Dora Koutsougeras made the life-changing decision in 2013 to pursue her first love of fashion design and her natural talent was immediately recognised, leading her to establish her own business ‘Theodora Kouts’.
The new Australian designer brand offers high-end evening wear using fabrics from all around the world, with the label’s pieces reflect an unwavering love of structure, soft silhouettes, and subtle detailing.
“I knew from a young age that I would at some point pursue a career in fashion, as my interest led me to study Textiles & Design for four years in high-school and in that time, becoming a fashion designer and having my own store, became a dream of mine. Somewhere along the way, that vision was lost and fears relating to the fickle realities of a career in fashion kicked in. But I’m so glad I found my way back to fashion design in recent years ” Dora told GCT.
In 2014, after studying and working in both public relations and law for over a decade, she commenced formal studies in fashion. After completing an Associate Degree in Fashion Design at the Fashion Design Studio in Sydney, she worked towards the establishment of her own business and her stunning debut collection.
For the talented young designer, the word ‘fashion’ represents an opportunity to create. “It’s my favourite form of art. As a fashion designer, my interest lies in creating sophisticated yet delicate pieces which carry an artistic undertone by way of subtle detailing that makes each piece special. Beyond this, fashion to me also represents an opportunity to balance the aesthetics with the mechanics and so when it comes to design, my focus is offering pieces that are made of fine fabrics, that fit well, and that are carefully constructed here in Australia.”
Remembering the first piece she ever designed, it was a theatrical Cinderella costume for her Year 12 Textiles & Design major work. “The idea was that it would be reversible, rag-like on the one side and a ball-gown on the other, to make for easy costume changes between scenes and to save the need for having two separate costumes. I may not have realised it so much at the time, but when you consider it, the concept also carried a sustainability concern – a topic which has now become very relevant in the fashion industry.” Back in high school, she also recalls that she spent lots of time sketching, with her designs being all over her notebooks. But the creation of her Cinderella costume was one of the most memorable pieces she has designed.
When it comes to inspiration, Dora finds it in the world around her- the interesting places she has been, in landscapes, photography, music, and the beauty that is found in nature. The very first collection she said “drew upon the grand piano as a symbolic reference to my fashion design journey – the notion of practice making perfect and the ability to start again at any time and on any note. More often than not, I also find that I am inspired by sentiments, by emotions, and by my own personal experiences.”
“It brings me so much joy to see my inspiration reflected in my final designs and to see it all come to life in a cohesive collection.”
The designer also adds that her Greek heritage has no doubt shaped her and also her design aesthetic. “By way of example, when you look at the silhouettes of some of my gowns, especially in this current collection, there is definitely a classical influence in the soft gathers and falls, which are reminiscent of the Ancient Greek dress depicted in historical artworks, which I absolutely adore,”
The design process for Dora changes all the time, depending on if she’s working on a collection piece or a custom-designed gown. Sometimes she starts off with a sketch, and other times she will begin by draping pieces of fabric on a dressmaker’s doll before moving onto production. A fair amount of time is spent experimenting and thinking about each design, as she wants to make sure it will fit well, the fabric is suitable, the colours work and that the appropriate sewing technique is used. Most of the time the many hours of designing go by unnoticed, but Dora says she enjoys the process as she creates something that her mind had a vision for.
The latest Theodora Kouts collection titled ‘Pieces of a Nostalgic Heart’ is inspired by the “notion of nostalgia- the kind of nostalgia that lives in the heart, that carries a certain affection for a time that has long since passed.” Featuring a small range of floor-length evening gowns, the collection “incorporates a colour palette of deep raspberry, mauve, lavender, steel blue and warm pink which help capture the theme and along with the textures used, such as the weaves and ties, soft gathers and falls, the pieces tell a story of the emotion, the intensity, the longing and the haze that is characteristic of nostalgia, and conversely, the weightlessness and wonder that comes with letting go and welcoming every new day.”
One of the gowns was worn for a magazine shoot by Ali Oetjen, Australian reality star and Bachelorette for 2018. Being a fan of Ali and of ‘The Bachelor’ and ‘The Bachelorette’ series, it was really lovely and a special moment for the designer.
“As an emerging designer operating in quite a tough industry, these moments are encouraging – it’s always nice to see a gown that you handmade being featured, and I am grateful that Ali chose to wear it.”
Having designed and created all the dresses for her brand, Theodora doesn’t have a favourite, but if she had to choose, it would be the ‘Reflections in Raspberry & Rose’ gown. The shade of red holds a significant meaning for her as it was her late grandmother’s favourite as she loved raspberry red roses, and the new collection is warmly dedicated to her.
As the talented designer continues to create evening and bridal gowns, she would love to release another collection and see the business grow. The ultimate dream is to have a couture house of her own, but she is happy to take it one day at a time, as aside from being a fashion designer, she is a mum, wife and works part-time in communications, so she hopes to get better at wearing all the hats at the one time in the future.
“I have had enough life experience to know that very often things don’t turn out the way you plan but turn out just the way they were meant to, so I am excited to see where this journey takes me!”