Follow the Leader, Challenge the Leader:
Updated: Sep 16, 2020
“I feel like I could get in trouble for saying this”
Interview conducted by Carmela Roberts
In Vogue, in a book, or on television, Anastasios Sofroniou (Tassos) is among masters in the world of creative direction within the fashion industry. This creative individual, who has led a remarkable career in fashion, continues to do so. Tassos is a leader here at IFA Paris, working as a professor/lecturer in Strategic Marketing and Media Communication. After spending what felt like a riveting afternoon conversation, was actually a 2 hour long interview, where we gained an insight in many areas that build his portfolio as a leader in the fashion industry for more than 2 decades.
Below, highlights five different ideas that Tassos’s confess exclusively to me, about the fashion world today and the people that are currently operating.
Creative Director Realities
What are the realities of becoming a creative director versus being a creative director?
“To be a creative director you don’t need anything specific, but then you need absolutely everything.”
Tassos weaves his life story as he describes the tapestry of his career development and his timeline of his career development as follows: Tassos was intrigued by fashion at the very early age of ten. He discovered a passion for the ancient Egyptian civilization and the idea of eternity. “I was just 10 years old when I was introduced to the myths of the past and the legends of then, among them the Great photographer Richard Avedon and his portrait of Twiggy with the “cloudy” loooong hair.” And so he educated himself; a fashion education born from genuine excitement and intense curiosity.
“Around that time I also got into swimming. Surprisingly I became a national champion in my home town of Athens - Greece. I think that discipline shaped me for life. The structure that swimming brought, being on a team, given a target, helped me navigate my priorities, as I become highly competitive with his swimming but starting to work in fashion and make money by the age of 14 (!) His passion for the fashion industry created a structure to his life that made it possible to advance a professional career and leave behind any distractions of an average and popular teen life. “Prior to swimming, I was already going to adults parties. But then championships, school, work I couldn’t go anymore, I had to study, work, and swim on a daily basis for 6 years. Swimming kept me fit, alert, competitive. And not knowing too much about the fashion industry kept me safe from fear of failure as my obsession with beauty brought me to where I am today.”
On how to develop skills for the infamous creative director role, here is his advice: “The key about being a creative director is to be always curious. Do not let fear rule your decisions. You have to let information flow and let your instincts make some of the decisions. Even if it doesn’t work out, it will nevertheless still be worth the journey, the experience. And it’s always about people and people s life! You have to know how to ‘read’ people. It’s mainly food for thought. Quoting Plato, ‘When the brain is healthy, the body follows.’ "
Concept of Beauty
What is yours?
According to Tassos, the over saturation in fashion marketing, the mass perception that everyone can be beautiful, is totally disrupting the concept of true beauty as we once defined “Ever since I was young I have always been obsessed with beauty. Exceptional beauty, unique personality, divine talent..something that the fashion designers of my generation pioneered especially when bringing sub-cultural references to the mainstream. But Punk today is a stupid tagline for a Forever 21 t-shirt with a skull printed on it for $9.99.” Essentially there is always a way to be inspired and build something from the weirdest of places that in the long run makes total sense “Start with respect - there is no point to worry about always offending someone because you are always going to offend someone. Instead of stifling your curiosity, feed that curiosity by learning about the culture you are interested in. Instead of being afraid of culture-which now causes us all to sit back and play life safe-don’t be afraid to research and discover. Do what you need to do and then…well, just do it!"
"Act with respect and learn as much as you can along the way.” He continues... “We have a lot of heated conversations in the classroom that allow for space where students say what they want to say.” I try to provide them with a space to show their many emotions. If the conversation is substantial, we agree to disagree, we are not shutting each other down, but rather giving each other free space to take a step back and think about the yes’s and no’s of what our argument is all about. Sometimes in a discussion or argument, we don’t have to take a decision right away. In this day and age, everyone is in a rush..it’s all about a quick yes or no. Nobody says, ‘okay, let me process the information, give me some time, let me think about it’ ..everybody just jumps to a definite conclusion in a split second. I love to agree to disagree. It means you respect the person you are having the conversation with and you don’t try to impose your opinion to feed your narcissism. People need to have a higher level of respect for one another and to understand we all deserve equal rights. What bothers me is this easiness of believing that with no hard work, no special talent you can simply become somebody just because a large group of people can identify with you.”
