Great Island Fashion: 5 Cretan Designers to Seek Out

Drawing on Crete's millennia-old history of myths and legends, art and craftsmanship, these designers are creating pieces both timeless and cutting-edge.

If you have the good fortune of visiting the island of Crete this summer, it’s highly unlikely that you will leave without purchasing some form of memento. For sure, you will be exploring options in the area of gastronomy, while culture will also provide fertile ground.

But you are also set to discover that Crete has plenty to offer when it comes to matters of style. From garments to jewelry and accessories, creative Cretan talent stretches across the island, with a growing roster of designers making their mark locally, across Greece, and internationally.


A Minoan fishing hook on display at the Museum of Ancient Eleutherna inspired Sophia Kokosalaki to design one of the pendants featuring in her summer 2019 jewelry collection. Moving effortlessly between demi-fine jewelry designs and bespoke garment pieces, the Athens-born, London-based designer, whose parents are both Cretans, is known worldwide for reinterpreting figures such as the celebrated Snake Goddess.

“I think the reason I am so fascinating by the Cretan heritage, apart from the obvious reason that I am Cretan myself, is the tribal aspect of it,” is how she puts it. “There is mystery, there are runes and symbols, there are fascinating stories and rituals full of symbolism and pathos, and there is modernity in each and every design that endures to this day.”


Past and present intertwine on the loom at Klotho, where designer Alexandra Theohari gives motifs found at Minoan frescoes, among others, a contemporary spin. Born and raised in Thessaloniki, Theohari grew up treasuring her Cretan mother’s handwoven pieces, before a visit to the workshop of the St. Irene Monastery in Rethymno sealed her creative fate. She moved to Rethymno and founded Klotho in 2016.

The designer aims to place centuries-old hand-woven textiles and patterns in today’s fashion landscape, and cites the island’s positive energy and cultural wealth as her staunch allies. This season, Theohari is adding an extra layer to her weaving activities by developing a series of workshops aimed at introducing beginners to a world that is at once both brand-new, and old as time.


Irakleio-based Ariadne’s Thread is a labor of love. Love shared between its founders, Irakleio native Nikitas Almpanis and Indian-born Akanksha Sharma, as well their love for “kopaneli”, a 400-year-old handmade lace technique.

Almpanis and Sharma met in the UK before moving to the former’s native town in 2012. There, textile designer Sharma discovered the elaborate lace technique known as kopaneli. Through Ariadne’s Thread’s garment and jewelry production, they aim to safeguard the creative essence of kopaneli, while broadening its appeal in order to attract a younger generation of fashion lovers.


While collections tend to be “season agnostic”, this summer look out for gold-threaded kopaneli on white fabrics, as well as the brand’s signature “Arches and Arrows” motif in the jewelry department.


A perennial summertime favorite, espadrilles are given a high-end edge at Kyrvan, a Cretan brand based in Ierapetra, which takes its name from the town’s ancient name of Kyrva. The aim of the company’s Cretan founders – siblings Myrto and Evi Kritsotaki, and their lifelong friend Marianna Kontopodi – is to preserve the local heritage and savoir-faire, while adding their own creative touch.

Each Kyrvan model is handcrafted in limited numbers by highly skilled artisans working on the island, while every pair of shoes is packaged in a “vourgia” – a traditional cotton farmer’s bag. While local craftsmanship remains key, Kyrvan sources their soles from the espadrille expert, Spain. This season, the Kyrvan collection explores motifs based on Egyptian, Art Deco and botanical themes.


Katerina Makriyianni’s signature earrings are exploding with color this summer. Similar to the other pieces comprising the designer’s current collection, they were largely inspired by “Ptychoseis: Folds and Pleats, Drapery from Ancient Greek Dress to 21st Century Fashion”, a groundbreaking exhibition hosted by the Benaki Museum in Athens back in 2004. The designer, who works with silk and wool among other materials, likes to treat fabrics not as raw materials, but as the jewelry itself.

Born and raised in Hania, Makriyianni grew up in the family jewelry store/workshop founded by her parents in 1988. She presented her first solo collection in 2014 and has, since then, been steadily developing strong jewelry silhouettes, available both locally and abroad.

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