A candid conversation with the founder of tatourammou, a sustainable line of accessories made in Greece
Social media has turned so many of us into perpetual voyeurs.. and impersonators. While many use the medium to share a “highlight reel” of their lives, others are unafraid to approach it with as much honesty as they can muster, at least in one pixelated square. This is one of the many topics touched upon in my conversation with the founder of tatourammou. Yes, I was interviewing her about her line of psychedelic scarves, bags, and accessories. The designer’s commitment to process means her brand is devoted to staying ethical and sustainable. All of the scarves us 100% Greek mulberry silk and are rolled and stitched by hand in the village of Soufli, o town with a long history of silk production. Every detail of a tatourammou piece is intentional, and the production remains impeccable despite the challenges of founding a business in Greece’s current economic landscape. But more on that below…
I discovered the line through its inspiring social media account, which is just as likely to share information from NASA about the cosmos as it is its latest equally cosmic products. Naturally, our interview about accessories unfolded into a conversation about healing, Sufi whirling, veganism, the pains of process, social media’s nuanced influences on collective consciousness, and much more. I feel like I say this a lot, but this interview is very near and dear to my heart… and incredibly RAW. Enjoy reading and feasting your eyes on their gorgeous pieces, including those from the latest C h a l c o p y r i t e R e s o r t Collection.
Tell me about the music on your site. It creates an experience and it’s the first time I think I’ve ever visited a site and not wanted to turn off their automatic music. How did you select it?
Haha.. Many people have said that actually, thank you! I was really confused about whether I should add music to my website when I was building it. Apparently, it is perceived as outdated! (realising i did spend time considering whether it is outdated or not, i cringe to my self.. Outdated.. Says who??)
The first time I listened to Gaudi was on a beautiful Greek island called Ikaria. For few years now I try to spend one-two months a year there. It is the only place I have found so far that can completely recharge my batteries and make me feel pure and substantial again. Many traditions and elements of Ikaria have changed my life and altered my perception of everything that matters to me. Some people may think this can happen anywhere and although it may be possible, it takes a while to experience this island and realize the amount of energy hidden around those woods, under these rocks. It is not coincidental that it has one of the longest life expectancies in the whole world. It attracts existences that emit or at least wish to emit on the same frequency and repels everything and everyone else. This tiny piece of land is magical.. I could talk about it for hours, it is a true inspiration to me.
So there I was in Ikaria once again, lying on my hammock under my favourite cedar trees less than 5 meters away from the Ikarian sea. I had just started my annual healing session and reached for my iPod for some appropriate music. As I’m scrolling the searching wheel Gaudi comes on the screen. I wonder for fractions of seconds what this music is and how did it get in there, yet for some reason it felt right. My instinct is clear so i follow it and press play.. And my healing trip begins.. All my revelations, all the pain that was released and substituted with acceptance, understanding and pure love, all the lessons that were learned on that special healing day, they are all connected to this music.
It has taken me seven years to launch a small part of my work which I have personally made my self in any possible way you may think and it took me approximately six months to construct my website. When I finally finished it I felt so proud and relieved. It was a very similar feeling to my Ikarian healing trip so this music was the only music that could reflect this journey. There is so much variety in sound and emotion between the tracks of this album, a strong primitive feel and a gradual build-up of euphoria and release.
Although I’m here to sell a product and a vision, to me it doesn’t matter if you shop on the first visit. What matters most is that leaving this site you will have few seeds of positivity planted inside you. That they will hopefully root deeply and break through your personal cement walls to reveal your flowers. Seeds that one day will flourish and provide the fruits and seeds for the pragmatic spiritual evolution to be passed on to the next generations. Just through your kind words and considerate actions.
A leather product to be made, requires the skin and soul of a living breathing animal. It takes endless quantities of water and energy to turn that skin into a tanned leather that will next be made into a leather product. It also involves a lot of time and workers, but mostly it involves multiple, quantum, suffering. So, it has to be respected and evaluated accordingly. The real solution to a better future is not just to mimic nature, it is primarily to respect it.