Photographers, modeling agencies, the publishing industry are all suffering -- the iconoclasts, the true breeders of culture can’t survive this world anymore. It’s not a coincidence that higher caliber talents commit suicides. They sense where the world is going and they make a decision to depart so violently. "I’m truly saddened-Alexander Mc Queen, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Ren Hang, and so many others-that instead of avoiding these losses we as a society try to kill geniuses. And this is applicable to everyone." says Tassos.
Brands all of a sudden want to be politically correct. Fashion was never about diplomacy, never about shareholders, never about expansion. Fashion reflects our society creatively. But now they creating inclusivity conferences to ease the screaming comments on social media, which in my opinion is just another gimmick to make creative act very safe and consumers buying a $20 sweater for $700, because “they listen to the customers”. These are signs of our times and that’s why I love being a professor here at IFA Paris because I get to hear and discuss opinions of students from so many different cultural backgrounds! In addition, it’s from the younger generation which is the generation I am most interested in as I wanna be with them, understand them, nurture them. I am obsessed with youth-youth is always the ultimate cool.” Interestingly put, Tassos agrees that the diversity of the classes at IFA Paris enrich the quality of class discussions and overall outcome of the courses. Diversity and inclusion is critical and crucial for true development of creative ideas and business execution. The difference with genuinely putting a focus on this aspect as opposed to ticking off boxes, is that you are bringing forth a value of diversity and inclusion on all merits--not just hiring someone or including a style in your fashion line to say you are including others. There always needs to be substance.
Who was your muse as you launched yourself into the fashion industry?
“I always thought, ‘There is no point in being a fashion editor if she is around because she is the best. Anything I do would always be short of her artistic perfection.’ I shared this thought with a colleague and he simply said ‘give her a call!’
The next day I went by her office and lucky me her assistant had left her to live happily ever after with his boyfriend in another country! Lucky me I told her ‘I will do anything you need and it will be done perfectly! Just give me one week to prove myself to you.’
Working with Isabella Blow in London during the Cool Britannia years allowed Tassos to make a name for himself in London. But it also proved to him a new reality that is becoming a modern day’s falsity. In those times being able to meet Isabella Blow, then work alongside her, helped to demystify Blow and allow Tassos to see her beyond the Iconic status and more as a human being. In his worlds “I think I was in love with her”
Today with such easy access into the daily lives of celebrities the “impossible” has now become “possible” without the recognition of the hard work, the challenges, and tribulations that are actually requested, into getting to the social and professional position of stardom and hierarchy in real fashion.
The mental barriers are broken when anybody is already SOMEBODY but in his case, he needed a break from a visionary, extraordinary human-like Ms.Blow. He knew this and went the old school route: he had to know somebody, who knew somebody, while simultaneously drawing the luck card and finally landing a position with Isabella Blow.
Becoming who I am creating. Tell us about your fashion lines!
Dare you disclose any information about the launch of your second fashion label?
“In 2010 I launched my first brand ‘Conquistador.’ I wanted to create a brand that was pushing boundaries but I still wanted a sense of commercialism. My brands' hero products where the elongated length sweaters. A great idea that became a massive trend that Prada yesterday brought back for SS2020. Still, back then I was just too early. I was ahead of my time. I knew that young people will have a spending power bigger than the past, that they will be were traveling more, and more often. That they need comfort with great contemporary design. I always considered myself to be a sociologist who expresses through fashion. When I design or style or take photographs even when I teach… it’s just how I see myself. I love people, I love information, I love the unexpected and that is driving my passion!
Soon I am launching a second brand. It will maintain that similar sense of contemporary style with the commercial appeal but with a lot of humor and sarcasm, exactly how the market is shaped at the moment.”
To stay updated on the launch of the new brand follow updates on Tassos’s website: