London’s Notting Hill neighborhood is being treated to an incredible cocktail of Greek fashion brands this spring.
The celebrated pop-up series MONOspace is back in London this month for a two-week installation. Founders Marina Bury-Christella and Myrto Mitropoulou created the concept, now in its fifth iteration, to share Greek fashion brands with the UK market. More than just a pop-up store, MONOspace is a full-blown editorial concept, including a stunning film. Their approach shows that Greek fashion brands have much more to share than just the standard “blue and white” aesthetic many outside of Greece associate with its culture.
Each concept is tied to the aesthetic character of the London neighborhood where the pop-up takes place, adding extra dimension to the curation.
DR had an incredible conversation with the founders of MONOspace about their evolution, inspiration, Greek fashion’s unusual history, and the future of MONO.
Read on below! And if you’re in London, be sure to visit MONOspace now until June 21st, full details below.
Tell me a bit about how has MONOspace evolved. How is this iteration different than previous ones?
MONOspaces are always different since we create a unique concept and a specific group of designers which each space, each time. So in that sense, MONOspace V is different from the previous ones because of its concept and because we are showcasing 22 new brands out of the 32 in total.
But apart from that, the evolution that you mentioned above has to do more with the MONO team, meaning us, the team who runs MONO.
In the past almost 3 years that MONO was created and started its journey, we have not only grown older and wiser but we have also gained a great deal of experience which we believe will help us a lot when we decide to practically evolve MONO into a showroom, a sales agency for Greek brands outside of Greece.
Having worked closely with more than 100 Greek brands, we now have the inside knowledge we need to continue and develop our project.
In curating the brands for MONO V, are there any in particular that really captured your heart that you can say a few words about?
In every MONO we try to pick brands that reflect the concept we chose and for every MONO, we try to discover new designers and brands that fit our concept. In the process of selecting them, there are two options. We keep select some brands we want to collaborate with in every MONO, as we believe they are very unique and fit our general aesthetics.
One particular example is the brand Blanc. Its designer Konstantinia Vafeiadou does amazing work and creates collections we want to carry in every MONO, both winter and summer. In a country where hats are not that common – all year long – as they are for example in London, Konstantinia has managed to create a very unique brand of handmade hats.
On the other hand, every time we want to show pieces that are very particular and not easy to find everywhere. In this MONO, we believe that one of our most unique designer is Anna Kitsou who creates ceramic jewelry in amazing styles and colors.
One other brand is called Kooreloo, and it’s a brand of amazingly-crafted bags made of the traditional rugs we used to have in our houses. As well as another bag brand, called Salty Bag and they are made out of up-cycled old sails in Corfu, the famous island of the Ionian Sea. We decided to talk you about these 3 brands, because we believe they are very particular, without that means that we don’t regard the rest of the brands as our “children”. As MONO selection is being made purely by us and only us, each brand we choose to work with, means we have seen something that firstly reflects our own aesthetics and that has a strong story to say to the world. We believe that this is a big part of making MONO successful.
Tell me a bit more about the creative inspiration for the MONO V editorial. I love how the press release talks about hearkening back to a past era… Are there any old glam women or men that come to mind? What scene did you have in your imagination?
Coming up with the concept each time is a very interesting procedure. We slowly work our ways towards the final idea and the sources of inspiration are always multiple and we always get inspired by the designers’ collections.
For MONOspace V, we wanted to talk about something different, other than the Greek sea and the sun and blue skies. This is all great and they can be an endless inspiration but, we feel like we talked about them in our previous MONOspace, so now we wanted to see Greece from a different angle. Last year we spent some days in Tinos island and we fell in love with the rocky “beaches” on the northern tip of the island and we also visited Monemvasia and when you go to these places, they automatically remind you of another, past era. An era more sophisticated than today and probably more romantic than today. Old glam women that come to mind could be Maria Kallas or Jackie O or Jeny Karezi and the summer time they were spending in Skorpios or Hydra. Another inspirational point for this concept was a photograph by Aaron Slim taken on an Athenian rooftop which overlooks the Acropolis.
Everytime we organize a MONO, we put together an idea for a film too. This is probably the most creative part of the project, as this is where we can express our creative and styling skills, creating a film that shows all the brands we are having at MONO, but most importantly showing our aesthetics and style to people. This time and because of all the buzz that is happening internationally right now with Greece, Gucci asked for the Parthenon, Chanel presented its Cruise 18 collection in a space transformed into an ancient Greek temple, Loewe campaign featuring ancient statues, he felt that there is a “trend” – if we are allowed to use that word for the Ancient Greek civilization.
On the other hand, last summer in MONO, was all about the Greek summer and the famous beaches and paradise waters everyone associates with Greece. This season we decided to show something else, an aspect of Greece and the Greek summer, that maybe doesn’t apply to the most of the visitors… but it’s there and it has its followers.
For example, there’s a very big cultural festival, called Festival Athinon & Epidauvrou, where a lot of cultural events happen: theatres, dance, art all over Athens and in the famous ancient theatre of Epidavrus. Moreover all over Greece, music, film and dance festivals, as well as art presentations are taking place, some more international, some more local, all of them though very interesting. I think that the scene I have in mind when we were brainstorming about this MONO, was Marika Kotopouli the famous actress in her pleated Grecian Chic dress, after her act in Epidavros to enter a very renowned tavern that all actors are going to eat and drink after the play, along with the dancers and the rest of the team in a very warm summer night.
