Maintaining the balance – how one dental student is completing his degree while running a fashion business

Being accepted into dental school while developing a fashion brand might leave a person at a crossroads, wondering which subject to pursue. But University of Plymouth student, Christoforos Kalantzis, has taken up both mantles and explains how his passions don’t just co-exist, but enable each other thrive.
About to embark on his third of five years on BDS Dentistry, Chris is simultaneously launching his clothing brand, Orpheas – which ‘focuses on self-expression through embracing vulnerability’, and is very much shaped by his day job.

“Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve enjoyed fashion and, as I couldn’t afford to go high end, always ended up in the high street. What did fascinate me though, is how designer brands ended up in certain shops, so I did a bit of investigation. 

“Discovering smaller brands and learning more about their supply chain was a big eye opener, and I realised that, while I had a lot to learn, I had lots of design ideas that no one else had tried.”

<p>Christoforos Kalantzis modelling his designs from clothing brand, Orpheas&nbsp;</p>
A lover of STEM subjects, especially human biology, he found his designs were expressive and incorporated lots of different elements of the body. He said:
“Fashion is all about self-expression, and a lot of my designs incorporate my love of STEM – with a heart, spine and other parts woven in subconsciously.

“But self-expression also comes with an undertone of not having discipline, that’s how the name ‘Orpheas’ came about: he was a character from Greek mythology who wasn’t allowed to turn around and look at his wife, but did. 
“I know it’s a myth, but there’s a lot in there about biology’s influence on the mind, and the interplay of the two fascinates me. I was really looking forward to exploring the idea further.”
In the meantime, Christoforos was considering his future and decided that, while he loved fashion, he wanted something different to build on for paid employment. Coming from a state school in Halifax with both parents optometrists, he did consider following in their footsteps, or pursuing medicine – eventually deciding that dentistry provided what he was looking for long term.
<p>Christoforos Kalantzis in SDLE</p>

“Dentistry seemed a great balance of working with people, using science and developing business skills. I had to work incredibly hard and was so proud I managed to get in to Plymouth. Coming to the open day felt like home and everyone was so friendly when I came for interview too – I was treated like a person who mattered.”
His study schedule is a busy one, with clinical skills, business acumen and academic lectures in addition to providing supervised treatments for NHS patients – an important part of Plymouth’s programme. But he ensures he finds time to continue with Orpheas.

“I’m very lucky that, because it’s such a passion, it doesn’t feel like work. I don’t put pressure on myself to create designs, a feeling just comes over me or I get some inspiration and just start creating from there.

“Mental health is such an important issue – and this balance is good for my own mental health as I’m pursuing something separate from my degree. Studying and exams can be all consuming, not just for me, but for everyone, so it’s really important to have balance. The fact that the brand is about self-expression through embracing vulnerability I hope backs up this message.” 

<p>Christoforos Kalantzis sewing machine&nbsp;</p>
Christoforos has worked with suppliers and people already in the industry to create a website for Orpheas, which has recently been launched. One things very close to his heart is that it remains accessible and recognisable for his peers. 
“Ultimately if I wanted to make money, I’d open up a pop-up shop in London. But this is about being able to access something that gives you and outlet to express yourself – especially for men, as typically they are least likely to open up about their mental health. 

"I want Orpheas to be based and embraced in Plymouth, where I’ve had some amazing opportunities to develop personally and professionally. This isn’t just for me, it’s for everyone.”
So what happens next?

“I want to launch the brand and ensure that students are able to access and recognise it. The beauty of fashion is that designs can always develop so who knows how things will look in a few years’ time. I’m actually due to be at the Fresher’s Fair on 20 September 2022, so it’d be great to see people there.

“I’ve not decided exactly what I’ll do after graduating, but I’ll definitely do my dental foundation year to ensure I can work in the NHS if I want to. I’ve loved the community engagement element of the course here at Plymouth too.
“Whatever happens, I want to keep my passions going. Dentistry and fashion don’t naturally sit together but in, my case, without one, there simply wouldn’t be the other – it’s so important to have that balance.”

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