Designer spotlight: Interview with Caroline Constas, pioneer of the modern off-the-shoulder
Born in Canada, based in New York and practically native to Greece, it seems only right that Caroline Constas' eponymous label conjurs the reprieve of a tropical getaway. Just imagine: Drinking up vitamin D on the island of Mykonos, flanked by endless azure waters, clad in candy-coloured, ruffled gingham, and toes jammed in white sands. Constas has since come full circle, seeing that her design career traces back to a string of Grecian childhood summers.
Despite being four years young, the label's hallmark off-the-shoulder silhouette has pervaded the nook and crannies of the retail market at a viral rate — even launching an avalanche of iterations that've helped fuel the trend for the past few seasons. Catching up with the original purveryor of the modern off-shoulder, Constas paints a picture of the ideal Mediterranean summer, the everlasting appeal of her trademark garment, and queen Cleopatra — the dream girl she'd love see in flirtatious frills.
How did you start designing?
Design was always a part of me for as long as I remember. At the age of eight, I would come up with styles (there's usually a bustier involved) and beg my grandmother to create the styles I imagined. By the time I was 10, I taught myself how to sketch them. I remember drawing what I pictured myself wearing for summer on the long plane rides back to Greece.
The realistic part of me thought that a career as a designer was impossible, so I opted for pre-med in college. Upon graduation however, I moved to New York and got a job in sales for a brand. I really enjoyed the business side of things and enrolled at Parsons to study fashion design on nights and weekends. I worked for many young brands and got my hands into everything from design, sales to merchandising and PR. I loved how multifaceted running a brand was and that's what motivated me to pursue what I had always dreamed of doing.
Your designs bring to mind resort and summer. How would you suggest dressing up the pieces for night?
The great feedback I always receive from my retailers is the versatility of my pieces. Although the brand inspires destination, each style is substantial in construction. I work with silks, printed laces and luxe Italian cotton shirting. Often, my customers feel as though the styles are great options for day to night. It's really all about how they are styled! One of my core designs, the Lena dress, is great for sight seeing and shopping during the day but also makes quite a statement when worn with hair back, statement earrings and heels. I've had friends who've worn this dress to weddings!
The off-the-shoulder design has become such a signature for the brand. How do you see the label evolving, without forgoing what it's known for?
I've always been such a fan of the off-the-shoulder as it highlights one of a woman's most flattering features — it feels sexy, but in a sophisticated way. I think that the silhouette has been, and will always have a strong placeholder in the market. I plan to continue to expand my categories and play with new fabrications.
How do you envision a day in the life of a Caroline Constas woman?
She is a city girl at heart, but traveling is a part of her lifestyle. She is active and socialises often in the city, and needs a wardrobe of statement pieces that exude sophistication and elegance.
How similar or different is a typical day for you?
My days differ dramatically day to day, which is why I think this career was meant for me. I'm never bored. I am always surprised, always on my toes, and always excited by what the day brings. I love the fact that in the day, business is constantly on my mind, but when that winds down, I have the time to be inspired and design peacefully.
When did you realise that you've established something really special which women want and love?
It was the moment I introduced the Italian cotton striped shirting. It was spring 2015 and everyone went crazy for the Bardot dress. It was a silhouette that pushed boundaries at that time, and I got quite a few people in the industry telling me they didn't think people would get it — but people definitely did. I picked up Shopbop as a retailer that season (my first big account) and all of my styles sold out in 24 hours upon hitting the site. That was the moment I realised that this was not only a dream, but a potential business.
Do you have a muse?
To be honest, I usually think about myself. What do I want to wear now? Will I still want to wear it in six months to a year? And more importantly, will I love wearing it?
What is your best summer memory in Caroline Constas?
Oh my god, I've had so many! The most memorable item I've worn would have to be the Lena dress. We jokingly call that dress the man magnet dress. There was one day last July when I wore it, and literally got asked out on the street by five different men throughout the day.
Being so familiar with Greece that's a popular tourist destination, can you share with us the underrated hangouts you personally love?
You know it's interesting — Mykonos still remains one of my favourite islands even though it has been completely overrun by tourists. With Greece, it's all about timing. Try to be there during the month of June as once you get to August, it's a zoo. My favourite hotel in Mykonos is the Belvedere. It's a boutique hotel and you never feel like it's too crowded. They have a gorgeous pool and I often go there to recharge.
Interni is a restaurant on the island which I always love to go to. It has a beautiful outdoor garden setting and great rosé — it's a really fun spot to go with a big group too.
There have been many street style icons and celebrities who've worn Caroline Constas, but who (dead or alive) would you love to see in your designs?
Shop Caroline Constas.