NEW YORK – Designer Irene Erika (Stavrinoudis Gloumis) draws inspiration from her Greek heritage to create unique handmade designs in jewelry, handbags, home decor, and even lambades (Easter candles). With her online business thriving, she was inspired by her grandparents’ generosity and spirit to give back to the community through charity.
Irene Erika spoke with The National Herald about her expanding business, her inspiration, and about her partnering with the Smile of the Child (Το Χαμόγελο του παιδιού/To Hamogelo tou Paidiou) in Athens to donate a portion of her profits to the well-known nonprofit organization through the sale of Easter candles.
When asked if she always wanted to go into design and about what inspires her work, Irene Erika told TNH, “I’ve always been a creative person and had a love for fashion and accessories. After graduating The Fashion Institute of Technology, I followed a career in New York in the fashion industry and worked in several Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week shows for high profile fashion public relation firms. I also freelanced for some fashion magazines and worked as the right hand for one of the best model casting agencies.
“Europe always played a big role in my life I have spent endless summer in Greece, Chios mostly, where my family was born. I never missed a summer. I eventually followed my love for Europe and studied aboard in Rome and London for almost a year. I started my business based on my big two loves, accessories and Europe. My inspirations come from my travels and my Greek Heritage. Everything I use (materials) is brought in from Europe, I travel to Greece and other parts of Europe (Spain, Italy, and France) sourcing different companies and handpicking materials to create my handmade designs.
“After 10 years I decided to take this risk and start my own online business (www.IreneErika.com). For the past three years, I have successfully created a brand using my former PR knowledge on social media (@IreneErika Instagram reaching close to 20,000 followers). I not only make jewelry, I recently expanded to home decor and handbags. I’m constantly coming up with ideas and trying to expand more. I absolutely love designing and love what I do.
When asked how her Greek heritage influences her and her work, she told TNH, “It influences me because I spent several summers in Chios and traveling to different parts of the Greek islands. I love visiting local boutiques and the fashion in Europe has been a major contributor to my inspiration. I express myself within my designs.”
Irene Erika continued, “Both of my parents were born in Chios, Greece and I have been blessed to have spent almost every summer there. Greece is beautiful and magical in the summer. I also do love it in the winter as well, Athens is amazing. Any area that you are in, you have the Acropolis within view. It always gives me goose bumps and I feel a great connection to my heritage. We are very lucky to be from a beautiful place full of art history!”
About the decision to connect with the nonprofit Smile of the Child and donate a portion of the proceeds of sales, she told TNH, “I have been blessed that my business has been expanding and my name brand has become well known not only in the USA, but also Canada and Australia, (as well as other parts of Europe including Greece) My business is based on word of mouth and because of my loyal clients always recommending my designs I have grown tremendously. Greeks from around the world shop on my website and follow me on my social media accounts.
“Before my grandmother passed away (two years ago) we spoke about how the next time I’m in Athens I should visit one of the nonprofit organizations that help orphans. Last year, I made Easter Candles for fun and did very well with them. I fantasized about doing a charity of my own for a while and my grandmother inspired me (she is still an inspiration) for this project and I’m so happy it is happening. I grew up in a loving family and with the privilege of spending every summer in Greece. My grandparents were very loving and giving people. It feels good to give back. I kept it a secret for months, wasn’t sure if I could partner with an organization and do something like this. I took a risk, booked a ticket and went to visit them. Smile of the Child (Hamogelou tou Paidiou) welcomed the idea with open arms and were very excited about it.”
She told TNH that “20% of profits of each Easter Candle will be donated to Smile of the Child.”
“My grandparents and my mother taught me a lot of things growing up and one of them was to always try to help others and be a good person,” Irene Erika said. “This charity isn’t just for this Easter. It is for EVERY Easter, I will donate portions of my profits from these Easter Candles to a nonprofit in Greece. I have named this project of mine #LambadaForACause. I not only want to make my family proud, but both angels above me (my grandparents) as well.”
More information about Irene Erika and her designs is available online: www.IreneErika.com.