NEW YORK – Greek myth and art retain their power to inspire creativity and fascinate young minds, and when the engines of the Greek spirit are hitting on all cylinders, good things happen on multiple scales, from the 2004 Golden Olympics to the exciting new companies created by the younger generation of Greece’s entrepreneurs.
One of those entities is Zeus + Dione, a new fashion and home ware brand based in Greece and created by Dimitra (Mimika) Kolotoura and Mareva Grabowski, has caught the attention of the global marketplace through its unique products and its partnership with the leading British fashion e-store MATCHESFASHION.COM.
The two friends “revisited the Greek folk and high art heritage with a fresh eye and created a brand…that features handmade, high quality products based on refined craftsmanship. In collaboration with different entities such as manufacturers, small workshops, artists and designers from all over Greece,” according to company communications.
Greece’s classical heritage has also had a powerful impact on the authors of the endeavor. According to some myths, Zeus and Dione are the parents of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation. The products of Zeus + Dione tap into both the beauty and simplicity of the Mediterranean world.
Mareva studied marketing at Harvard and worked for a Swiss bank before she came to Greece. She and Dimitra began to have discussions about the richness of Greece’s folk art, furniture and clothing traditions, as well as cultural heritage and resolved to find ways to share them with the world through products of high quality.
Mareva’s passion for traditional Greek crafts and products drives her travels to places like Metsovo, Nafplion, Soufli and Crete. Dimitra, whose parents are from the island of Syros, has the stronger connection to the fashion industry. Her artistic side drew her to studies in architecture and photography.
Silk shirts, pants, airy caftans and leather sandals are some of the handmade creations inspired by Hellenic traditions.
Mareva discovered silk and cotton pieces weaved on traditional looms in the town of Soufli in Northern Greece, whose silk industry dates to Byzantium, and crochet items are knitted by local women in Attica and other parts of Greece and silver handmade fastenings created by Athenian silversmiths. Dresses and shirts are weaved in Metsovo, and in Crete. Embroideries based on traditional patterns are stitched by artisans on the island of Crete.
They are very proud of their hand-made embroidery and crochet products.
Their first spring-summer collection was presented in September at their own showroom at Paris Fashion Week. Their first international buyers were from the Middle East, London, and they have since reached Milan and have crossed the Atlantic to stores like A’maree’s in Newport Beach, CA and are exploring venues in New York.
The Financial Times is excited. Last fall Ruth Chapman wrote: “Artisans and designers from all over Greece are employed to create a luxurious collection using traditional techniques such as embroidery and leatherwork.”
By turning their attention to a new segment of the fashion industry which they feel has not been properly explored, they believe they have found a way for the Greek traditions, which are threatened with extinction, to not only survive but to thrive, and they have introduced their discoveries to young designers who have taken them to heart.
Their first products were sandals and the main materials were make of silk from Soufli, and cotton. Their first collection was small, consisting of 15 items whose spirit was minimalist and was inspired by Doric art. Some of the cotton items were made by nuns in Crete.
Over time artists, more designers, and craftsmen participated in the endeavor, including well-known jewelry designer Ileana Makri and the architectural firm Spacelab, which collaborates on the home ware products such as chairs.
The new 2014 collection is themed “The Deconstruction of the Temple.” It is inspired by the simplicity of Greece’s ancient architectural heritage and how it is experienced after 2000 years. “The clothes are airy and have simple lines, and are made of cotton and silk,” TNH was told by Sophia Karagianni, the company’s Communications Manager.
Karagianni agrees that despite the pain the economic crisis has brought to Greece, there are young people who are turning their difficulties into opportunities, and the company seeks to encourage younger people to take up the traditional crafts.
“We need a lot of time, but this is the beginning.” The company has grown from three people last summer, to 15, nine of whom are under 35.