Defying trends through tough-wearing, confident and distinctive designs, Caramel’s unconventional and forward-thinking ethos comes courtesy of Eva Karayiannis. Noticing a lack of variation and creativity in childrenswear, the trainee lawyer-turned-founder created a label full of rhythm, unexpected elements and curiosity. She continues to push the boundaries in every meticulously crafted kids’ collection, weaving confident colourways and clashing textures with nostalgic prints to create alternative clothing for future generations. Here, Karayiannis invites us into the world of Caramel, sharing childhood memories, inspirations and her views on earth-friendly fashion.
You trained as a lawyer before starting up Caramel. What influenced you to move into the fashion industry?I had always enjoyed fashion from a very young age and was very interested in clothing and design. I would find myself drawing clothes for hours on end, and although I had an interest in clothing and design, studying fashion was not an option for me. When I finished studying law, this is when I came to London to study History of Art because I wanted to combine my practice with something creative and artistic. After having children, I took a break from law and started to realise that while woman’s fashion was flourishing with the likes of Galliano, Prada and Marni, childrenswear had stayed behind. It was then that I thought I would like to have a go at it and modernise the way that we were dressing our children and bring elements of women’s fashion into children’s clothing. I wanted to cancel the gender stereotypes of ‘girls wear pink’, ‘boys wear blue’ and use clothes that weren’t deemed suitable for children, such as silks and cashmere, while incorporating English traditions and textiles.
What is the meaning behind the brand’s name?I love everything about caramel – the colour, smell, flavour and texture.
Can you describe a special childhood memory that influenced Caramel’s style?My mother used to have a lot of her clothing made to measure. She would go through the whole process of going to choose her own fabrics then going to the seamstress to make a pattern for the dress or the jacket or trousers. A lot of the fabrics that she tended to buy were classic English tweeds, Donegal or tartans and a lot of those fabrics I felt familiar with and still use every year in my collections.
What is your role in the company?I am the Creative Director at Caramel and generate inspiration for the collections. Throughout the year, I gather inspiration through vintage design or objects. One season I used a print from an old china teacup and transferred that design on to the garment. The clutter of things I collect give inspiration for everything, from mood board to colour. I have also worked in every position at the company from running a shop, to commercial elements.
"I wanted to cancel the gender stereotypes of ‘girls wear pink’, ‘boys wear blue’ and use clothes that weren’t deemed suitable for children, such as silks and cashmere, while incorporating English traditions and textiles."
What do you love most about your job?I love the creative and colour matching process. The most exciting part is when I am creating and when I see my clothes on people, seeing the full cycle of idea to reality. I like dressing people.
What is the inspiration behind Caramel’s unique aesthetic?What makes Caramel unique is the process, the way that we work allows us to create a whole wardrobe. We don’t just do the dress but also coats and accessories. I like the variety of textures and fine-tuning colour combinations. A lot of thought goes into the colour and quality in attention to fitting. We fit clothes on children of all ages in our studio which helps us with the editing process of textures within the different layers of a dress and a jumper, or a blouse and a jacket, creating a whole wardrobe.
What do you consider most important when designing children’s clothes?The children.
You launched Caramel Woman in 2015. How does the creative and design process differ to childrenswear?The creative process is very similar where I draw on inspiration from various vintage collectables, fabrics, and colours that I have collected for the season that begin to build the collections. The shapes for women are more important than colour, whereas for children the colour and fabric are key. Each collection was a different challenge. In childrenwear, you have to consider the number of sizes that need to be made which makes the development process more labour intensive. For womenswear, the challenge is to give the right attention to the garment, one needs a skilful pattern cutter and more sophisticated technicians.
"What makes Caramel unique is the process, the way that we work allows us to create a whole wardrobe. We don’t just do the dress but also coats and accessories. I like the variety of textures and fine-tuning colour combinations."
There is a movement towards sustainable fashion in childrenswear. How is this important to you and your brand?I feel that it is a great time for sustainable fashion, the fabric mills and the industry as a whole are becoming more and more committed to producing sustainable fabrics which is interesting and inspiring. This is extremely promising.
What do you envision for the future of kids’ clothing?The market has become overly saturated over the past 10 years, we have seen so many brands coming and going. I hope we begin to see less but stronger collections.
You’ve previously worked the Strawberry Thief design, which other Liberty Fabrics would you like to work with?The Liberty prints have been extremely exciting in recent seasons. We love their new developments and we have begun to use more of the prints. We have used the Liberty John in our Spring Summer collection and will continue working with it as it has become one of our favoured prints.