Veganism might be on the rise but people will never quit eating meat altogether, because they are partly carnivores. You can clearly see that by examining our teeth’s shapes and distribution, Some people may not tolerate it well but for the biggest percentage of the population meat is essential in moderate quantities. The evolution happened through the production of goods people were able to make by themselves. If we are totally unable to produce our food and become dependant on labs for food.. well, i don’t have to explain how powerless this will make us, us individuals. So the attempt to eliminate meat products altogether and substitute them for lab produced alternatives will never completely work in my opinion no matter how strongly marketing and advertising work towards it. It isn’t natural. What can really work is to consume less quantities of better quality meat products, from animals that have been farmed and treated with respect. This has always been the chain and this is how it should still be.
Using the skin, hair, bones, nails and guts of this animal is the most respectful thing you can do. Nature was generous enough to provide us with everything. Before we started exploiting and harassing it tho these extents, it was considered appreciative and respectful to make the most out of it.
Your collections have a majorly mystical vibe. Do you have a personal spiritual practice?
I think nature is my primal mystical practise. The sea always calms me, and the clean air allows me to breath as hard as i can to clean my lungs from the polluted atmosphere of the city. Animals. All of them, from the smallest to the biggest, they inspire me. They amaze me. Their colours, how they blend, their patterns, their feathers, their eyes, beaks and paws. The ways they interact with each other. Flowers, grass, weeds, trees, pebbles, sand, soil, stone, water.. I can observe nature for hours, how everything works. How beautiful and spectacular it is. It is never symmetrical or absolutely perfect but it is rich and real and fluid and bright and vivid and dark and rigid, all together blending into one image that always looks beautiful and unique. An image that can never be replicated. Clean and untouched.. It makes me cry so often, the majesty of it..
Travelling in certain places is another personal mystical practise. I absolutely love Morocco. Especially Marrakech, the Medina and the desert. Whenever i am there i feel like I’m at home. Travelling in places where there is strong tradition, sort absence of education and where dominates poverty also reminds me of how lucky i am to have everything i have got. When you see people who have absolutely nothing but each other and love, coexisting harmoniously and productively.. to me this is a strong lesson and it makes me feel more alive and real than tweeting and loving and liking and blocking. It is real life. Sometimes I envy its purity.
I have tried yoga, but I never managed to reach a spiritual level with it, it felt too fake for me i guess the way it is practised in modern society, too affluent. It needs special yoga pants and special mats and all sort of equipment.. I am sure if i visit India i will be able to experience its true meaning but so far all i gained from it was muscles mostly. I have also tried the standard therapeutical psychoanalysis method, but that didn’t really help that much either. it worked mostly as a reassurance of thoughts i had already established inside me through other methods by myself. I have also had the lack to experience a traditional Peyote Ceremony. Peyote is a cactus that has been consumed as medicine from ancient tribes in Mexico, like the Chichimec a and Toltec. It is a very interesting practise, what it mainly did for me was to fill me with compassion towards others and remind me that I am a woman, something i had sort of “hidden” and forgotten about for years in an effort to be somewhat unattractive and loved solely for what is inside me.
My biggest revelation and life-altering experience however happened with magic mushrooms. It is not something i practise regularly, nor something that i advise or do not advise to anyone, it has been something very personal that i have kept very sacredly inside me until now and practised only under very specific circumstances. It has helped me reconnect with my deepest thoughts and feelings. it was an experience that was not expected and can not be described if not lived, mostly because it is so personal. Each person’s brain is wired differently. However, you know all this acid art we have seen, all these crazy shapes and colours, sacred geometries, acid music.. it all exists, we just can’t always see it. You have to experience this state of absolute trance to understand where all that came from.
There are so many ways to reach that trance state, they don’t have to involve the use of any drugs, medicines or substances. There is a very interesting Turkish ancient dancing practise called Sufi whirling. It is a form of physically active meditation practised in Turkey. The dancer (Dervish) spins and whirls for a long time, gradually increasing the pace until it becomes mechanical and a higher state is reached. Some people can experience the full state of trance this way. There are so many different ways, as are we so many different individuals with unique minds and souls. Dancing is an amazing spiritual practise i think. All kinds of dances are, even pole dancing which i proudly exercise and love!
I love trying and experiencing new things in life at least once so i have tried many different things around the years. I really want to become a nice wholesome person one day with the capacity to reflect light into the darkness of others, so i am always trying to better my self with every possible chance, in every possible way.
