With over 20 years in the industry as one of the biggest names in Canadian fashion, Stephan Caras has worked with celebrities and social influencers alike. With a refreshing yet classic take on women’s fashion, Stephan has solidified his name in the industry, and paved the way for his son Kyriako to assume the leadership and future of Stephan Caras Design Inc. Beyond Fashion Magazine had the opportunity to speak to Stephan and Kyriako – hearing their thoughts on topics of fashion, women, and politics.
“Originally, it all started with me. I was young and eager to get into fashion” Stephan says. After living on 5 different continents, he decided to come to Canada to start a business. “I liked this country, it appealed to me a lot, so I decided to give it a try before I settle down anywhere”. After meeting there his now wife Sharida, they started working together to soon develop the Caras brand. “This market is a very tough market and there is a lot of competition, so you really need to have a lot of resources – financial, physical and spiritual – to survive” he adds. At some point, their business became pretty well-known and people started to recognize the designs. “We have done a lot of shows oversees, and people were impressed that something like that came from Canada. This gave us more confidence and strength. If you don’t believe in what you do and don’t have a support, you won’t survive in this business,” he points out. Fashion was something Stephan always loved and did in his life. So when his son Kyriako decided to take part in the business, the couture Maison gained new energy and strength. “He is very talented, he’s been learning since he was a little boy. At first, he thought I worked too hard so before university he didn’t want to do it. But later, he realized it was in his blood too”. So now we see Stephan Caras Design Inc prospering and growing like never before. Inside their renovated 1905 bank building (now turned into the beautiful Caras Atelier), at 744 Queen St E, we asked Stephan Caras and his son Kyriako some personal questions.
Margarita Kadochnikova: Stephan, if you weren’t a designer, what career would you pursue?
Stephan Caras: Probably, I would be a preacher (laughs). Two things attracted me when I was a young boy: fashion and acting. I had a chance to do acting when I was studying in Australia. I was acting professionally for 2 years. Another possible career for me would be in architecture.
What does your regular day look like?
S.C.: It’s always different as we don’t have specific hours to work, it depends more on what we feel like doing. When we create a new collection, we can work 20 hours a day. But other days, it can be 12 hours a day or so. Obviously, we have business to take care of, but now we have people to do it for us.
Kyriako Caras.: There is no specific time on being creative. You may come up with something at night or in the morning. And then you go out and do it.
S.C.: For me, I work better at night. It’s that time when you can get lost in creativity and just forget about anything else. It’s an amazing feeling when you do what you love, what you have passion for. I still work sometimes crazy hours and my son says he gets tired of just seeing me working like that. But I just don’t see it as work, it’s what I love doing.
Kyriako, what made you choose archeology to study at university, and not something related to fashion?
K.C.: Growing up was always in the business. Every teenager at some point wants to do something else, explore, see the world, try new things. You just want to take that step in your life. So i did it. I went after what I believed in and was interested in. But even in-between studying, I was still working here. After experiencing the new world and studies, I realized that fashion was in my blood, I couldn’t get away from it. Thus, it reinforced my strength and belief in passion for fashion.
And what is your favourite part of your job: the creative process or when it’s a show time?
K.C.: You know, each aspect of this line of work is enjoyable. Definitely, the creative process is something that gets you excited – when you come up with new ideas and start playing with them. Challenge afterwards is the stressful part as you need to turn these ideas into reality. How to manipulate the fabrics, how to construct it in a way that actually expresses what you are thinking. That is stressful, but still exciting. Also, I like when it’s all quiet – no phones are ringing, nobody can touch you, no distractions – you are just developing your ideas. That’s just that moment of peace when it’s only you and your creation. And that’s what motivates you and gives you strength to go on the next step.
How would you describe the ‘Stephan Caras Woman’?
K.C.: This woman definitely understands her style, her body, her looks; she knows what will look good on her. It’s usually the women who are self-assured.
