The Creatives: An Interview with Kassie Lefakinis

February and early March in the Northeast are pretty tough months to muscle through with a spring in your step. On days when it is gray and cold, when the promise of warm days are just around the corner,  when my patience with winter is spent I catch myself dreaming of another life filled with sun and travel and all things fancy.  On these days, I think of Kassie who makes it her business to serve up the perfect get away from the day in day out as Marketing Director of Valef Yachts in Athens Greece.  When she is not making your dreams come true, she is making art, and collaborating with friends on film and design.  We met years ago in a photography class I was teaching where I was first introduced to her unique sense of style and fierce independence that set her apart.  Today, she is still an original, still inspiring, and still one stylish lady.

 What do you see trending in fashion now?

In Europe (I live in Athens) we are supposed to be fashion forward but I always find that on my trips back to NYC I am most influenced and impressed with what’s really hot on the streets.  I travel a lot and live in Athens visiting often Philly & NYC.   In NYC last month, I was struck by the chic and comfortable outdoorsy look.  Lots of handmade looking leather boots, lace ups, and scrunchy winter socks popping out.  Let the ties come loose or bend the boots down and show off your thick socks.  Loose and comfortable is in with a touch of tailor-fit.  I got some sage colored pleated slacks, loose up top, that taper a bit towards the ankle – fit for my new Sperry Ladyfish boots and a pair of bunchy socks.  Loose worn-in cotton t’s, cardigans, bulky cozy sweaters….all things that remind you of nesting in a cabin in the woods with a twist of the artisan appeal.  Back-to-basics look…very organic & atelier.  Also angles, buttoning shirts all the way up, silky pleated pants loose up top that taper down, geometric prints, looseness, “Rockabilly” and speakeasy style. 1920’s & 40’s hair; men with close shaved sides and back and long up top (downtown Athens is saturated with the look!), women with loose hair, lots of braids and sweeps and twists.  I started using hair pins again and hair rollers (I love the look of the hair all rolled up in them, will try to achieve the look sans rollers!).  I think creativity is in right now ….in these times of economical crisis people are taking chances reworking what they have and giving basics a boost and/or buying a couple stellar items and wearing them to the fullest - often and varied.  By the way, ILR jewelry is really a part of the style aesthetic right now!  Atelier rugged-chic, if you will….

When was the last time you had a fashion epiphany?

Hmmm…. Maybe in January at a party when I was introduced to a friends’ new girlfriend (sweetheart I might add).  She was beautiful and head to toe in designer gear and accessories, the latest stuff, polished and fresh yet I could have stamped “SAMPLE” on her head; she looked terribly generic, what was missing was something more personal….. Everything she wore I loved individually, all enviable pieces, but the ensemble was predictable, safe and contrived.  I suppose that’s when I really realized that money can’t buy “style”!  I guess she was “in” “fashion” but to me lacked that something. Greeks generally follow the latest fashion and aim to acquire top designer swag (top brands & names mean a lot here…when you give a gift that’s clothing usually the tag will be looked at to see ‘who’ it is before what it is… ”oh, Furla! I love it.”).  Keeping up and staying “in”, to me, isn’t being down!  I’d rather look like a hobo than a clone. 

What is your favorite High brand? And your low brand? How do you mix high and low?

Relevant to above … I think mixing it up creates depth.  I mix high, low and NO brand!  Example: A beaded colorful Maasai necklace that cost $10 (tho it was a gift) at a flea market in the Bahamas (No brand) paired with a black, mid-calf, tube dress from BCBG Max Azria (that’s sort of high brand!) worn with Zara black sandal heels (low brand). I can compare the appeal of an eroding old building showing layers of bricks and stone, some graffiti on it, and chipped paint exposing various shades to the way I like my style; to show layers…of time, influences, eras, memories, people who have passed by…to reflect ‘now’ yet be a piece of a thought from elsewhere, something structured.
High brand –I own singular pieces of many, yet stick to none (& rarely buy)… BCBG Max Azria dresses, if that counts as High, I love.  Recently discovered and love Tibi.  
Low brand – Aqua. H&M & Zara.  And let me add NO BRAND (that’d be me, my friends, household items, tons of random stores, flowers/nature, and flea market finds). And a shop like Indian Pink in Mykonos with handcrafted sarongs, tops & dresses etc from Vietnam, India etc.
What is your go-to uniform for a day of work? The weekend?
Being self-employed and working in a small office, I have the liberty of wearing whatever I want.  Sometimes I take big fashion “risks” at the office because I’m in a playful mood.  I always try to pull myself together nicely to give myself the feeling of importance in what I’m doing and added confidence.  It all depends on my mood and the weather really.  Any season, my diamond studs for elegance and discretion.  In the summer when I’m seeing clients I tend to fall into patterns….last summer the uniform when seeing clients was white skinny jeans, grey Apepazza platforms w gems, grey tank blouse w ruffles (tucked in) and diamond studs or version 2 -white skinny jeans, handmade Greek leather sandals, orange leaf-print tank and a chunky lapis necklace.

Weekend uniform!  For a daytime outfit or casual night out it’s my dark skinny jeans with black tall ribbed tube socks that bunch around the knee (obsessed with them) with black distressed leather boots, a small black leather purse/bag (Nine West) w gold zipper (turns into wristlet), a t-shirt I had made (loose white cotton with stretched out neck stating “OTI NA ‘NAI” in scrappy black print - meaning “whatever goes” in Greek (that’s a personal take on my surroundings I suppose) with a black double breasted jacket w brass buttons. I do my hair down, teased and poofed, or in side part and knotted in a messy bun below one ear. 

What is your favorite ILR piece and why?

OK of all the amazing pieces which I would wear and adore, I have to choose the Drape Circle in 14k gold fill with oxidized silver chain!  It’s sexy, simple and everyday and has a touch of tomboy.  I love the matte gold and oxidized silver combo juxtaposition. I’m really into oxidized silver and love how the gold circle comes to life on it. It’s like an elegant piece of hardware that makes you feel bold and confident with it hanging around your neck.  Looks like something that becomes a part of you.

Who are your style icons?

Diane Von Furstenburg is one.  She is the essence of ‘comfortable in your own skin’ and casual sexy. I think a woman looks best when comfortable, in clothes that drape and flow and allow what’s under the clothes and under the skin to stand out.  She evokes “ease” and grace.  It’s more the way she wears the clothes than what she’s wearing that strikes me.  Gwen Stefani works this angle too but mostly I think her playfulness, confidence and tomboyishness is stylish and how she fuses rasta roots, urban raw, sportiness and girlishness while at the same time evoking various past eras and setting new parameters.  The singer Lana del Rey is a rising star who’s style I appreciate.  She merges vintage, country and urban and looks like she’s having fun.  Also Brigitte Bardot!

What are you living in these days?

My gray cashmere wrap dress with plain or textured wool tights and boots.  Fat bunchy socks & knee-high wool socks. My Sperry Ladyfish boots (I’ve actually been told “you live in those”).  And skinny jeans + huge sweaters.