Rising to the occasion: Greek-Australian fashion designer Kianna Magelaki on beating self doubt

Spending her first few years growing up on the island of Crete, Kianna Magelaki would watch on as her grandmother would stitch and sew garments.

Little did she know that this would plant the seed for a career in fashion years later.

Ms Magelaki really picked up the pace after taking textiles classes in high school and later completed her fashion studies at RMIT University.

“I worked in fashion for a little bit in costume and bridal, but having a label was always something I wanted. I just wasn’t sure how to approach it,” she told Neos Kosmos.

Kianna Magelaki at her first launch Photo: Supplied

Figuring out the how was often overshadowed by Ms Magelaki’s fear and self doubt at the time, however throughout the beginning of her career she was offered unique opportunities to shine.

“I have a connection with the film and TV industry because that’s where my mum works…I did a bit of work with Channel Nine which is where I met the stylist there who then approached me to make a dress for Livinia Nixon,” Ms Magelaki said.

At the time I was working in bridal and when she approached me I though ‘oh wow, this could be that start of me making my own label’ because at the time I was a lot younger, I didn’t think it was possible for me to do so. After that I did a few more one of piece from clients who had requested.”

Still, her soul searching continued.

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Ms Magelaki would play a tug of war with herself, pitting her vulnerability against her feelings of inadequacy but towards the end of her quarter-life milestone, something inside her flourished and encouraged her to take a leap of faith.

“I was very vulnerable and didn’t think I was good enough to ever do my own thing. Towards the end of my 25th birthday I said I just really need to take a chance and I started to do a lot of self improvement and really dive deep into growing myself as a person.

It took me a long time to accept that I was capable enough and I wish now that I had started sooner. But until you overcome those fears of ‘what if I fail?’, ‘what if I don’t succeed?’ then you’re never really going to take that leap.”

Ms Magelaki prides herself on her fusion of strength and femininity in her designs Photo: Supplied

In 2018 she launched her first ready-to-wear collection under her namesake brand KIANNA. Since gaining more self confidence, Ms Magelaki spends less time worrying about what others think and more time being inspired by the world around her.

At time she is inspired by her Greek heritage and the draping, clean lines and elegance of garments influenced by ancient times. In other instances, the modern everyday woman becomes her muse.

“When I first started, in my mind I had a vision of who I wanted my customer to be, I thought she was this young girl who looked and dressed a certain way and what I came to find was that wasn’t the case.

What I’ve come to realise is I’m drawing a lot of inspiration from the customers that are wearing my pieces, because what I’m finding is that everyone that does have a piece wears it so differently and it looks so different on each woman that it’s inspiring me to think more outside the box and how I can cater to a wider range of women rather than limiting myself.”

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Ms Megalaki’s aim to to make women feel powerful and beautiful through timeless pieces Photo: Supplied

Inspiration is great for creating a new collection, but it takes years of experience and ups and downs to get to launch day. Ms Magelaki admits she is not exempt from the challenges of the fashion industry.

“I’ve faced everything from terrible suppliers to manufacturers. Every aspect of the business I had to teach myself and I found that really challenging because I didn’t have that prior knowledge… A big misconception is that people think it’s easy to start your own business and even now I get messages from people I used to study with asking ‘how did you start? Can I start with no money?’ and I have to say to them are you willing to sacrifice your whole life to give back to your business because that’s what it’s going to take.”

Hard work and perseverance prevailed and Ms Magelaki’s designs found themselves in the international sphere.

Her clothing has been worn by the likes of Emmy Award Winning actress Ariel Winter who stared in the sitcom Modern Family and songstress Becky G.

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Ms Magelaki was hoping to launch her new collection earlier this year but like many other businesses, had fallen victim to the pressures of the coronavirus.

Well before the virus hit Australian shores, Ms Magelaki’s fourth collection was delayed in January due to shutdowns and restrictions overseas, which meant manufacturers and couriers were at a standstill.

Although it was a setback, it granted Ms Magelaki some time to reflect on how far she had come since launching her first collection.

“I’ve grown so much since my first collection. I always meditate, I attend seminars for self improvement and personal development. I’m always trying to do things that are going to uplift my spirit and keep me in that positive mindset because when you’re starting a business it’s so important to look after your mental health because you can fall into this trap of being negative and thinking everything around you is failing. I’ve discovered who I am as a person through building my business and have become more optimistic and determined,” Ms Magelaki said.

Having come this far already, it seems that the sky is the limit for Ms Magelaki as she hopes to become a household name and use her work to give back to communities that need an extra helping hand.