Kimonas Patsios and Fotis Smouklis were born in Thessaloniki in 1987. They both studied at the Architecture School, AUTH and through their collaboration on several student projects they discovered their common ethos about design. After graduating they wanted to combine their interest in design and fashion and they established their pathway in fashion design, being today the two main directors and designers of CUTCUUTUR laser cut apparel brand. At the same time Kimonas works as an architect at his family office and Fotis deals with architectural competitions and exhibitions.
#1. Describe your architectural background with a few words.
K.P.: Both of us studied architecture in AUTH where we first met each other. Fotis and I started collaborating from the very first year at university and throughout the course of our studies we `were meeting` each other in several projects and workshops. At the final year we were both interested in digital design and fabrication, which became more obvious at our final thesis and diploma projects.
K.P.: The academic environment we both found ourselves in encourages a broad and diverse approach to thinking and practicing architecture that stands outside the traditional way. There, Fotis explored his practice in fashion and myself in industrial design and fabrication. Therefore, after graduating we decided to combine our practices and establish our unique brand.
F.S.: The ‘knowing- how’ of cnc laser cutters and cnc machines in general was a given even before we launched CUTCUUTUR, due to our previous experience of making architectural models as students or constructing full scale architectural projects as professionals. However, we soon realized that our knowledge and skills should expand to meet the professional standard of a fashion practice. Therefore, we devoted a great deal of our time to train ourselves to become proficient and competitive. Through this on going learning process we participated in many workshops, seminars and tutorials. We personally researched and studied the current trends either based on our own initiative or following ideas and knowledge of more established professionals. More importantly we blended in several fields, and we allowed experimentation in design and fabrication with lot of testing until we finally managed to acquire the experience needed.
#2. After your graduation, how did you make up your mind on your next step it? What was it about?
F.S.: As we said before, CUTCUUTUR started almost at the end of our studies as a side project during our spare time, as both of us were dealing with other projects as well. Kimonas was working as an architect at his family office since he was a student and I was practicing architecture mainly by participating in competitions and exhibitions and working as a freelancer architect in small scale projects. Gradually, the project required more and more time and attention, until it became a full time job, especially for me as it is my main occupation at the moment.
K.P.: Referering to the way we came to our decision… I believe, the most important factor was our desire to constantly deal with design, to consistently experiment with its contemporary applications and fabrication methods in a way that would evolve and adjust our current practice. Moreover, after graduating, we wanted to work on something that will be of ours initiative and it will be set up in the best way we can in order to pique our interest whilst it will allow us to take control economically and creatively. Therefore, soon after, we started experiment with our ideas. Gradually and by gaining the support of prominent professionals either from an architectural/ design or fashion background we decided to finally launch our own professional brand. Of course, our first desire still remains but it keeps evolving and transforming in the same manner our brand does. The truth is that the last years we had to overcome several difficulties, moments of insecurity, uncertainty and hesitancy about where we were going to. Even so, we never stop trying and now the brand seems to have great potentials. There is no doubt, that its development and growing depends entirely on our consistent work. Our main focus is the design and the creative aspects of CUTCUUTUR combining our unique approaches in architecture and fashion. And at the end of the day, we try hard to remain optimistic.
#3. What were the difficulties you encountered and the opportunities that came along with your choices?
F.S.: Despite the fact that establishing a brand has many difficulties on its own, doing it in a field you have not been not familiar with, makes it even harder. Apart from the designing aspect of fashion, we were not that familiar with all the other aspects of the industry, as we were mainly trained in architecture. Although, through our constant evolvement in fashion philosophy, and based on our core architectural background we enable ourselves to overcome and cope with any difficulties.
K.P.: Maybe it is ‘easier’ to manufacture a prototype of a garment compared to constructing a building, but the actual problem starts with the mass production. That is the moment you need the suitable and well informed partners to support you. Furthermore, just the creation and launching of a brand, ie all the aspects that enable a product to enter the market, is compromised by many and different factors to be taken into consideration (such as: financial aspects, management marketing, sells, etc.) It is fortunate that from the very begging many people liked and supported our effort. As a result, many established and well known professionals, (such as: journalists, bloggers, photographers, other designers, businessmen and more) contacted and approached us. Eventually, we gained customers’ acceptance. At first expressed through social media and then by buying our products, either from our e-shop or other sites and stores that we collaborate with.
#4. What is your current occupation and in what way is it an asset to your professional life? Is it close to what you imagined architectural practice to be?
K.P.: For the last years I have been undergoing two main occupations: the CUTCUUTUR brand and the architectural studio of my family. At Patsios architecture + construction we mainly design and construct houses and interiors. Those are two activities that interlinked design, despite main differences they also share many common elements I have never expected to. That is the reason why many times, I found myself preparing a photo shoot for a lookbook during the night and next day supervising a site construction. . I am really keen on both of these design aspects and I believe that what intrigues me most is their potential for further development and exploration. As you gradually pass from project to project you eventually try to create something better, more challenging, contemporary and interesting than the previous one. In the end, you evolve yourself as much as you can as an architect, so as to produce the `architectural work` that fulfills you at a specific time. Even as a child, mainly because of my family environment, I was indeed affiliated to architecture and design in general, but what attracted me most was the inherent creativity. On the other hand, as I was getting older and more experienced, I realized that design is something more than a job. It is actually an activity that constantly triggers your mind- your senses and feelings providing endless possibilities all over you daily life.
F.S.: To be honest, I do remember myself drawing plans and dress sketches on my books since I was in primary school. Somehow, these two fields have always fascinated me; Therefore, when I was 18 years old, trying to make up my mind about my future occupation, I found it truly difficult to choose between architecture and fashion. Apparently, I chose architecture as a `safer` option, for that moment; However, from the very first moment I found myself studying architecture, I realized that this might not be my core profession. I know now that the actual design process is what intrigues me more, and that is the reason why I do not regret my choice to study architecture. Throughout the course of my studies I was able to form a solid thinking and approach to design that finally enables me to manifest my design ethos to CUTCUUTUR. At the moment, new members have been added to the team to undertake and organize the promotional campaign due to the relaunching of the brand, happening this period. Although Kimonas and I continue to be responsible for the whole creative part. This implies a full time schedule for us, as there are always more than one obligations run at the same time: designing, photo shootings, re-organizing the website etc. This period we prepare our ss2016 collection and we plan our strategy for the next years in order to be able to approach events and stockiests in Europe.
#5. What piece of advice would you give to someone that would like to follow your steps?
F.S.: Generally, I don’t know if we are at a position to give advices. We can only say what we have done until now. We insisted on what we wanted to do and by working diligently and meticulously we tried to gain knowledge required for our development so as we can finally produce a work of a high standard. Having achieved something worthy of attention, we did not hesitate to expose ourselves and networking with other professionals, in order to associate with us or even help us in any way they could. It is an undeniable fact that we live in a difficult period, but this does not necessarily mean that one should not pursue its own goals and dreams. We may all try our best and with the proper planning and devotion one should succeed;