A young Greek-American designer hailing from Brooklyn caught her first big break earlier this year when her designs were featured on the silver screen.
Despina Kotsis, a 23-year-old designer from Bay Ridge, has made a name for herself by blending her Greek heritage with modern streetwear. She reached a new level of recognition this summer when her designs were included in the highly anticipated “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3.”
The film, released on Sept. 8, is the third installment in the My Big Fat Greek Wedding series, written and directed by Greek-Canadian star Nia Vardalos. A backpack designed by Kotsis takes center stage in the earliest scenes of the movie.
“I am proud to be Greek-American,” Kotsis said.
She proclaims her origins from Thessaloniki and Evia, Greece, and emphasizes the importance of keeping Greek culture alive in her family. Her grandparents’ story of arriving in America with “a suitcase and a dream” deeply influenced her creative aspirations.
Growing up, Kotsis attended Greek school at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, learned the Greek language from her grandfather, and continued her Greek studies at Fort Hamilton High School. Her designs are influenced by her Greek identity, with several pieces dedicated to celebrating Greek culture.
Kotsis’ entry into the fashion world began at the age of 18 when she founded “Minx New York.” She felt a strong desire to make her mark in the streetwear market, despite having no sewing skills at the time. One of her best-selling designs, the “dope eye,” is inspired by the Greek “Mati,” or the “Evil Eye,” featuring vibrant colors and the New York City skyline as the eyelashes.
The brand’s logo features a pigeon, which is a testament to Kotsis’ passion for inspiring others. “The slogan of my brand is ‘Spread Your Wings,’ signifying that we all have our own set of wings — like the pigeon. When we spread our wings, we can achieve a life full of endless dreams and possibilities.”
Kotsis explains, “It represents me as a Greek American living in New York.”
While Kotsis’ Greek heritage is a vital part of her work, her upbringing in Brooklyn also plays a significant role in her creative process.
“I’ve gone to public schools, and spoken to kids from different cultures and backgrounds my whole life,” she said. “You really do get a taste of being in a melting pot here in Brooklyn.”
In her attempt to redefine fashion, Kotsis makes an inclusive statement by using models of different sizes and looks. She said, “Everyone is beautiful in their own way, regardless of their shape, size, or background.” Her designs are a celebration of diversity and individuality.
Kotsis has created pieces dedicated to other cultures, including a dragon representing Asian culture and a pineapple for Hawaiian culture. The Greek-American designer quickly gained national recognition for her brand on social media, and garnered 111,000 followers on TikTok during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was not long before Vardalos noticed her work and decided to feature it in her next film.
Vardalos’s support was a highlight for Kotsis, who said she admired the actress and the movie that “shaped her childhood.” Vardalos not only tweeted about Kotsis’ brand but also featured it more than once in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3,” solidifying the bond between their Greek backgrounds.
Recalling this pivotal moment when she got news that her work would be used in the film, Kotsis said, “I screamed! I was shocked because I love Nia Vardalos. I love My Big Fat Greek Wedding. That’s the movie I grew up with.”
“Having support from somebody who’s already done it and is out there, representing the Greek community, is truly a blessing,” she added.
Kotsis recently graduated from St. John’s University with a degree in childhood education, but her passion for fashion continues to drive her. Her brand’s success has increased her sales and brand awareness, thanks to Vardalos’s support.
Through her designs, Kotsis shares a unique story that mirrors her Greek-American identity and the spirit of Brooklyn. Her message to others is simple: “Follow your dreams and ignore the haters and what people have to say. If you’re truly passionate about something, it will pay off.”