Armed with work experience in London, Florence as well as Amsterdam alongside Iris Van Herpen, Andrea ROTSaki returned to the land “abandoned by its youth” to pursue her dream as a fashion designer.
Objectives for having a strong input towards the Cypriot creative industry while challenging its norm at the same time, can only be defined as the very beginning of Andrea’s career. A young female creative whose designs evolve around fetishes, ROTS is the fresh new brand to cause quite a positive disturbance around the island. Rotsaki does not hold back and has no issues with speaking her mind – talks about the first thoughts of launching a narcissist line as well as her perspectives on how someone can succeed as a creative in a place with so called limited opportunities.
How did ROTS start?
It all started when I came back to Cyprus. After working for other brands I felt that strong need of a refreshing start. To do something for me, to be selfish, to be a bit narcissistic – that was when I decided to launch my first collection; Narcissus Uncensored. The reason behind that was the fact that I wanted to create a line which I would personally like to have in my wardrobe. Every single piece would represent who I am. That is where the particular line got its name from as well! These garments represent most of my personality. A mostly all black collection with a fetishist twist. It represents a part of my personality which I’m not afraid to expose. On the other hand, ROTS is for everyone to wear as I do not aim at a particular audience. I try to create stories for people to get ‘lost’ in – depending on the perception of each individual who chooses to wear the garments.
Have you ever felt that your designs could possibly come off as a bit of a taboo within Cyprus’ standards compared to other countries? A double standard in which a girl/woman is actually in touch with and able to acknowledge her sexuality, but also to project it through her clothes?
It is actually still a taboo in Cyprus for a woman to do that, which is something i’m trying to challenge through my collections as well the photoshoots and visuals of them that I choose to showcase on my social media. I feel like giving them a push when it comes to that. I feel like I need to somehow ‘shock’ them to make them see a few things from a different perspective. It’s a way of exposing our generation to start accepting something ‘new’, something ‘different’ that comes from their people and not the ‘outside’ let’s say. I don’t think that the way a girl/woman chooses to dress does determines her sexual consent towards men. I create in order for girls/ women to feel empowered in my clothes, to make them feel themselves, if that is what they feel
What are the reactions you get from people when it comes to your collections?
Everyone has something to say about my collections and it’s usually either really positive or quite negative. However I do get a reaction from every single person and that is very important to me. People react to what they see and when there is a reaction, there is the possibility of change! Some of them do feel the empowerment and confidence I aim for, some others start contemplating whether their family or partner would let them leave the house in a certain (ROTS)
outfit or even if the ‘world’ would accept something as provocative to walk the streets into. This is what I would like to challenge more when it comes to my generation.
I strongly believe that when you are confident and comfortable in your own skin, you only then genuinely dress the way you like. When something feels good just wear it. The ‘messages’ you put out there will be projected through your personality and not the actual clothes. Clothes are lifeless pieces of fabric only until you wear them.
How about the making process of the clothes? How does ROTS work?
The brand is a ‘limited-edition’ brand which means I only produce a specific amount of garments. Once they are sold out they are never (re)produced again. Exceptions happen exclusively for some of the signature pieces which will be slightly manipulated and “recreated” for each season! Also, in order to maintain the exclusivity of the brand everything is made-to-measure. I am aware that my designs are not for everyone, yet for those who do wish to wear them I want to maintain the sense of exclusivity hence the limited edition collections.
Everything from ROTS is designed and handmade by a team of Cyprus based professionals. I have never limited myself from collaborating with people outside Cyprus but I do feel since I am here now, I want have an input and generally helping the manufacture industry as well. The island’s industry used to be very solid regarding the fabric manufacture before the recession and the number of opportunities have decreased a lot after that – which is something we are starting to be gradually gaining back. Therefore ROTS is made with fabrics and materials I find here. I don’t import anything I use – it’s all part of regaining that flow.
What is the brand’s ethos?
