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ENDYMA archivePhotography James Pearson-Howes, styling Jake Hunte & Emily Davies

Meet the man with the largest Helmut Lang archive in the world

Athens-based Michael Kardamakis is the founder of ENDYMA, a fashion archive including the likes of Raf Simons, Rick Owens, and Junya Watanabe

Earlier this year, we explored the current creative renaissance Athens is experiencing. But while the fashion scene blossoms and the city’s community of young designers continues to grow after a decade of financial crises, some Greeks prefer to worship the altar of fashion greats who have come and gone. One such name is Michael Kardamakis, founder of fashion archive ENDYMA.

Uninspired by high street clothing and contemporary Greek culture when growing up, Kardamakis took to the internet to immerse himself in the world of fashion. He became hooked by the likes of Vivienne WestwoodAnn Demeulemeester, and Helmut Lang.

After starting the archive during his studies in London in 2014, the fashion archivist has now amassed the largest collection of Lang in the world – with over 1200 items. Not to mention plenty more looks from the likes of Rick Owens, Burberry, Dior Homme, and Calvin Klein. “Having such a vast collection was not my intention at all,” Kardamakis shares. “That said, the way the project has evolved feels quite natural given the obsessive way I work and I feel extremely lucky to be able to sustain myself and make friends doing what I love.”

Making connections is exactly what the archive has enabled him to do, with photographer James Pearson-Howes and stylists Emily Davies and Jake Hunte travelling to Athens to visit ENDYMA after following on Instagram for a while. “Michael has such a great eye, his selection of rare Helmut Lang pieces is amazing,” Davies and Hunte tell us.

Wanting to share his archive with others who couldn’t make it to Athens, the trio decided to shoot the collection on locals of all ages and backgrounds around Greece. “We wanted to create a strong set of images with people from all walks of life, mixing their own style with product from the ENDYMA archive,” they explain.

Featuring both the young, cool kids of Athens and the older generation, the images were shot before wildfires ravaged the country, with one set captured in Kardamakis’ uncle’s house which has sadly now been destroyed. “We feel very lucky to have captured part of our project there,” they say.

Here, alongside images created by the trio, we speak to Kardamakis about his extensive archive and why he loves Helmut Lang so much.

How did you first become interested in fashion?

Michael Kardamakis: After a few years of buying things on the high street that didn’t feel quite right, I started reading about fashion on the internet. I was around 15 at the time and contemporary Greek culture was not inspiring to me at all, so I just kept reading. The first designer I got into was Vivienne Westwood due to the obvious punk association. By the time I moved to the UK to study, I had discovered Helmut Lang and Ann Demeulemeester.

How did you first start your archive?

Michael Kardamakis: ENDYMA first started as an unnamed reselling project during my Art History studies. In addition to helping me get through financially, flipping clothes on eBay gave me access to all these amazing garments that I never imagined being able to own. I basically used the analytical skills I was learning in my degree to better showcase and describe my merchandise.

My interest shifted more towards archival collecting when I started ENDYMA in 2014 – I wanted my research and photography to become part of a database that could be accessed after marketplaces’ short-term listings expire. This more systematic approach meant that I started selling less and acquiring more. Since then, I have gathered the biggest collection of vintage Helmut Lang in the world at approximately 1200 garments.

Where do you find pieces for the archive? What do you look for in particular?

Michael Kardamakis: When I started, obvious marketplaces like eBay were a good source for all sorts of fantastic vintage. These days, the demand for these items is much higher, making the really good stuff much harder to find. Most of the noteworthy acquisitions I have made over the past two years are the result of trades, physical visits to people’s homes and private transactions done over email.

What did you want the purpose of the archive to be?

Michael Kardamakis: ENDYMA’s long-term aim is to contribute towards a culture of long-standing relevance within the fashion industry. It’s not about finding the latest great thing – it’s about pressing pause and grasping the beauty and complexity of what is already around. First and foremost, I am hoping that ENDYMA can be a helpful resource to people who want to learn about Helmut Lang, Raf Simons and the other designers in the collection. On the other hand, I am quite into consulting towards the creation of new things, and I work with fashion labels that use ENDYMA’s archive for inspiration.

Aside from Helmut Lang, who are some of your favourite designers?

Michael Kardamakis: While I am more or less obsessed with (nearly) everything Helmut Lang did, I also collect garments from many other designers. I am very much into the first decade of Raf Simons, Burberry Prorsum’s late 00s collections under Christopher Bailey, Ghesquière’s Balenciaga, Italo Zucchelli’s menswear for Calvin Klein, and Costume National tailoring.

Then there’s lesser known French designers such as Martine Sitbon and Jean Colonna, and Belgians such as Jurgi Persoons, Lieve van Gorp and Xavier Delcour. I also have a soft spot for Yohji Yamamoto knitwear and Miu Miu shirts for men.

“Lang focused more on refinement rather than novelty. He worked at a rare intersection between traditional clothes making and high fashion, and this often explains why his work remains on-point so many years later” – Michael Kardamakis

What attracts you to Helmut Lang in particular?

Michael Kardamakis: I have been collecting and arranging things since I was a child and, in my mind, Lang’s work lends itself well to indexing, comparing and classifying. Despite being a rather prolific designer for 19 years, his designs have exceptional consistency in terms of construction and narrative. As a result, all these interesting typologies start making themselves apparent, outlining the evolution of his core concepts throughout the years.

As opposed to designers who create new stories every season, Lang focused more on refinement rather than novelty. He worked at a rare intersection between traditional clothes making and high fashion, and this often explains why his work remains on-point so many years later.

What are some of your favourite items?

Michael Kardamakis: I could go on for days about items I like, but my current highlights are:

This cotton sateen trucker jacket, a prototype from the first Helmut Lang Jeans collection in 1997, finished with a frayed patch on the chest and a large ring on one shoulder, epitomises Lang’s brand of unconventional minimalism.

This car coat from SS00, with a very interesting strapped interior that makes it feel like an abstract art piece.  

Finally, this heavy leather coat by Raf Simons, from his very first runway show (AW97), shows how ahead of his time Raf was when no-one knew who he was.