Open Workshop

Stitching the details on one of her garments, designer Viki Vasiliou works in her studio at Planeta Propio / BRYCE FERENDO

The adventure started by a designer in search of a space to house her own label has transformed into a constantly evolving workshop for creative, link-minded individuals in the heart of the Macarena neighbourhood.

AS ONE PASSES THE WINDOW OF 58 CALLE SAN LUIS, at first glance it’s not quite clear as to what resides inside. Is it a shop? Is it a studio?

Walk inside and you will find Viki Vasiliou, fashion designer, feminist, fluent speaker of five languages, founder and very first inhabitant of Planeta Propio (Your Own Planet): An Unlimited Creative Space. As creative types have come and gone throughout the years, she is the artist that has always remained.

Pass the shop’s entrance, and a narrow hallway follows, with two racks of garments lined up on opposing walls, and a few dress forms at the end. Just to the right is a studio, with the designer softly smiling and ready for consultation.

“Hello! Can I help you?” she asks.

A row of five sewing machines borders the wall of the studio, with strands of every color thread dangling from the spools just above. The polka dots and the mustard yellows of the designer’s eco-friendly textiles layer the shelves. Every week or two a new display can be seen in the window, and just beyond it, passers-by can witness the muscle behind the magic.

Originally from Celle, Germany, the designer’s past eleven years in Seville began simply by happenstance. Viki visited the city right after she completed her fashion training in Cologne and Hamburg, and found a reason to stay.

“First I was working in the world of Flamenco, making suits,” she recalls.

“It was interesting. I didn’t know much about it, but after a year of working in the business, I was very bored. It’s always the same. It was a great experience because it’s an important thing here, but a year was enough.”

The designer then continued on to work at two other businesses as a seamstress, until she decided it was time to take the leap and start her own label: Lavique.

A new clothing line meant a new home to house it, and so came the building that is now known as Planeta Propio.

Before then, a small room in her house served as Viki’s workshop. “I had my business, my workshop, and my brand, but I worked from home,” she explains.

And so the hunt for an official work space began.

“After searching for three months, I found this,” she says, looking at the space around her.

Upon realizing the building was too large for only her, finding other artists to rent the space quickly became the next step.

Artists and businesses have rotated throughout the place over the years, from a communications and public relations firm to a Chilean actress, and they always provide a new perspective to the work environment and an opportunity to collaborate ideas. The current trio consists of Vasiliou, Mariana González Roberts, and Guillermo García.

Mariana, a triple threat with experience in the arts of acting, singing, and dancing, originally hails from Argentina. With 20 years of experience under her belt and having collaborated with fellow artists from Serbia, Colombia, and Belgium, this teacher brings another level of diversity to the table.

To the left and a foot or so past Viki’s studio, resides Guillermo’s office, where he spends the majority of his time. The Granada native specializes in photography and audiovisual work.

He pulls up one of his promotional videos on his computer screen – a clever combination of illustrations, music, and video that serves as publicity for a local jazz artist. Having had 6 years of professional experience in the field, he has collaborated with the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo and the Seville European Film Festival.

“The combination of the three of us is very peculiar,” Vasiliou says. “When I, for example, make a collection, Guillermo takes the photos. When Mariana does a show, I make the costumes and Guillermo does the promotion and the photos. We are able to work together in certain moments.”

Designer Viki Vasiliou works in her studio at Planeta Propio / BRYCE FERENDO

Before the birth of Planeta Propio, there were only 2 businesses located on Calle San Luis – Restaurante El Contenedor and Bar Santa Marina. Six years later, it appears that several other businesses have followed suit, with Planeta Propio serving as a leader.

“We are like pioneers in this area,” Viki remarks.

“This is not a commercial space, like you’d find in the center of town. It is not like a shop, with many people coming and going. It’s a workplace, but it’s visible from the street.”

This concept is not characteristic of Spain, but borrowed from the designer’s home country.

“In Germany there are so many spaces like this,” she explains.

With the transparency of her studio and an open-door atmosphere, she welcomes questions and stresses the idea of equal communication between designer and client.

“Most of the time it’s more normal to have direct communication with the customer.” She goes on to explain how this intimacy contrasts with the come-and-go shopping style of several larger stores today, such as an H&M or Zara, which produce “fast fashion.”

“It’s very important to me that when a person tries on a garment, I look at it. Because if I’m not convinced, I don’t want to make them buy it.”

Although the wants and needs of the customer are a top priority for Vasiliou, they certainly don’t hinder her ability to execute designs that are strictly her own, without limitations.

Images of brave, adventurous women in hiking boots and backpacks cover the wall that serves as a canvas for the inspiration behind her latest collection, pinned just next to her work table. Drawing ideas and details from the first mountaineer women, she points to the pleats of a garment a woman wears in one of the black-and-white photos. No more than a minute after, she grabs a skirt off one of the racks in the hallway to indicate where the same type of pleat was used in her collection, but in an updated way.

History serves as a crucial part to the process of her designs, and in a world that is already typically classified as artificial, Vasiliou explains that it is important to utilize cues from the past in order to create the future.

“Now, we don’t invent history,” she says.

“In reality, things repeat themselves. That is the key. For example, how can we use something that has happened 70 years ago today?”

Aside from looking to the past, the designer also puts emphasis on moving toward the future. In accordance with her entrepreneurial spirit, Vasiliou wants to pass on the torch to future designers as well.

“Three times per week I teach classes in the evening,” Vasiliou says, revealing yet another aspect of her multi-faceted business.

“It’s beautiful because there is a lot of demand for it. There are lots of people who want to learn to sew and to create their own clothing.”

When she describes her brand and customer, the originality and longevity for which she strives reflects not only the personality of her label, but also the backbone of Planeta Propio as a business.

“They are unique pieces, compared to the huge businesses out there with little quality,” she explains of her clothing.

As the creative space continues to evolve, so do those within it. Creativity is thinking outside of the box, having a new point of view, and making change. And change is what propels us into the future.

“I love that I am able to express myself freely, to be creative, to be my own boss, and to be able to collaborate with creative people.”