections. It will take a few more rounds refining the samples before I’m ready to approve the piece for production and begin its journey to the store. It’s a time-dense process, generally 5-6 months from pen to paper to an actual garment in the store ready to sell!
When the products are ready, we quickly shoot everything and get it delivered in store and loaded to our e-shop ready for our customers to enjoy.
How has your background and/or heritage influenced your designs, your process and your beliefs about the world?
The ethos of DIIDA and my designs stem from the love, support and affection I have received from my family, as well as the values and respect for tradition instilled in me growing up. It is the warmth and guidance from my family that have shaped me into the determined, creative and strong woman I am today, and this naturally comes through in my friendships and work.
Something that I believe is unique to the Greek community and a culture that I have been immersed in my whole life, is the spirit of being together in all forms of life. From the cafe culture and community gathering to the celebrations over food and dancing on tables, it brings a richness and a zest for life that I not only embrace, but crave.
I have taken inspiration from Grecian silhouettes and techniques including draping, knotting and gathering details and reinterpreted them into modern day designs for DIIDA. These techniques combined with our high quality fabrics create pieces that are beautiful to wear and flattering on the body, I want the women who wear DIIDA to feel glamorous and good inside.
This sense of togetherness informed our decision to open stores from the very beginning, so that we could have a personal connection with our customers. This is so important to me, and we try to bring this tone to our digital experience.
What does a normal day look like for you?
No two days are the same, which is something I love about running my own business and being creative! My days can be punctuated by working on the next collection, visiting our makers, popping into the stores, styling clients, in planning and development meetings, generally a lot of running around. The common thread to my days is working with my incredible team, they support me to bring my vision for DIIDA to life.
What’s your go-to remedy for a long day?
Dirty Martini or two with close girlfriends plotting our next European holiday!
As a woman navigating the world of business, what advice would you have for other women looking to do the same?
Surround yourself with people who can add value to your life. Be passionate and confident with everything you do. And, most importantly, it's ok to be different. That’s what makes you wonderful!
WORDS | Lucy Francis, TLSE
INTERVIEWEE | Diida Papafotiou
IMAGES | Supplied