Regarding the ethos of ROTS – I say it is all about the customer. I keep the flexibility of altering the clothes according to a customer’s needs in order for the people who wear them to feel they are literally made for them. I created this brand for its potential power. For the empowerment it would provide within an outfit, therefore it is all about the people who want to wear these garments. Also, everything comes in black which i strongly believe it provides an ‘invisibility’ yet it is so powerful based on the shapes, silhouettes and the design of the garments instead of the colour palette. A slow process is what i would call it. The brand is a limited-edition brand thus making everything slightly slower and more exclusive and so everything takes its own time. Since everything is handmade as well as custom made – from the zips, to the buttons, from the first to the last detail, it could take up to two weeks for a piece to reach the customer!
Do you aim towards a specific number of pieces a collection will be consisted of, or does it depend more on your own flow?
I don’t aim to release a particular number of pieces. I don’t aim for anything to be honest, usually everything falls into place along the process. It all depends on my inspiration and state of mind I happen to be in during the creative process.
You seem to be collaborating with other creatives quite a lot. Is that something that you initiate yourself?
Well, i came back and i was in search of more creatives who are extremely passionate about what they do. Creatives who are kickstarting something on their own and are fully invested into what they do. I love collaborating with young, talented individuals. Εveryone has something new to offer and the combination of two or more creatives with different aesthetics is something that undoubtably inspires me. In order to achieve that, it has to be people who give a hundred percent in what they do. It’s hard for me to tolerate mediocracy and laziness, i despise it! So, I keep my eyes and mind open and will dive into opportunities and collaborations. Experimentation is key, and i found myself collaborating with filmmakers, jewellery designers – not the exact same market, however creativity is what we have in common and brings us together to collaborate and create! I’m usually more like ‘yes, let’s do this!’ not for money, not for fame, but for us. It fulfils me and at the end of the day we create opportunities for each other. It’s more expansion for everyone involved!
I always try to embrace it and get the chance to learn more about and from people – that is the way i see it which is why i’m always open to new things. Collaborating is like ‘growing your family’. I started on my own, and still work on my own although at the same time i feel like i’m growing my ‘family’ and i do want to keep doing this by growing this ‘chain’ – not only for ROTS – but also for all the young creatives just like us. As cheesy as it sounds, we should be helping each other towards a better future in our homeland within the creative industry.
On your online platform you refer to Cyprus as a ‘neglected land — abandoned by its youth’. Does that have a relation with ROTS? And if so, what is that?
I’ve travelled quite a lot and one thing I could never get away from when interacting with other Cypriots was the issue we are all familiar with. How Cyprus has no opportunities for us young people, that narrow-mindedness still occurs and so forth. However, when I got into what I thought was my “dream job” I came to realise that no matter where you go there will be some sort of ‘flaws’ any place has which we wouldn’t be willing to live with. There will be things we are not willing to give up onto and always things we are not satisfied or happy by the way they work. Just like everyone making a living in their own country, sometimes we hate it, sometimes we don’t. Around that time, was when I took the decision to fly back and make mistakes here, compromise here, and work as hard as I can here – which are things that you do anywhere you choose to live at the end of the day. We need all the talented Cypriot creatives back in order for this migration to stop. Our homeland needs all of us in order to grow.
Now that you are experiencing this yourself – apart from what you have heard, what do you think about actually working in Cyprus?
It’s quite hard for young creatives to start their careers here, it takes a lot of emotional strength and effort which will always be worth it, although sometimes you feel like you have risked everything for ‘nothing’. You can always succeed at it, but then again you might not and that is a risk you have to be able to take for what you want. If we don’t put in the hard work for what we want, nobody will for us. We need our youth to start settling here more. I meet people who’ve
spend 20 years or more working in foreign countries – which is something that can equip you with immense experiences – however they only tend to return when they feel like it is time to ‘retire’. We don’t want to really end up living here with no motivation around us do we?!
Did it ever cross your mind that you maybe shouldn’t return either?
I was having that thought almost every day since i left Cyprus to study abroad. Being given the chance and opportunities to try and explore new things – it was that undeniable feeling that there was always something missing and that, was ‘home’! My family and friends are a crucial part of my life and every individual’s life, regardless of our goals and dreams, you cannot look past that. Thinking ‘i wish we had such and so many opportunities back home’ which realistically and statistically due to the higher numbers of population in other cities, are a lot less. But, I decided to come back and I did come back to create opportunities for myself. That is the only way to go. If they are not willing to give you an opportunity, you create one yourself. That is how i like to live.
Words and photographs by: Christiana Hadjikyriacou