You merge traditional silk techniques with new technologies. Can you speak a bit to those techniques and how they intersect?
My silk is produced in Soufli. Soufli is a small village in the northern part of Greece with a history in traditional silk-making starting at about 1800. It was considered a very important silk making centre at that time but since then its production has risen and suffered again many times for several historical and natural reasons. The supplier of silk i collaborate with has been in the silk making business since 1954. The knowledge and experience he has gathered throughout these years is invaluable. It is a great honour for me to collaborate with him and also a great satisfaction to contribute even if it is a little bit, to the sustenance of this tradition. Hopefully in the future i will be able to contribute even more. That is also one essential purpose / element of my brand, to sustain traditional arts and crafts and to give reason to younger people to be inspired and practise happily traditional techniques that should not be lost. To better them, to create new ones, but mostly to allow people to work with their hands and not lose their craftsmanship.
There are few ways to colour a silk fabric. The most usual and traditional methods would be to paint it, or dye it with natural or nowadays chemical materials. Another way would be to silk print it. This is a beautiful method but takes a lot of time and equipment and most times customers are not actually willing to pay what it involves, mostly they don’t realise the difference / they don’t particularly care about the difference. The newest technological method to print a fabric these days is digital printing. Two years ago my supplier purchased new digital printing machines. A huge investment that now allows us all to experiment and produce pretty much whatever we can think of. There is absolutely no waste of material or dye, the ink is set to penetrate into the fabric in the exact way we want and every pattern and design is possible! So we can digitally print any design in any fabric, 100% Greek Mulberry crepe satin silk in our case.
Our hems are also hand rolled and hand stitched by skilled women so as you may understand each piece goes back and forth from tradition to technology until it is finally examined and packed to be shipped as a final product.
You’re so open about your process, and we’ve both discussed how we’re cyclical creators. You can’t always be “on,” and someones you have to feel down. Can you speak more to this? What influences your work cycles?
Haha.. To be honest apart from Ikaria and very few other trips i have managed to take, work has been my life for the past 7 years. Although some days i may feel terrible, i never stop working and thinking about my work. Some days i really try to stop. I tell to my self “i need a break from everything, i will take ten days away from work, i need it. It will benefit my work!” But i never manage to do it. Partly because i work from home and partly because there is so much i want to do, so many designs and samples I have made and want to take to the next level, so many new products. I can’t stand still. I might not be able to financially produce all these yet but one of these days i will and when this time comes i will be absolutely ready. I have already seen how my work ages, what should be altered to withstand the forever timeframe i have in mind as it’s life expectancy, I am ready. But at the same time i am a perfectionist. So i always want to make everything better and better, i honestly don’t know when and if it will stop. It has become sort of an O.C.D, i might have to seriously control it at some point.
For the past year, my life has solely been about making tatourammou come to life and be seen around the world.. From morning to night trying to cover the production, the research, the designing of new products, the promotion, the marketing, social media, the financials, logistics and everything else involved in a small fashion business. It took me 5 months to build the website on my own, and took me about a month to collect the money it needed to actually go live and rent its space on the internet. I have been the model in my photoshoots and the ones that don’t involve my face or body i have taken my self. What i am trying to say is that i have personally worked very very hard for many years to get to the point that i am right now.
I am a highly emotional person i guess. I cry a lot. Mostly about injustice. I also stress a lot. For many years now i haven’t been able to keep a normal sleeping pattern. I can only go to bed when i am completely exhausted and unable to produce any more work. Usually this happens really late or better, early in the morning of the next day. I sleep mostly five to six hours a day and as soon as i wake up i stress about work. It hasn’t been a very healthy cycle to be honest. Hopefully once everything falls into place i will be able to live a more normal life again, i kind of miss the stress free days. I used to gain a lot of satisfaction just from designing and making, now it has also become an endless internal fight to sell, to overcome my own self and of course to be/stay relevant. That is my sole competition. My potential. And my biggest opponent has been money. Or rather better, the lack of it.
