Some people say that the biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams while others believe that when you are surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible. If you ask me, I would say that I couldn’t agree more with both of the aforementioned views, especially, after I met in person, the Creative Director of Air Paris in New York, Klitos Teklos, who came in Cyprus to visit his family and friends.
A beautiful sunny afternoon, we sat down at a local cafe, in Nicosia, Cyprus, for the interview but honestly, it was more like hanging out with my best friend.The down to earth Creative Director of “Air Paris” in New York, explained what led him to New York and what “baby” steps followed at the beginning of his career in order to pursue his dreams and conquer the top in the industry.
He also opened up about the -A-List collaborations with significant people from the industry, including the “challenging” campaign of Victoria Beckham. The Cypriot Creative Director, also, commended on the major myth that people believe about Celebrities and why the “cultural” Tokyo is at the top of his travel destinations. Last but not least, he talked about the “discouragement of Cypriots in the field of arts” and revealed that he is in the making of a project with a tourism company in Cyprus, despite the fact that he wouldn’t open a branch office of his company in the island.
A: Anna Krith – Journalist
K: Klitos Teklos – Creative Director of Air Paris in NY
A: You were born and raised in Cyprus. How did you end up in New York City, living your dream?
K: I grew up in Cyprus but I always wanted to go to New York and fulfill my dream. It was an aching need. My journey quest started, back in 1999, when I moved to New York in order to study “Advertising Art Direction and Communications Design”. When I finished my studies, the “Art Directors Club of NY” had chosen my projects to be exposed. In the exhibition, an Editor-in-Chief of a Design Magazine, approached me and impressed by the projects I created, so she offered me a job and I just said yes. During our collaboration, I realized that I was more interested in the field of fashion, so I told her about it and she encouraged me to follow my dream. And so I did. In 2003, I started working at “AR New York” -one of the top fashion offices in the city- where I did campaigns for “Valentino”, “Versace”, “Dolce & Gabbana” Calvin Klein, Escada and many others. At that time, what we did in the fashion industry considered particularly ahead, innovate and had enormous influence in the field.
After a few years, I had an offer to work as an Art Director for the “Surface” Magazine. It was a challenge for me, so I accepted the offer. I was young then and I did not afraid to fail but fortunately, the magazine made a record sale in advertisements. At some time, I decided that I wanted to get engaged with ads in fashion industry rather than editorial, and start my own company for experimental design.
However, at that time “Air Paris” –an advertising agency- contacted me since they wanted to open an office in New York. That’s when I thought it would be better to open my own company/studio in cooperation with “Air Paris”. So in 2007, we “sealed” the deal and now here we are.
A: In your long-term career you have met a lot of people. Who, however, was an obstacle but made you stronger?
K: Generally, when you work in a field like this – where there is tremendous competition and everyone wants to be at the front line-, the road is not lined with rose petals. There have always been obstacles in my course, as there are people who want to have the upper hand or take my place. This is what I call challenge. Honestly, you should not waste your energy and keep focusing on your goal. Indeed, I totally believe that the best way to prove your worth is by doing your job.
A: You have collaborated with Hollywood’s biggest stars. Which famous person was the least approachable?
K: It’s part of my job to have to work with big names in the fashion industry. I find myself very lucky, as they are people I admire.
However, I do not have the role of the admirer but the visionary. It is challenging, especially at the beginning of collaboration; you have to inspire confidence because the risk is enormous, since the cooperation is made with Celebrities, and they must trust a person who don’t know personally.
The success of campaign is essentially my own success, so it is very important for me to make them understand that you we are on the same page. But in general, I think that their agents are more difficult to co-operate with. However, I remember the collaboration I had with Victoria Beckham and all I can say is that she wanted to “escape” from Spice Girl’s ghost, since she changed career, so she wanted to emphasize on quality.
A: If you were the protagonist of a campaign, what concept do you think would suit you and why?
K: For each person or brand you are working with, the challenge is that you have to say their story and not yours. Personally, I love straight lines without colors, so I imagine myself in something that will be extremely minimalist and authentic. Something that would show the bright side of life.
A: What is the biggest myth that people believe for famous people?
K: The biggest myth about celebrities is that they are flawless or that they have zero insecurities and problems. I think that the persona the world has built for them, is far away from reality; they are common people. When you get in touch with someone famous, you will realize that. Indeed, they are much more human and down to earth than we think.
A: What is one thing you would change about yourself if you could?
K: Nothing at all. I think an important part of personal development is loving all aspects of yourself. I have the sense that the changes are for the insecure. Honestly, I have fully accepted myself as it is.
A: How would you describe your personality and how do you choose your friends?
K: I am incredibly positive and optimistic, very encouraging – especially when it comes to the environment that surrounds me – I am creative and imaginative. I really care about my friends. The irony is that I can give advice to others but when it comes to me, I’m undecided. You know, we build our “fort” with people who fill us up. I believe that my family is the foundation of the fortress and the guards are my friends. I feel so blessed. All in all, you must have the knowledge to be able to choose your friends and just to be honest, I prefer to choose the people that would be in my life and thus I know I won’t lose control.
A: You have traveled to many countries around the world. Which one fits your personality and why?
K: Because of my work I have traveled to many countries. I am interested in seeing cultures, meeting new people and learning customs and traditions. Well, I vote for Tokyo; there’s something unique about it. The nobleness of the people in Tokyo was particularly impressive. I have never seen such kindness anywhere in the world. It was a surprise for me. However, Mexico City “captured” my heart as well. All in all, it all about “diving” into the culture, thus you do not feel stranger and you can broaden your outlook on life and its possibilities.
A: For what reason would you quit your career and return back to Cyprus?
K: Well, I do not think I could ever quit my job. But, I could do it anywhere in the world; nowadays, technology, allows us to work without restrictions. It is not just the place; each person has its own inclination and it plays a major role in taking decisions but honestly, I do not think that I would quit my career, unless I wanted to change orientation.
A: Would you consider the option to open a branch office of “Air Paris” in Cyprus?
K: I wouldn’t open an office here, due to the lack of merit and negative spirit in this area; I do not think it would be the right decision. I love my hometown but there is a thing that annoys me very much; the fact that arts are not being encouraged. There is a strange discouragement from the Cypriots when it comes to the field of arts. However, I am in talks with a tourism company for a project in Cyprus but right now I cannot say more.
A: What is your motto?
K: “Ithaca” of Constantine P. Cavafy, is an extraordinary motto for life; It is not the destination but the journey. Furthermore, once you have experienced excellence, you will never again be content with mediocrity”. Generally Speaking, I think that you should be authentic in order to be true to others.