Daring, authentic & funny. Irene Erika Stavrinoudis is the Greek-American girl chasing her dream in Greece and taking the fashion world by storm.
Irene originally studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, New York City and pursued a career in Fashion PR. During her studies, she also had the opportunity to work and study in London and Italy. “It was the most amazing life-changing experiences in my life. After graduation I worked many New York Fashion Weeks for big PR agencies, fashion editorial for many red carpet events and celebrity events associated with MTV and model casting agencies for runway shows,” she said.
Her role model and the first person who taught her about the fashion industry was Kelly Cutrone, an American publicist, television personality, and author. “She used to say if you have to cry, go outside. And people told me not to intern for her cause she was tough. I went for it anyway cause I told myself if I wanted to work for the best and be the best, I had to do it. People were like you won’t last 2 weeks. I lasted 6 months.”
She later went on to freelance in different areas of the fashion industry and learn all sides of the business. It was all amazing but Irene still wanted more. “I knew that the voice inside of me, which at times kept me awake at night, told me I was meant for something else. I have always loved accessories and there wasn’t a time where I never got a compliment for my stuff. I would buy things and change them up. I had a skill for trend forecasting. My fashion background, European travels, Greek heritage and the influence of our culture gave me powerful advantages,” she continued.
After walking out of an interview with a top accessory company in tears, Irene realised in that moment that she would not let anyone tell her what her fate will be or what she is capable of. “I knew my worth, my Mom taught me that from a young age,” and so she started her own accessory brand- “Irene Erika”. “I had a vision, a creative mind and I was very good with my hands. I trusted my gut and had my families support. I was mostly raised by my mom and she taught me to be strong, independent and how to stand on my own feet. For the first time in my life I felt comfortable in my own skin. Thats all I needed,” she added.
Accessories has always played a big role in Irene’s life. “I’m always traveling to Europe, especially Greece, I always visit local boutiques and the culture itself always inspires me. When I studied abroad in Rome& London, that too played a big role in my inspiration… The pieces I create are eye stoppers, attention grabbers and always make a statement to an outfit. Thats why Europe has always influenced my fashion sense and personal style. There are times I go out and come home with no jewellery. People stop me and when I am complimented on my pieces I take it off and give it to them.”
How the show works: Contestants have to make up concepts and dress appropriately for them in a fashionable way. Each contestant is first judged by their co-players and given a total score before going in front of three judges who give three separate scores. Every Sunday Greece’s most famous fashion designer, Lakis Gavalas, is a guest judge for the GALA Day. The girl that has the highest score of the day, is the winner of the day and gets an extra point for the end of the week. The girl that gets the highest score at the end of the week wins €2,500. The three contestants with the lowest scores are at risk of going home. One girl is saved by the other co-stars while the other two are presented in front of the judges who then decide who goes home. Each week one new girl comes in, as another leaves the show. At the end, there will be four girls and the audience will decide the winner who will be given €30,000.
Irene has always had a passion for fashion. “I grew up with 3 older brothers and I was more a tomboy. I was very good at sports and never was ‘girly’. I was bullied because of this and I remember at a young age I would buy fashion magazines and hide them in my room. I knew this industry was for me and wanted to be in it. My heart told me this,” she said.
“I wanted to be on ‘My Style Rocks’ because I have 2 loves in my life- fashion and Greece. I’m just a girl from Queens, New York. Not famous like many of my co-stars but I wanted to be an example, a role model to any girl like me who didn’t grow up in fashion or beauty, that if you put your heart into it and want it bad, anything can happen. I want to inspire and support women like me to do their best and be their best. Love who they are and be proud of it.”
Even during filming, Irene hasn’t taken a step back from her jewellery business. “I’m the type of person that I don’t only want to have my cake and eat it too, but also the donut! We should stop dreaming in life and chase them. After my episode aired I got hundreds of messages from many clients back in the US, Canada & Australia saying how much they love me and they will support me. That I deserve it and want me to do my best. I didn’t leave my business completely as I am working on a new collection and being in Greece is inspiring me extremely. I want to make them proud of me.”
Irene left her family, left New York in the middle of a pandemic to pursue this experience: “I risked it all so i can be in front of these amazing people… I want this bad and that’s why I am giving it my all because life is short and I spent 4 months in lockdown in New York and I don’t want to miss a beat. I don’t have family here and I don’t know the shopping areas, so its definitely challenging but an adventure!”
And what makes the Greek-American designer unique on ‘My Style Rocks’ is that she definitely stands out. They have also never had a Greek-American on the show, but that’s not what really makes Irene stand out. “It’s my hair of course and my personality which is a big bonus for me. I do have a wardrobe that is definitely different and I cant hide the fact I love Bling! Honestly I’m authentic and genuine and not afraid to show my heart and soul. I have a great sense of humour and I forgot that there are cameras around me. I feel like I’m in a room just talking about fashion. The only thing I know how to be is me and you can definitely see that as the episodes air,” she stated.
Irene emphasises that she will stay true to her wardrobe and her style. “I am in Europe and now I’m trying to find a balance between New York Style& Europe. A lot will argue there is a difference or no difference, but I want to try really hard to create looks so I can inspire the viewers. I do take a lot of risks and I’m not afraid to dress the way I want. That’s how I am in my normal life and that’s how I will be on the show. I have nothing to lose and only to gain. I’m not afraid to be myself and once I put something in my mind there is no stopping me.”
“I want to leave as a role model to women. Give them confidence, style and inspiration. I really want to impress the judges. Listen to them and become better as they do give amazing advice and a lot of things they tell me makes a lot of sense. They are prominent & talented individuals in the fashion industry and they know what they are talking about.”
The Greek-American girl chasing her dream in Greece doesn’t just have a passion for fashion, but also for helping others.
For the second year, #LambadaForACause occurred, where she designed a line of Lambada’s (Easter Candles) and donated 40% of the profits to ‘Xamogelou Tou Paidiou’ (Smile for a Child), a non profit organisation that helps orphans in Greece.
“It was very exciting. I started the project early November designing the collection. I had a really successful first year and was so excited to do it again. It was my highlight of the year because I love the creativity that I put into it.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, she was afraid that all the hard work she put in would have been for nothing as church services were canceled and she was afraid people wouldn’t have the need to buy them. However, she started the production of the crosses early January, so there was no turning back.
“This project gave me so much joy. I cried many times from happiness.”
#LambadaForACause is the only partnership ‘Xamogelou Tou Paidiou’ has collaborated with outside of Greece. ” I grew up in a generation where we were raised by our grandparents. They are no longer with me, but I want to be an example and inspire people to do great things and give to those in need. I have accomplished one of my dreams. It means a lot to me to do and give something back to the country I love so much,” Irene said.
For Irene, charity and helping out now means so more than ever before. “It’s important to show people it’s great to be successful, but also important to give back.”
Don’t forget to follow Irene’s ‘BLING BLING’ journey on ‘My Style Rocks’.