How do i let my emotions influence my work.. hmm.. I let my emotions get in the way all the time. They rule me really. I hardly manage to control them. Truly i am a creator that i know, but i have a long way to become a strong business woman. I am always hoping to find a business partner with a strong interest for the business side so he/she could handle that and i can just do what i do best, which is forecasting, and creating and working on new ideas. I feel a lot like an artist or painter. Im pouring out my thoughts, ideas and emotions and hoping that some people will connect with this form of art. I don’t particularly know exactly which size of scarf and shawl is considered the top selling product. I might know roughly the statistics, but I don’t really care about them. I made the shawls because i love the way the silk feels against my skin, the more it touches the better. I love how i can use my huge shawl in endless ways and cover myself, create my own cocoon. I don’t get the same satisfaction by a small square neck scarf, although it might look good. Is it what customers want? I have no idea.. it just feels right. My silk shawls and scarfs however are only a tiny part of the silk collection that will hopefully soon be released. The first scarf collection worked mostly as a demo for me.
Tell me a bit about the inspiration for your latest collection.
My inspiration comes from nature and travelling mostly for all the reasons i mentioned above. However as i grow older my inspiration and perception changes a lot. Thankfully this brand is named after my self so it doesn’t have to reflect anything specific apart from my vision i guess. My final vision is huge yet shifts unexpectedly, constantly changing and evolving as everything around us. Lately, everything has the capacity to inspire me creatively. If you think about it inspiration is a very personal thing. As is the way you view the world. Many people can look at the same painting and see a totally different picture, feel a totally different emotion. There are so many different viewing angles in something, how you will finally see it, is up to you.
A good example of this is my last collection, the C h a l c o p y r i t e R e s o r t Collection. It is all based on a stone and its healing effects. The chalcopyrite stone is mostly grey and bronze and when oxidized it reveals the colour spectrum. If put under the sun and studied with a microscope it can produce millions of different colourful images.. Something so small can be seen in so many different ways. So can everything. This year’s collection N a t u r a l D o m i n a n c e studies the endless unique patterns you see in African animals, flowers and insects. Africa is considered to be dry and deserted, yet there is so much variety in colours and patterns, it is amazing. Inspiration right now is fluid for me. Something may inspire me today and be forgotten tomorrow. Usually it stays in the back of my head for the right time to be executed. I keep a mental pad with all my inspiration.
You’re also so open about the struggles your generation faces in Greece. So much of this is systemic, and the people who inherited the problem are not the ones who created it. Does this economic mood play into your creations?
It has played a major part in all this journey and truly it has been a struggle. Although times have been very good in the past for me and my family, I don’t particularly come from a high financial background.
The financials in Greece as you may already know are terrible and the market is pretty much, dead. At the same time the competition in Greek fashion, jewellery and accessories is begger than even. Everyone wants to work into fashion! No wonder! When the typical wage for a person of my age in Greece right now would be around 600 to 1500 euros if you are very lucky, 400 euros is what most people get as a minimum wage.. People who used to get paid 6000e which was considered a respectable/high wage, now earn 3000e and work endless extra unpaid hours as everyone else does in Greece. The analogy between what people earn here and what they spend just doesn’t make sense.. It is very sad really. Also a waste of time in case you have dreams involving endless hours of mental and manual work.
Deciding to believe in my work and its potential, leaving other jobs behind to put all time and energy in my dream, is the only logical thing for me to do. I do need my work to actually work because i’d rather put all my love and knowledge here instead of running around in other working environments, between other people who have their dreams , when i know i can do it and i am good at it.
Most of Greece’s luxury brands that have managed to go out of Greece and find worldwide recognition are owned mostly by older people already established in some other profession, or younger people with pretty huge financial backgrounds who can easily pay a luxury production upfront . Not everyone of course falls under these categories and some people who do fall are very talented as well, but this is the situation right now here in Athens. Outside of Athens i don’t even want to think how a young designer targeting the luxury market might feel..
I am one single person, with talent some might say love for what i do i say, that has endless ideas and unique techniques but not enough money to back them up. Also i am too proud to use connections, i want my products to sell by themselves. In Greece everything works through connections, it is a fact. Knowing the right people or having the means to pay the right people are almost the only tickets to the very few high / luxury fashion that exists in Greece. Young designers are not given many opportunities and there are endless designers and makers no one knows about, sadly.
What Greek artists currently working do you admire most, and why!
One of my favourite Greek painters for the past years has been my dearest friend Taxiarchis Mermiris. I have been watching Taxiarchi’s Mermiris progress for many years and his paintings have managed to move and shake me to the bone. They are not what i expected i would appreciate in art since they are very provocative, however I love them. I have always believed he will become a really big painter one day.