Your focus is emerging, contemporary designers from Greece. In an era where new labels are popping up every day, what do you think makes Greek designers unique?
Maybe that they are Greeks? haha.. One good selling point they’ve got is that they actually produce in Greece. Although this is a tremendously hard and complicated thing to do, they insist. Knowing where the pieces you buy come from is a luxury in today’s fashion world as the industry is using cheaper and cheaper manufacturers and the working conditions of the people who actually make the clothes that people wear today are at least unacceptable.
Apart from that, some Greek designers have a very fresh approach to interpreting Greek fashion and that makes them unique. Orsalia Parthenis, for example, inherited a fashion brand from her family with deep roots in the fashion scene and she is known for making dresses that will make you look like a modern Greek Goddess. Who doesn’t like that? Ergon Mykonos prints fabrics with traditional Greek embroidery on them. And you see how folklore is really in fashion lately. (DR aside, we wrote about this very topic just this week. Read the full piece here.)
Another point is that Greeks know about summer and summer clothes. And that’s why when it comes to spring/summer collections, they combine their experience with summer weather and summer needs with their imagination and inspiration from (like we said above) the sea, the sky and the endless blue.
Having said all that, we don’t necessarily believe that they are “unique”..but they definitely have done a great effort to make very good collections under very hard conditions.
Is is true that new – amazing – labels are popping up every day from all over the world and as most of them have an e-shop already, it’s much easier to buy an amazing dress or a unique piece of jewelry from anywhere around the world. However, what we believe makes Greek designers unique and what why to initiate this project almost 3 years ago, was that we show a craftsmanship and a style we both loved and wanted to show to the rest of the world. Greek fashion doesn’t have of course the history of France or Italy or the extravagance of London, but we had a very good cotton and silk industry – unfortunately, most of them closed down – and we do have a very strong tradition in jewelry as well as – believe it – in fur. The furs we are producing in the north part of Greece, in Kastoria in particular, are the best in the world. In a world where everything is either coming from the Inditex family or they are made in China or in India in huge factories, where people and kids especially work 15-20 hours per day for a bread, we offer a handmade product of good craftsmanship made by legal workers in a country of Europe and in a very competitive price.
Do you think Greek designers are underrepresented in fashion, a world dominated very much by London, New York, Paris and Italy? What do you think the global audience doesn’t know (or understand) about design in Greece?
Of course Greek designers are underrepresented in fashion, but unfortunately we never saw this industry as one that we should care about and invest in, as Italy does in the production area, or as London does on the business side or as Paris or even New York does as a trendsetter.
Apart from the likes of Mary Katrantzou, who does a phenomenal job internationally and we are very proud of her, or Ancient Greek Sandals (a brand that started from Corfu and now they’re synonymous with the famous leather sandal everybody wears during the summer). Then there are a few amazing examples in jewellery, Nikos Koulis, Venyx, Yiannis Sergakis, Ileana Makri, Leto… We do have amazing jewelry designers in Greece, but the rest of the fashion industry was focused only on wedding dresses and bridal wear for a very long time.
The audience doesn’t know that there is fashion from Greece to start with. And that’s why at our pop-ups when we say that the designers are from Greece, clients are surprised. “Oh, you make clothes in Greece?” they’ve said…
Of course, we believe that Greek designers are underrepresented in fashion and that is due to a number of problems that are not easy to overcome.
The financial crisis plays a major role in that too, Greeks also need to learn how to do business better when they do business outside of Greece. There is still a lot to be learned by all.
Tell me a bit about how this edition of MONO reflects the neighborhood where it takes place?
Notting Hill is stylish and sophisticated but not pretentious! They are women that probably work or have worked in the fashion or the art industry and most of the time they know what they are looking for. They know what’s going on in fashion internationally, but they choose to have their own style. They are not trendy, we would say that they are more classic but they want to get that statement piece that makes the difference. And we believe that that has proven to be MONO’s strongest point. That we have that unique, statement piece that is not easy to find somewhere else around.
Any plans to take MONO outside of Europe? What’s next?
Logistically it’s really hard to take MONO outside of England, as it is a UK-based company and that’s why we haven’t done it yet, however our dream is to travel the world (if not just Europe) with MONOspace and spread the word. We chose London in the first place, as is a very international city with people from all over the world and the truth is that MONOspace’s clientele covers almost all the nationalities, which is very interesting for us to see how different people with different cultures react to our Greek fashion project!
MONOspace V runs from 7 – 21 June 2017
Address: 79-81 Ledbury Road, W11 2AG, Notting Hill, London, UK
Opening Hours: Mon – Sat: 10am – 8pm & Sun: 11am – 7pm
Select photos by WHITELIGHT, an online platform to highlight the contemporary Greek photography whose custody have taken Ellie Tsatsos and Gkelly Siganou.
Love this piece? Click here to our interview with MONOspace V designer Tatiana Choremi