(Photo: Facebook, courtesy of George Papadogamvros)
ATHENS – Giorgos Papadogamvros went to Milan in the 1990s in pursuit of his dream of learning how to create the best hand-made suits in Greece. “When I returned to Greece,” he told The National Herald, “I was 23 and as I walked the streets of Athens people would say to me ‘those are nice clothes you are wearing – where did you buy them?’ and I would say, ‘they are mine. I made them.”
Today, at 48 years of age, his suits are the favorites of NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. When we asked him to name his favorite clients, in addition to Antetokounmpo and Mitsotakis, he was emphatic: “I don’t distinguish between them. I don’t have favorites – each one has his style and that is my challenge, to create something in his style that he loves.”
He did note that he likes to make suits for the famous entertainer Sakis Rouvas, however, before describing the process that every client experiences.
“You come to the shop and I observe you as I ask you questions about what you want the suit for. I note your appearance and sense what your style is and imagine where I want to take you, down a more classic road, or a more fashionable path. There is an element of psychology here” – in addition to the measurements he takes.
After 10 days the customer comes back for the first fitting. This is most important because regardless of the design the tailor has in mind from that first visit, everyone’s body is different. “After two or three fittings, he comes back and takes home his suit,” Papadogamvros said.
He shed light on the magic of the tailor with a European folk expression he likes to tell: “Who does the king pay the most attention to? To his tailor.” By this he means, “your tailor looks out for you. Whether or not you are a king, he want to make you look elegant. And if he does not, it’s the tailors loss.”
Papadogamvros’ confidence, blended with the humility which comes from respect for his roots, engenders the loyalty of his clients. Indeed his modesty becomes his great talent and honors his parents. His father, a tailor, is from Koroni, Messinias – his village is Agios Andreas – and his mother, who is from Kalamata, is a designer.
The roots and the passion obviously come from his genes and his home growing up in the Northern Athens suburb of Marousi. In that atmosphere the ‘bug’ of the profession bit him when I was 16. “I began my search with the desire of doing something new in Greece.”
Papadogamvros likes to note that he was taught well, in Greece and abroad. “When I finished high school, I attended the best tailoring school in Greece, and then I went to Milan where I stayed a year, working at a shop to better learn the trade. My father knew an Italian man who had a clothing factory and a I stayed with him in Brescia.”
When he returned, little by little he developed a clientele, going from neighborhood to neighborhood in his car. “I realized a some point I had to make a move, so I opened my shop in Kifissia. It was a tiny place in the beginning; now I have enlarged it substantially.”
He was a pioneer – there were bespoke shops, but he made his emporium a designers operation, bringing to Greece the styles prevailing in the rest of the world in any given season. He is especially proud of bringing color to Greek men’s suits.
Papadogamvros makes anything that is best made by hand: suits, pants, shirts – for men. “But when I have the time, I may move on the women’s clothes.”
His thinking about women’s wear was inspired by the experience of creating jackets for the Prime Minister’s wife Mareva. She liked them very much and invited Papadogamvros to work together to create suits for women who were clients of her company – and that also went very well. That project was put on pause due to his heavy regular work, but he looks forward to restarting it.
At the moment, he looks forward to returning to America – the pandemic had made it impossible – for his fittings for Antetokounmpo. The voyages are called ‘trunk shows’ because he brings his work from Greece and displays for existing and potential clients.
He secures hotel suites for a few days in New York, and a few more in Milwaukee, the home Antetokounmpo’s NBA Bucks, and make appointments with the star’s friends – and Greek-Americans. “I take their measurements and return in a couple of months for the fittings.”
That is good news for the Greek-American community, especially for its young professionals. Gaining in prominence and wealth, they are ready for their ‘bespoke suits close-up’.
Asked why they should come to him – at his shop in Kifissia or when he visits the States, Papadogamvros said, “look, the suits come out the best because they are created on the body of the client. That’s where it all begins, but the person who makes the suit must be in touch with the fashions of the times. You don’t want to look like a man in a movie from 50 years ago!”
And “when you place an order with a man that creates a suit you are satisfied with, there is no turning back,” he said. As Americans might say, “once you get off the rack, you never go back. “But it’s not just that,” he said. “The quality of the fabric matters,” and so does the artistry of the tailor. Clothes don’t fit the body automatically – the hand of the tailor creates the shape. The cloth is his canvas and his marble. The quality of the fabric and the sewing is key – along with the design.”
Papadogamvros has clients who can buy their clothing anywhere, and from the best – all over the United States and Europe and Greece – yet they come to his shop. He says with a smile, “that means they are happy with my suits.”
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