Imperfection and Individuality: Former Ballerina Andrea Spiridonakos Debuts at Bergdorf
1-2-3-Ribs placed, hips even.
4-5-6-Fingers alive, not tense!
1-2-3-Head cocked, shoulders down.
4-5-6-Knees straight, not locked!
This almost comic, seemingly unattainable list of requirements is just part of the morning routine for professional ballet dancers. In case you haven’t pieced it together by now, ballet demands uniformity; and it’s always chasing perfection. “But, what is perfect?” Andrea Spiridonakos, former soloist with Miami City Ballet, asks as we chat over the phone. “Dance doesn’t allow for imperfection, and yet, we are imperfect. We are all striving for this goal that is sort of impossible.”
This transient view makes sense, as I consider that her recently launched, namesake fashion label, ‘Spiridonakou,’ embodies an antithetical response to these farfetched standards many of us grew up with. Through her unique use of hand-painted, felted textiles and asymmetrical silhouettes, Spiridonakos has created a brand ethos of imperfection and individuality–something she says was simply an unintentional extension of her own aesthetic.
“I’m not often drawn to super symmetrical things and so, when people started telling me my designs were in the spirit of ‘wabi sabi,’ I was like, ‘what is that?’ I had to look it up! For me, it’s like nature. A tree can be so beautiful, but it’s not symmetrical. There is something about that imperfection that’s more poetic in a way.”
Spiridonakos describes her transition from the stage to the sewing room as an accident that has continued to push her personal evolution. After leaving Miami City Ballet to dance for Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company, she landed on the Broadway tour of Flashdance. She soon found herself itching for a creative break from the repetitive performance schedule. This led her to begin fiddling with her sewing machine to repurpose shirts for herself. “Once I got back from tour, I wanted to expand beyond shirts and learn how to make coats and proper blazers. In order to do that though, I had to join FIT [Fashion Institute of Technology] full time. It was all very rushed – I had like two weeks to get everything in order so I could apply for the program!”
After graduating in 2015, she was awarded a scholarship that allowed her to attend the Arts of Fashion Masterclass in Paris. There, she worked on two separate garments that were exhibited at Le Musée Décoratifs at the Louvre, in collaboration with Les Métiers d’Arts Chanel. The students were also able to watch artisans at the Lemarié and Lognon ateliers (aka Métiers d’Arts Chanel) develop some couture pieces for the season. After that, things started to come full circle when Miami City Ballet offered her a unique opportunity to work alongside Isabel (†) and Ruben Toledo during the couple’s redesign of The Nutcracker in 2017.
“Looking at how they worked, not only at the craftsmanship they put towards the pieces, but at the fine art that he did that accompanied her designs, and at their use of color… It was super couture, but in an approachable way. It was pretty amazing. They showed me that it was possible to be creative and to make a living, and not just have to make things fast, or cheap, or ‘normal.’”
Since then, Spiridonakos has continued to stay intensely focused on her craft and her purposeful approach to design. Each Spiridonakou piece is made as artwork. The textiles are made by hand, and no two will be exactly the same; an individuality that speaks to the essence of the brand and to its wearer.
“I have a personal problem with waste. As a dancer we didn’t use anything. We didn’t create anything that was left over. We wore shoes until they disintegrated. We are at a time now when things are disposable, and I want to make pieces that are collectible.” She adds: “Each piece has a serial number – an online code so that you can go online and see pictures of your actual coat being made by artisans here in the U.S. It’s my little way of being transparent about how things are produced.”
Though Spiridonakos claims that her transition into design was accidental, her new role hasn’t completely removed the dancer from within.
“A lot of people have told me that they can see how dance inspires me within the felt. It doesn’t seem like that because I am making jackets, but you can see a lot of movement in the patterns of the textiles. I don’t want straight, perfect lines, but more sculptural silhouettes so that even while someone is standing still, it looks like there is movement.”
This month, marks the label’s launch at NYC landmark store, Bergdorf Goodman. Securing a coveted spot within this iconic storefront is huge for any designer, but being selected for fashion director Linda Fargo’s curated shop-in-shop on the retailer’s fourth floor is a huge stamp of approval for this dancer-turned-designer.
“In my mind, there is no better place. Bergdorf Goodman is the top of the top, I love it!” Spiridonakos exclaims, “But, I didn’t just get out of school, and this is my first purchase order. It took time to hone my craft, and so to have something at BG is amazing, I feel super honored.”
Shop the Spiridonakou FW19 exclusive collection at Bergdorf Goodman, in-store only. Stay tuned for more from Spiridonakos as she teams up with Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami to create costumes for a new work by choreographer Kevin Jenkins, in collaboration with set designer Edouard Duval-Carrié.