An interview with the founder of Hellenic Aesthetic, Marianthi Vlachos
Growing up Greek-American, I’m quite familiar with the experience of coming back from having spent summer in Greece with a haul of sandals and bracelets for my friends. (ok, and self. but also friends!) For whatever reason, there’s always been a serious lack of availability of Greek designers in the U.S. Greek festivals and pop-ups notwithstanding, this has been felt most intensely on the e-commerce front.
Hellenic Aesthetic is one of the major players on a mission to change just that. Founded by Marianthi Vlachos, the e-commerce and lust-worthy Instagram is one of my favorites. I had a chance to speak with Vlachos about her inspiration, curation, and more. I’d be remiss not to add that it was so lovely to speak with a fellow Greek-American on a mission similar to ours at DR, as well as someone forging an entrepreneurial path in her own signature way. We also happened to share a frustration with many of the misconceptions about Greek culture, and how it’s our generation’s mission to change that.
Her selection is stunningly on-point… head over to Hellenic Aesthetic now to see for yourself (or after reading this interview 😉 P.S. Hellenic Aesthetic also ships to Canada and Australia! Take note…
Tell me a bit about your name! it’s so catchy.
I had been toying with the idea of creating an e-commerce site that would make Greek-made products more easily accessible in USA for quite awhile, but the store didn’t have a name. Out of the blue “Hellenic Aesthetic” came to mind and that was it, I went straight to Instagram to see if anyone was using it, purchased the domain name, and the website was born. It worked out great because both words have Greek-language origins, and yes, it is very catchy!
You have a background in Art History. How has that influenced Hellenic Aesthetic?
Over the course of earning my degree I spent a great deal of time analyzing and studying fine art which helped me fine-tune my eye for design. When it comes to buying for Hellenic Aesthetic, I love working with designers who incorporate subtle nods to ancient Greek design.
Who are some of your favorite Greek designers and why?
Hellenic Aesthetic is currently carrying ten different Greek designers, I could never choose a favorite from the ten! Each brings a unique perspective and product to our store and they have contributed to the feeling. As for designers that inspire me who we do not carry, Zeus + Δion would have to be my number one. They bring a degree of luxury that proves Greece can compete with the rest of Europe, if not the entire the world, as a producer of high-quality, high-fashion clothing. Their designs are so very Greek in their core, but it is never patronizing. From a business standpoint, I have to respect Ancient Greek Sandals and their infiltration of the global fashion industry. Their Greek-made shoes can be purchased through luxury retailers anywhere and has really helped pave the way for awareness of Greek design. Bravo!
What do you wish Americans knew more about Greek culture? Any misconceptions you wish you could change?
In comparison to other minority groups in the USA, the Greek American communities across this country have gone to great lengths to share aspects of our culture with the masses. Whether it’s through annual Greek festivals or the wildly popular film My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Americans have a slightly better grasp of the traditions we brought across the Atlantic with us. With that being said, I started Hellenic Aesthetic to combat the belief that Greece is just an exporter of Kalamata olives and feta cheese.
What is unique about Greek design?
A unique aspect of Greek design today is the circumstance from which it is currently being produced. With all of the complicated economic issues Greece is facing, there is still this creative fire to make beautiful things. These makers, designers and artists are, for the most part, creating products geared towards the booming tourism industry in Greece. They understand that when you travel to Greece, you want to bring something home with you that reminds you of your trip, so there are so many wonderful Greek-inspired products being made. I think when you combine the exceptional history of the country and its natural setting, you have a very comprehensive and deep source of reference material.
What Greek artists, living or dead, do you admire most and why?
I have such admiration for the Ancient Greeks and their desire to make the most commonplace objects beautiful and ornate. Take the most commonly exhibited type of Greek art, vases. Someone took time to not only sculpt these vessels but then to painstakingly paint figures and stories on them. A countless number of these pots are still in existence and you can find them at hundreds of museums around the world. They serve as a reminder that things can be both beautiful and functional, and to continue to seek that same principle in a world full of mass production and copies.
Who do you hope to reach with Hellenic Aesthetic?
Our site is and will always be a place for anyone who lives far away from and is desperately missing Greece. At first, we wanted Hellenic Aesthetic to cater strictly to the Greek-American community, but as we grew so did the overwhelming amount of requests to ship to Canada and Australia (which we now do). Since day one our tagline has been “a Piece of Greece to Your Doorstep” and we want to continue to deliver Greece through every aspect of what we do, from our Instagram feed to our blog to the products we make available to our customers.
It is really rewarding when people who are not Greek and/or have never visited Greece find their way onto our Instagram or website and find something they love. It is much more difficult to reach people who do not have a predisposition (like Greek ancestry) to appreciating something just because it has “Made in Greece” stamped on it. I want for those who are not familiar with Greek design to know that it is worthy of their attention.
Is it important for Greeks to identify with their Hellenism? Why or why not?
If we don’t claim it, someone else will. Throughout history, there have been attempts by others to rewrite our story and declare it as their own. This continues to happen today and if we become indifferent, it would be to the detriment of the truth.