by Alessandra Izzo aka Ally Cat
The pole community is full of multi-talented artists and entrepreneurs who dream of creating a successful business servicing our industry while following their passions. As an incorrigible entrepreneur myself, I’m always interested in the stories behind these amazing individuals (mostly strong-willed and inspirational women!), so I’ve created a blog series looking at what makes these movers and shakers tick, and the businesses they have created.
I spoke with Fotini Moutafi, the brains behind greek pole apparel label “Backbone”.
A: Hi Fotini, thank you for speaking with me today. Can you tell me firstly how you discovered pole dancing?
F: I was studying French literature in Athens, whilst finishing Fine Arts and doing costume design school. I was also working in theatre and television production. One day, a friend mentioned I should try pole dancing. I have been swimming ever since I could remember myself and practicing martial arts, however I never would have imagined myself almost naked in front of a mirror!
At the beginning I was a bit hesitant. But, it came to be love at first spin. I am a true pole addict now, after facing my own fears and taboos, so it came quite naturally to combine my two passions, design and pole dancing. Thus, in 2014, Backbone pole wear was born.
A: What do you think the most important elements are in creating the perfect pole outfit?
F: I think it is finding the key balance between comfort and beauty. Pole dancers of every level are athletes and they need to perform. Nevertheless, as I am sure you will have seen, women athletes do spend time in taking care of themselves. Runners have elaborate nail art, swimmers have impressive costumes and so on. So each Backbone outfit that I create has to be killer both in looks and in performance.
A: Do you make all the Backbone items yourself, or do you just create the design and have others make the final product?
F: We manufacture all products in Greece, which is a very difficult task as our company was created in the midst of the biggest economic crisis in history. Every day we have many obstacles to overcome, but we believe that soon the situation will change. Our company supports the Greek economy by giving jobs to Greek people. We are doing the best we can to set an example for ethical fashion production.
A: Many of your designs are very different from other brands – do you research what other brands are doing to set yourself apart from the others?
F: Thank you! The truth is that we hear what the pole community needs. When we design something new, we test it again and again just to be sure. When you spend countless hours on perfecting the designs, you become damn demanding that they come to life exactly as you imagined them!
We offer products that are addressing living humans and not plastic dolls on department stores. We’re so happy to offer something totally unique to our customers just as each customer is unique for us, and I believe that is the key to Backbone’s success.
A: When designing for pole dancers, there are a huge variety of body types to cater for. Do you design with this in mind?
F: That’s how Backbone came to existence really. We believe that every woman of every size must feel attractive when seeing herself in the mirror. Every single piece of your wardrobe should make you feel strong, confident, and beautiful. We design clothes for real women. And believe me real women are demanding. Just as they should be!
A: You also cater for some very niche markets i.e. men, kids and maternity. What made you decide to venture into these ranges?
F: Pole dancing gains more and more attention by the day. It is very inspiring for us that the taboo is breaking and little by little we see children and men step on that pole. It is only natural then that we include them in our collection. Also, when I was pregnant and practicing on the pole, I couldn’t find anything to wear as my belly was growing. So I decided to make something for mums on the go! We are also super excited for our new ballet collection that is coming up. Backbone ballerinas beware!
A: What was the most difficult/interesting/exciting custom design you’ve ever created?
I can confidently say that every costume is a new challenge. Every body and every personality is dealt with new eyes because we are all unique. And that’s the key element to our designs. Be proud of your individuality. So, I have created costumes for oversize models, for teens, for muscular athletes.
Each costume is an exciting procedure, coming from my artistic background I am creating live portraits if I do say so myself, you know?! When you see a painting, the person in that painting wears an outfit that is most suited to their personality. This is the power of clothing and that’s what I am trying to do.
A: You chose one of our nation’s most loved pole dancers, Miss Filly, as a brand ambassador for Backbone. What qualities does she have that reflects your brand?
F: We were thrilled to have her represent us! Like wow Miss Filly? That’s huge! She spreads the positive, inspiring message that launched Backbone in the first place. Who knew that four years later our icons would be wearing our costumes? Gratitude, just gratitude.