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Nikos

NIKOS

Greek designer working in France

Born: Nikos Apostolopoulos in Patras, Greece. Education: Studied at the Sorbonne, Paris, diploma in political science, doctorate in international law. Career: Designed first collection of intimate wear for men, 1985; line expanded to include intimate wear for women, swimwear, and men's and women's ready-to-wear, 1987; designed costumes for theatre and opera, including Monsigny's Cadi Dupe, Paris Spring Festival, 1989, and Richard Strauss' Salome, Montpellier Festival, 1990; created Nikos Parfums and introduced first fragrance Sculpture Femme, 1994; created men's fragrance Sculpture Homme, 1995. Address: 6 rue de Braque, Paris 75003, France.

Publications

On NIKOS:

Books

Pronger, Brian, The Arena of Masculinity, New York, 1990.

Articles

"Paris Now," in DNR, 7 February 1990.

"Nikos Eyes U.S. Market," in DNR, 26 June 1990.

Spindler, Amy M., "Tarlazzi, Nikos Cancel Paris Men's Showings," in DNR, 29 January 1991.

Deschamps, Mary, "Le retour de Nikos," in Vogue Hommes International (Paris), Fall 1992.

"Lancaster to Try on New Scents," in Advertising Age, 4 July 1994.

Fallon, James, "After Sculpture's Success, Nikos to Mold Men's Scent," in WWD, 7 April 1995.

, "Latest Introductions in England Drive Department Store Sales," in WWD, 12 April 1996.

***

Homoerotic masculinity is the motive of Nikos fashion. Invoking an idealism of gods and demigods, stretching and flexing on Olympus wearing versions of jock straps, ergonomic t-shirts and tank tops, and some street clothing, Nikos projects a similar image of apparel. Beginning with his first collection in 1985, Nikos employed cotton and Lycra for the stretchy, minimalist, erotic clothing of the gods and all who aspire to their condition of pumped-up muscles and physique divinity.

In 1988 Nikos worked with American photographer Victor Skrebneski in an ideal collaboration of like-minded fashion erotics. Denizens of South Beach and Venice, California, were logical candidates for this self-assured, body-flaunting clothing driven by heat, narcissism, and sexuality. Men who might dress for the evening in Gianni Versace might choose Nikos for activewear. While the line diversified to some street clothing for men and swimwear and exercise wear for women, Nikos still primarily addresses the homoerotic male.

Nikos' clothing template is the jock strap. He customarily provides a band (including many in the late 1980s that, like the underwear of competitors, included the designer name) around the waist from which an extended cod-piece or pouch distends. The designer's phallic primacy is complemented by bared sides and minimal coverage of buttocks, offering voyeurism (and implied accessibility) front and rear to the male. His tanks stress angularity almost as if to clothe men of granitic triangulation, rather than the ordinary soft body.

Further, two devices frequent in Nikos' work exacerbate the homoerotic content. In effectively using stretch materials, Nikos often opens apertures in the briefs and tops, allowing a peek-a-boo spectatorship more often associated with female undergarments. Additionally, Nikos relishes piecing and visible seams, the stretchy activewear taking on something of the aspect of a virile Vionnet or an Azzedine Alaïa transferred to Muscle Beach. The effect, of course, is to promote even further the sense of the garment as strapping, swaddling, a slight covering for muscles and body movement. In instances when Nikos uses stripes, his only pattern, line enhances the verticality and size of the phallic pouch.

In the early 1990s collections emphasized more moderate clothing for the street, including the graphically strong spring/summer 1993 collection with outfits in black-and-white for exercise and shirts with bold designs inspired by Matisse cutouts. The spring/summer 1994 collection stressed sportswear for the street and offered a repertoire of loose, long knits and colorful shorts and white and black oversized trousers. Whenever Nikos had shown streetwear in the late 1980s and 1990s, the look was still of extremism, with see-through tank tops, faux leopard skins, and tailored clothing with zoot suit bravado. In the street clothes, Nikos did not abandoned fetishes, but moved toward mainstream menswear, ironically leaving many other designers from Dirk Bikkembergs to Gianni Versace to fill his gap on the wild side.

One can either dismiss Nikos for his marketing of the most blatant homoerotic clothing, of which probably a considerable portion is purchased but seldom worn, or worn only for the private circumstance. Or one can understand that Nikos stands, with many designers of men's underwear and related athletic wear, as one who cultivates specific and definable traits of the homoerotic to develop garments possessing their own brand of beauty.

Nikos ventured into fragrances in 1994 with, oddly, a women's scent rather than one for men. Sculpture Femme launched amidst much fanfare did well enought to encourage Nikos to develop a complementary men's scent, preferably one as iconoclastic as its creator. Sculpture Homme, introduced in 1995, didn't disappoint with its sexy mythical connotations and spicy base, rolled out with widespread media advertising. Both Nikos incarnations sold very well at a time when upscale retailers were in a slump. The designer pondered additional fragrances as well as bath and body lines.

Richard Martin;

updated by Nelly Rhodes

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