Anyone watching the red carpet events of the AFL Brownlow and Logies Awards this year would not have been able to miss the dresses under the name CON ILIO.
Young designer, who first launched a label for evening and bridal gowns in 2016, Con Iliopoulos has already made a name for himself in the fashion industry.
Designing and making dresses has always been a part of his life with his mother and grandmother, both self-taught seamstress.
“I started while I was in high school, making costumes and [formal] dresses for people. Word started getting around and I then started making deb dresses,” Iliopoulos tells upstart.
Choosing to focus on creating his own designs and gowns over further study, Iliopoulos felt it was more beneficial for him to keep designing dresses as he was.
“When I finished high school I didn’t want to go study fashion as I felt I had experienced so much already and had many gowns in the process. I just felt I had to keep moving along as I was,” he says.
“That’s what has bought me to where I am today.”
His love for what he does was the driving force that kept him focused in this competitive industry, which pushed him to start his own label.
“It was but wasn’t [tough to venture out] because I was doing something I have such a strong passion for. [It] helps get you through the rough times and the obstacles you come across,” he said.
“Staying focused is hard. We all have tough times that are very up and down. I make sure I enjoy every moment of it and that helps me stay focused and I always try to make time for myself.”
Attempting to start his own brand has been the most difficult part of his career so far. Having to tackle the business world was not something Iliopolous was used to and wasn’t easy for him to wrap his head around.
“I am more the artistic design and construction side [of the label]. The business side isn’t as enjoyable but it is a challenge,” he says.
“I learn along the way as I did when I was younger teaching myself how to construct gowns and how to make them my own.”
His designs have taken him all over the world and have recently been featured locally at the 2018 AFL Brownlow.
Iliopolous dressed Logan Shine, the partner of Western Bulldogs player Jason Johannisen. He also created the dress for Stacey Kimpton, partner of Melbourne Football Club player Jake Melksham.
“People 99 percent of the time approach me. I usually start with a first appointment where I meet the client and get to know them, their style, personality and anything else I can get out of them that will help me design the perfect gown for them,” Iliopolous says.
Social media played a large role in securing clients for Iliopolous. He used it as a platform that allowed him to constantly showcase his new work and gain exposure for his designs.
“Social media plays a big part in this but also dressing certain people [and] celebrities helps a lot with the exposure for the business,” he said.
To find inspiration for designs, Ilipolous draws on his experiences and the person he is designing, to help him create the right dress for the right person.
“[It] comes from everywhere, the way I’m feeling, maybe a song I connect with or someone I meet based on their style or personality, as well as art and travel,” he says.
“A lot of it comes from my mum who is my true inspiration to all women.”
The process he goes through to design the perfect wedding dress for his clients keeps his year consistently busy.
Working with Iliopolous means a client will have to be booked almost a year in advance as each passing year gets busier for the designer.
“There is a lot of time that goes into what I do so generally clients are booked ahead to help determine what the year will look like,” he says.
“There are quiet periods throughout, sometimes in this line of work it is hard to determine so generally clients are booked eight months to 12 and a half months in advance.”
Being a designer means he has a lot of hands on involvement within the job as it is a very people orientated business.
But for Iliopolous, creating his clients vision and the final moments of working with them is the most rewarding experience.
“[For me] it’s the finished product and reaction from my client [seeing] herself in the gown once it is completed. Seeing the happiness in someone and creating something so special for them is very hard to explain in words,” he said
From humble beginnings making dress in his home, Iliopolous has just opened a new store in Richmond with his business growing each day.
Marisa Sopcic is a third year Media and Communications (Journalism) student at La Trobe University. You can follow her on Twitter @marisa__kate.
Image by Con Iliopolous