Article: Merci x Caramel: In Conversation with Eva Karayiannis
Merci x Caramel: In Conversation with Eva Karayiannis
When Parisian concept store, Merci, approached Eva Karayiannis, Caramel’s founder and creative director for a collaboration, the two immediately bonded over their shared approach to quality design and considered merchandising. The result is a spectacular marriage of Anglo-Greek sensibilities and contrasting prints, with French simplicity in a gorgeously muted but mighty colour palette.
We sat down with Eva Karayiannis to discuss this new collaboration, her love of artisanal design, and her future plans for Caramel.
How did the collaboration come about, and why now?When the Merci team first approached us, I immediately accepted. I don’t take collaborations lightly; we must have the same values for it to work. In the case of Merci, we share a passion for storytelling and there was a natural synergy from the start.
The request from Merci came at a perfect time, and I have always recognised their shop as a place of joy and creativity.
What was the dialogue surrounding the collection?Merci wanted to launch a childrenswear range for their in-house homeware collection, and were looking to collaborate with another brand. With our new found love of homeware- our collection was launched last autumn, we were very open to design a selection of pyjamas and sleepwear with Merci.
Arthur, the owner, and his wife were already ‘fans’ of Caramel, and they really understood the brand. I feel that Merci’s informal, yet beautiful and luxurious aesthetic truly complements Caramel’s.
What was most enriching about the partnership?Working with the Merci team. There is a wonderful family atmosphere, just like at Caramel.
And, what is the secret to an authentic collaboration?You need to have a strong balance between the brand identities. You want it to feel ‘Caramel’ but also have that Merci touch. We both went into this collaboration with the same ethos and vision for the collection. That really helps - to just simply be on the same page.
Let’s talk about the creative process.
When I first came to London, I studied at Sotheby’s, where I was immersed in this country’s rich history of prints and textiles. I was particularly drawn to the designs of Liberty, Laura Ashley, Celia Birtwell…There’s so much history here, so much inspiration.
Elegant and distinctive prints are central to Caramel’s collections, and this has translated so wonderfully to the collaboration with Merci. From where do you draw your inspiration for these signature prints?
I am constantly playing with prints and colour, using patterns against a more traditional palette to create designs with a modern feel. It’s funny; it would be difficult to imagine a Caramel collection without print.
Colour palettes within this collaboration range from subtle sage green to a rich orange and dark navy. What is the significance behind these colour choices?If you start to think about colours, it becomes this endless world of choice. I look for colours everywhere and am inspired by everything. I look at how colours complement each other, and when I choosing a palette, it’s always instinctive and what feels right.
Constantly observing my surroundings when travelling is always a source of inspiration. I was recently in Greece with my family, I was particularly drawn to the ochre and khaki pebbles I found on the beach.
Do you find that your Greek heritage has influenced your design choices? Or now, as an adopted Anglophile, does traditional British design inform your creative process?When I first came to the UK, I fell in love with the Scottish cloth, Harris Tweed, Liberty prints, Fairisle, Argyle…I could go on! My mother used to love quintessential British design, so you could say I was brought up with an appreciation for it. And, I don’t know if this is my Greek side, but perhaps my obsession with quality not quantity has created a sense of identity for the Caramel brand.
Vintage influences run throughout your collections and this collaboration maintains this feel. How do you balance vintage style with contemporary design and functionality?I love the way old garments and fabrics were made. I draw inspiration from the old world but apply it in a practical and real way. I don’t like frivolous design. Caramel represents elegance and comfort. This is why I pay such a close attention to detail.
Over the last 20 years, there has been less focus on quality and creativity in fabrics. For me, the dialogue surrounding production and the ‘behind the scenes’, was not being shared with the consumer. Today, I’m excited to see a change in mindset. People want well-made, well-designed and they’re shopping for longevity.
What is your process for sourcing these luxury, specialist fabrics that have become synonymous with Caramel, as well as for Merci?I have a great respect for people who make beautiful things in their own, artisanal way. We work with manufacturers in over 16 different countries around the world, specialists in their fields who understand the process and take the time to create premium products. I never stop discovering new techniques. Merci is great at this too. They choose the finest quality and make it accessible. It’s one of the things I love about their store; it’s an emporium for artisanal and unique products.
How will you be promoting Caramel x Merci?The Caramel x Merci collection is available now to look, feel, and shop in person at the Merci concept store in Paris, the team there hosted a wonderful party to celebrate in the Merci apartment in Paris. At Caramel, it is important for our customers to be able to experience the quality of our products firsthand. The Merci store is a Parisian landmark and arguably the best spot to shop for constantly evolving and eclectic design. This makes it the perfect place for our innovative, yet vintage-inspired collection.
Meanwhile in London following a pop up in our Notting Hill womenswear store during the London Design Festival, the collection has now moved to our Caramel London childrenswear boutique on Ledbury Road.
In Tokyo we have just opened a pop up space to showcase the collaboration in Isetan, Shinjuku, this will be open until 29th October, we are delighted to share the collection with our customers in Japan.
What’s next for Caramel?I am very excited to announce that we are opening a Caramel boutique in Paris! I’m as excited as I was when we first opened in London. Paris has such a great history in children’s fashion and retail in France remains largely in-person. They really appreciate the experience of going to a store, selecting the clothes and getting a feel for the product. I can’t wait to share Caramel with this beautiful city, and if they like us, well that’s the biggest compliment of all.
The Merci x Caramel collection is available now at Merci, 111 Boulevard de Beaumarchais, Paris, at Caramel’s childrenswear boutique, 77 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, London and for a limited time in Isetan, Shinjuku 11th-24th October.