S.C.: I think that ‘Stephan Caras Woman’ is ultra feminine, sophisticated, self-assured and sensual. She dresses for herself to express how she feels. That’s how I see it. It’s a blend of everything. That’s why the majority of our followers are women between 25 and 55. We have that balance of sophistication that is timeless. We don’t follow any specific trends.
Do you think that now with all the emancipation and feminism movements, women have become more self-assured?
S.C.: Yes, absolutely. It’s very different now from what it was 40 years ago. Now women feel more secure and confident. They can do their own things now. They can create their own style and don’t have to follow any designer that will tell them what to wear. They can mix things. Like a pair of ripped jeans and some new stylish top. So designers are looking forward to women’s preferences and create their collections according to it.
Would you rather dress Kim Kardashian or Brigitte Bardot?
S.C.: For me, a woman is a woman. I don’t believe in idolizing one person. And I honestly think that neither of them has as much as some regular women possess. These women are in public eye, so we know about them. Brigitte Bardot was something in the 60s as she started that ‘sex kitten’ thing. Raquel Welch, Ava Gardner, Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida were sensual beautiful women as well. I am not sure if I am a fan of today’s ‘icons’ or ‘sex-bombs’ as they call them. I see a lot of beautiful feminine women every day and everywhere.
How do you think social media has affected the fashion industry?
S.C.: I think it helps a lot. Before, it was very difficult for new designers to get noticed. But now, social media has given everyone a platform to introduce and express themselves. Everyone has a word now, can get followers, and gain influence. As for us, when we are having a show streamed online, we instantly get thousands of messages, shares, likes and comments. That is faster than any magazine could do back in the days.
K.C.: Yes, it is right away and it is global. I mean, before it would take so much time to submit an application, print images, get them distributed. And now it’s instantaneous. I also find that on the other hand, because there is so much out there, it may confuse some people who are unaware of fashion. You are just throwing out there everything into the market.
Do you think fashion is more important than style?
S.C.: Well, what is really fashion? The word ‘fashion’ is often being misunderstood or misused. People identify fashion with designers’ clothes and shows. It used to be like that. Style is different. You create your own style as a woman. By dressing up the way you feel, you express yourself without words.
K.C.: Fashion can mean a lot of things to different people. To fashion designers, fashion is art; to the media it can be an outlet; to fashionistas it can be a lifestyle. To designers it’s also expressing your character, involvement, ideas. To another person it’s about the glamour, the shows, the parties, it could be anything. But style is eternal. Style is carried throughout the time.
Do you have any favourite actors or actresses?
S.C.: I used to but not anymore. Nowadays, the quality of acting is not that high. For instance, Richard Burton – this man could really act. Or Peter Sellers – he was very serious but he could make people laugh (especially in ‘Pink Panther’). Modern comedians don’t make me laugh. They think they are funny, but they fake emotions. If you’ve seen a movie with Sophia Loren, you could feel that her tears were real when she was crying. Now, they use eye drops instead.
And what about you, Kyriako?
K.C.: I always liked Monica Bellucci. But I don’t know if it’s biased as I always imagine her wearing our clothes (laughs). I always imagine how our designs would look on someone. I gravitate towards those actresses who have that confidence, as well as ability of being diverse in very different ways. It seems so effortless with her. She is so capable of carrying that. So if we could bring her to this store, we could dress her up for thousands occasions as I know that she has that confidence in her.
Has your personal style changed since you started working here?
K.C.: Throughout the years, as I matured, I was more willing to express how I feel inside. I don’t have any filters. One day I may dress very conservative, the other day, the opposite. I just dress the way I feel. I always had a sense of style. As I progressed, it became easier for me to dress how I feel and express myself.
And what do you usually do when you are not working?
K.C.: We are thinking about work (laughs). We are trying to create and figure out more styles, new designs. When we have a moment to ourselves, we enjoy having a coffee and talking about whatever is on our minds, like politics, economics or religion. It’s nice to spend time with friends, joke around and discuss more personal things.
