London Fashion Week started with a moving memorial service for Vivienne Westwood. The spirit of the Dame is in the air, and it just makes you reflect on how the late designer pushed London to being the place for emerging designers with off-kilter style to start their careers and evolve. Like Dimitra Petsa, who with every season makes the fashion industry fall harder in love with her ethereal world. Inspired by her Greek heritage and its ancient mythologies, Di Petsa‘s designer looked to the story of Persephone for autumn-winter 2023. For those unfamiliar: she was the daughter of the goddess Demeter, who was abducted by Hades, and then later became the queen of the underworld. With the collection, titled Breaking and Healing, the designer wanted to honor the growth and transformation that Persephone has experienced. Petsa was on her A-game with her latest offering, whether it was her popular wet-look illusion dresses, which have been elevated in Lycra and silks in dark hues, or the placements of healing crystals like clear quartz – to encourage “tenderness, and letting go” – as decorative features on dress straps and headdresses. Elsewhere, paneled leather and velvet were sensuously placed like mosaics on mesh dresses, a new technique for the brand. In a continuation from last season, Petsa developed new twists on maternity styles, only this time, certain pieces were designed for those who want to be “pregnant with themselves,” via corseted hand-embroidered bumps. Knitted denim separates with frayed panels inserted vertically also stood out as a strong moment. For the finale, she showed a cut-out silk chiffon dress that featured corset boning wings, a silhouette that elevated (quite literally) her otherworldly sensibilities.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki. Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!
Dimitra Petsa’s sensual clothing is all about the female form, and rather than change her ideas for the seasons of the year, she changes her design tack to better suit the seasons of a woman’s life. Pregnancy and all its stages was her inspiration for autumn-winter 2022, specifically the myth of Persephone and the relationship between a mother and daughter. “When she was with her mother, Demeter, she was a daughter,” Petsa says, “but when she was in the underworld she was a queen.” That spooky regality plays well with Di Petsa’s aesthetic, her sensual sirens slinking about in wet look dresses and revealing corsetry. But for every exciting aesthetic note Petsa hits she is also a designer who truly considers and cares for a woman’s body. This season the vast majority of the collection is designed to be worn during and after pregnancy. Corsets and trousers unclasp at the nipple and the waist to allow for breastfeeding or a growing mid-section, and most tops are structured to work for Hot Girl Summer or New Mom Spring, with straps, folds, and drapery built in to work for breastfeeding. “I am so interested in the way a woman’s body inflates and deflates, I really wanted to have clothes that accommodate these changes,” she says. But for every smart and gracious choice she makes to accommodate a woman’s life, she is also thinking about the environment and protecting traditions. Her materials are mostly dead stock or recycled and she engaged Greece’s oldest pleating studio to make a new kind of long slinky Fortuny pleat à la Petsa. For a designer with such a specific taste, her collection has the potential to break boundaries about what clothing can do and how it should be made. Rihanna, who has us in awe with her revolutionary pregnancy style since January, should definitely go for one of Petsa’s designs during her due date!
Much of mainstream fashion wants what Dimitra Petsa has – just look at the many major designers cribbing her wet-look, Greek-goddess aesthetic (one of the recent Dior collections comes to mind). But if 2020’s lockdowns and fashion’s subsequent recalibration has taught us anything, it’s that emotion can’t be faked and a new generation of fashion lovers and customers are looking for a personal connection to their clothing. Di Petsa‘s ready-to-wear, presented at Paris Fashion Week for the first time as a guest of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, contains the same level of passion and fury as her one-off gowns. The proof isn’t only in the sensitive way she drapes her jersey to cradle the bosom, slide down the hips, or pool on the ground around the wearer’s ankles – she describes her process both as “the body emerging from something” and as a method of “accentuating the naked body, not covering it up” – but in the many women from Greece and the U.K. who went to Paris to help make Petsa’s vision real. She’s called her collection Nostos-Touch; the touch part is obvious, representing the idea of wanting to be embraced but being wary of its consequences. Nostos is Greek for “homecoming,” sort of like Odysseus after a long journey through the Mediterranean. Petsa is less concerned with the trials of that mythic man and more with the Sirens he finds along the way. She tapped into this darker side of femininity, the idea of mermaids caught in nets, of constraint and dangerous freedom, with a moody palette of cobalt, navy, burgundy, and gold. Even with its complicated drapery and cutouts, this collection is her most wearable offering yet, made from cotton jersey and Tencel and adorned with custom marine blue rings, bracelets, and necklaces. At Paris Fashion Week, the Petsa Poseidonesses came together in a performance centered around the musician Lola Lolita. Models writhed, swayed, and lay down while Lolita commanded the ceremony. Petsa says she wants to move away from Western perceptions of Greek culture. Even those with a long memory and long scholarship of ancient cultures may be hard-pressed to remember the pre-Greeks, but many of those who do have hypothesized that the earliest cultures on the Peloponnesus were matriarchal. One hopes Petsa’s customers are willing to join her on this journey through time and womanhood – but if not, these are still some of the most beautiful sexy dresses and separates this season.