Greek-born fashion label The Cult of Athena, the result of a collaboration between South-African artist Klaus Jürgen Schmidt and Swiss designer Stefanie Biggel, is singing a song of praise to Athens in a time when it most needs it. For her 7th season, Biggel took a break from her eponymous line, instead pairing up with Schmidt, a past consultant of her namesake line, to relocate to Athens. With exploration in mind, an idea sparked. It was a reactionary process of being surrounded by local artisans in their new Athens home and the community of global artists residing there that brought forth idea after idea, culminating in the flash of inspiration that became The Cult of Athena. Biggel and Schmidt were drawn to the idea of the Goddess Athena from the representation of her and goddesses in general to Athens on a social and cultural level.
Their relocation from East London to Athens had its roots in fantasy and romance. The study of the rise of a classical civilization became pitted against the experience of a nose-diving economy and these contradictory variables in what is the myth-legend and the now-reality, canvassed the inspiration for the founding of the ATHENA brand in 2015, Athens. Somewhere in between construction and collapse a new foundation was birthed and a design process began.
As Klaus Schmidt tells us: “I relocated to Athens in May after an intended short trip, continuing with the freelance fashion consultancy and art direction I had been doing in London and Milan when one of my clients – Stefanie Biggel – came to visit, we decided to start a project called ‘The Cult of Athena’ together. Literally, underneath the dramatic full moon closing of Kunsthalle I decided that Athens was to become home. That I wanted to immerse myself in as much revisualization of aspects of this city and history as I possibly can. I am someone heavily influenced by antiquity and its manifestations in cultures that are local to it. These ideas are sentimentally linked to the designs but not at all overly referenced. You could say that there are hints of columnar shapes in the pleated pieces, but it’s not the case. The clothes were mostly about what felt right instinctually while living in the center of Athens over the last Summer. The Cult of Athena with Stefanie was one project amongst a few we are working on, individually here in Athens, which will continue in the form of made to order variations on this collection, accessories, and capsules. We do not intend to follow any sort of fashion schedule – Its just not very sustainable. The gold and precious stone jewelry was created in collaboration with my dear friend Eliana Scognamiglo from Torre Del Greco, in Naplesi. All of the textiles – the denims, prints, knits, hand frayed suede scarves – are all developed by us.”