Do you have any favourite places in Toronto?
S.C.: Yes, 744 Queen St East (laughs). I don’t really have any favourite places. I’m not that type of person who goes to the same place every time. I like places where people are happy. In my work I’m like that as well, I’m multidirectional. I do have favourite places in Greece though. But it’s a different thing. You know there is consistency and quality. I don’t like crowded places where everyone goes. I like quality food, the view, the atmosphere, when it’s laid-back and no pressure.
K.C.: In Toronto so many places are changing now so fast, it’s hard to pick one. We enjoy going to Greek town just because we know the culture, the food is great, the atmosphere is vibrant. They have live music, dancing. You can take anybody there and have a good time.
S.C.: Yes, I think that you should be there where you feel comfortable and enjoy other people’s company. Happiness is in small things. It is not about money or fame. I remember, when i first started, and people were inviting me to their events and parties which I couldn’t afford to go to by myself. And I was wondering why they keep bringing me there. When I asked, they said that it’s because I was always a positive person, I created that happy atmosphere around, and I was always honest with everyone.
And what do you miss about Greece the most, Stephan?
S.C.: First of all, I miss the sun. Sun and heat help you get serotonin in your body which makes you happy and more relaxed. We go to Greece every summer and now we are setting up a studio there so we can work on our collections while still being on vacation. People in Greece are different. Their lifestyle is different. There you know everyone, and they know your family. If some guy asks for water, you’d bring him home and give some food as well. If your neighbours see your child alone on a street, they would call you. Because they care. Canada is a beautiful and unique country, it has a lot of different nationalities and it creates that cosmopolitan atmosphere. There are a lot of different people with different culture and background. And, of course, due to such diversity, you get both good and bad from it.
Kyriako, what do you think of Canada’s immigration policies compared to the rest of the world?
K.C.: Canada’s immigration policies are ahead of any other country’s and it’s developed from long time ago. There is always some room for improvement, of course. But I think other countries should be looking at Canadian immigration policies as a leader in today’s world. People are slowly starting to mimic it.
Stephan, how do you feel about politics in the US nowadays?
S.C.: I think that in every country there is some dirty work in politics. I don’t trust politicians in general. They are always governed and financed by somebody else. Rich countries produce so much food waste instead of feeding hungry people or helping poor people build homes. For instance, if you take just one tank of food and sell it, you can equip 2,000 homes in Africa. The US needs some real businessman to deal with its problems. And when Trump came out, the things he was saying were exactly how the public felt. He sounded like the right guy so people voted for him. People who are fed up with politicians, they actually liked him. The thing is that now a president can use social media like Twitter, where he can express what he thinks without any newspapers. I think he is smart and he can do good things. He just needs to understand the responsibilities upon governing such country like the United States. If he can manage the income and taxes then it will be great. Because taxes in the US are really high but if people know that their money goes towards better healthcare and free education for their kids then they wouldn’t mind paying it.
I think that one of the biggest problems with the US is its debts. The US’s rate of borrowing is beyond anything else. But Canadians too, they spend 1.5 times of what they earn. We find it easy to borrow and we think we’ll pay it back later. But in reality, it becomes more difficult to pay back later, as the jobs are scarce. Today, companies want someone young who they can pay less instead of 45-year-olds with more experience.
As for immigration, everyone needs to show respect for the country they moved into, they should respect the laws there. It’s your new home and you should help build it and make it better for everyone. I’m sure the majority of the people want to help those refugees but they get skeptical. People are afraid of terrorists among them. It only takes 2 bad guys to sow the seed of doubt in the whole nation. So I think there’s nothing wrong with screening people when they enter the country like the US. Canada has been successful in managing immigrants. In Toronto we have approximately 200 languages spoken here and we respect everyone’s freedom here.
Cover: April 2017
Photos by Marcus Muñoz