I also absolutely love the work of Stelios Faitakis. His techniques resemble religious hagiographies mixed with graffiti and street arts, they are exceptionally worked and depict our reality.
My favourite greek designer is by far Mary Katrantzou. She is the most successful greek designer that managed in only few years to put Greece in the fashion map. Of course she doesn’t work in Greece, she works in London. I admire her work and “envy” the opportunities and means she had to explore ideas i have really wanted to work with, like the Fantasia Collection. She has done it in such a breathtaking way that i can only respect her howevr. Although we share a common best friend i don’t personally know her! Congrats Mary, you are extremely gifted!!
My favourite director is Georgi Grigoraki, he is a very talented director that has been working hard for many years and gradually is becoming recognised. I believe he will make us greeks proud! Check out his showreel!
I also love the music and persona of Anna Papathanasiou aka Luna. She is a strong yet sensitive artist and singer of a band called Puta Volcano. She is also a painter, a sculptor, a dancer, an actress, gorgeous stunning, unique and unapologetic. She is a mixture of anger and purity, extremely substantial mixed with pure star quality, she is gifted. I wish her all the best in her journey !!
There are many greek musicians i respect from all genres, some of them known, some of them not yet, some others we might never see much more of them.. History will tell.. 1000mods is a really cool band
Nightstalker is another
( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fclmGZrnvzk ) this song is of major importance to me..
Are there any markets you’re particularly interested in tapping into?
tatourammou aims to be a conscious lifestyle brand covering all aspects of dress and apparel from daytime to night, shoes, accessories and some fine jewelry, which is my family tradition that i wish to continue, all under the theme of each seasonal concept. Since my original studies are in industrial design there is a very high chance i might feel the need to expand towards furniture and everything else that surrounds aesthetically and practically our life. But for now it is mostly fashion.
I am mainly interested in having conscious, positive thinking, love giving and sharing customers. Whoever likes my products enough to wear them, is my target market and it is my honour to provide him with my goods. However, due to the exceptional quality of materials used and the endless hours of production involved in each piece, tatourammou prices are not always easily affordable for everyone, they can be considered as luxury items.
You’re committed to not compromising on quality to cut down on costs. That’s friggin amazing. But it must be frustrating to see others in the industry cut corners. Can you speak a bit more about this?
At first it was extremely frustrating to me but as soon as i had the opportunity to see these products up-close I realised that these brands were not exactly my competition, we had a different concept in mind. My main reason for getting into the fashion business was to produce goods of an exceptional quality that is almost forgotten nowadays. I say forgotten because i see crooked stitches, glue residues and cheap lining materials from established high-end brands I would never expect they would compromise their quality. There might be a very serious reason behind it ( apart from the ruthless profits ), mostly financial i guess and i might find it on my way soon. But the only reason i am here is to create products of exceptional quality. There is already overabundance of everything, in all price ranges and all materials. What is missing is timeless, qualitative products that can last and be passed on to next generations.
I would like to also mention here that I’m not only trying to use the best natural materials available, I try to source everything from Greece as well, so far. Even my glues are produced in Greece. I have to say I am finding it extremely hard because although the market is dead, greek factories left working still won’t take up small orders from us new designers and prices for custom made productions are really high. Sometimes i question my decision to insist so much in solely greek materials. It has taken me about 5 years to find the perfect leather. Actually it has taken me 5 years to proceed into making my leathers from A to Z to fit the exact specifications i want them to.
My vision for the future of my company is to create a 100% self-sustainable factory which produces everything in-house in a beautiful piece of land somewhere in Greece, close to Athens and closer to nature and the woods. Ideally it would be like a small village in which there will be a 100% ecological factory with happy workers. Clean production, no chemicals, only solar energy, wind and recyclable hydropower only. Mulberry trees for the silk worms, cotton, linen and other natural fibres i love. Happy cows that grow old and die naturally! Herbs and plants used for natural dyeing, happy women and men getting adequately paid for their craftsmanship and services, a sense of community, a fair trade.
If many people create such companies based in Greece, we will all be able to create more work for our people and revive our traditional ways and unique old techniques. Even create history with new ones!!
Find tatourammou online here.