Buy This Issue
The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 11 June 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 11 JUNE 2016 15 NIKOS FOTAKIS ouvenir. The very word evokes specific images of ‘Greekness’: a satyr in full erection; cute donkeys with straw hats strolling the stone-paved streets of the islands; replicas of ancient ornaments; the presidential guard in traditional attire in front of the parliament in Athens; a single female breast, tanned, sunbathing, aligned to the skyline formed by mountains; the first verses of The Odyssey printed in large, ancient Greek lettering on cheap cotton shirts, destined to be shoved in a tourist's suitcase and end up being someone's pyjamas. Rafaela De Moura Torres could not stand any of this. Born in Brazil and raised in Greece, she had been working as a fashion editor, buyer and style consultant before deciding to take matters in her own hands. Along with her mother, Jacqueline Rosemberg de Moura, who has experience in fashion, she created a series of fashion items - T-shirts, hats, bags and other accessories - targeted towards tourists with a sense of style and good taste. Their prints feature some of the staples of Greek summer - from windmills to watermelons and from Poseidon's trident to the spikes of sea urchins - deconstructed with humour and presented in a tasteful manner on T-shirts bearing the official colours of Greek summer: bright white and clear blue. As Greek tourism’s high season is under way, Rafaela shares the backstory of this success story. S How did you come up with the idea to create T-Greeks? It only took a few hours. My mother and I had a discussion, after a stroll at Plaka; we were thinking how hard it is for someone visiting Greece to find a souvenir that is not necessarily related to an ancient monument or symbol. The idea was born out of this discussion; to create a brand that reflects the sensations and emotions experienced by someone coming to our country. We want people who buy our products to be able, when they go back to their country and wear them, to remember the light, the colours, the smell of Greece. What was your business plan? We both come from a fashion background, so this was nothing new to us. We started with a detailed research of the souvenir market and the tourism industry in general. Then we proceeded with the creation of a 'mood board' [a presentation tool, mostly used by designers to display the overall style of an idea examined], looking for inspiration everywhere, before we came up with the first designs. Finally, we picked up our team of contributors, material and we were off! The T-Greeks concept is all about the deconstruction of some of the staples of Greek summer. How did you come up with these ideas? Our basic concept was to find motifs that will be familiar to someone coming from abroad, without being the most common, stereotypical ones. Thankfully, Greece offers endless images, so it was not hard for us to find some; it was harder to reject some designs. In general, we want to incorporate designs inspired by mythology and ancient Greece; we already did this in this year's collection and it is our goal to add more themes in this direction. But it has to be something more than the usual 'picturesque' image or another sketch of Poseidon. What was the greatest challenge you've had to face? This always has to do with quality control. We're both perfectionists and we know that unexpected things can happen during production. So we spent countless hours looking at each one of our products, to make sure that there was nothing wrong. We even had friends coming out to help do this. How does it feel, working with your mother? Working with any family member is not the easiest thing; too much familiarity can have its side-effects. The good thing is that we share a common aesthetic outlook, which is essential for this kind of work. Furthermore, she has a lot of experience in the fashion industry, which is invaluable in a venture like ours. How has reception of T-Greeks been so far? We launched the company during a very difficult time for Greece, and the economy in general. However, we were moved by the response we met from the fashion retailers. It is hard to trust a new company coming out of nowhere, especially in times like this. And yet, they did it, so we started working with 25 retailers last year, and more than 80 this year. People seem to be very supportive of Greek ideas and Greek products, more than ever before. One of our greatest aspirations would be to see T-Greeks in the streets of the biggest cities in the world, or even the creation of a Greek corner in a large department store abroad. How does a business like yours find its place in the modern economic environment in Greece? There are a lot of new, fresh business ventures coming out in Greece today, despite the hardships. I've come to believe that those who said that the best ideas are born in times of crisis were right, in the end. All of us who have started something now, even subliminally or subconsciously, are working towards 'rebranding' Greece, something that the country really needs right now. I'm sure that those of us who will manage to work properly and bring a new mentality will contribute a lot. How does T-Greeks fit in within the general ‘souvenir’ culture? We're very careful as to where to place our products. We're not snubbing anyone, but we want them to be presented in the best possible way, so that the customer can appreciate them. This is not the €5 souvenir, it's something more special. I believe that there is such a thing as a contemporary Greek aesthetic, which is remarkable and I'd like to see more stores being attuned to it. Which of the 'traditional', tacky tourist souvenirs and symbols would you like to see permanently sent to oblivion? I would hesitate to pick one. Each has its own kind of beauty. But there is one that I love to hate - the meander pattern. It is a symbol that has been associated with ultra nationalistic ideas and I'd really like to reclaim it. What does the Greek identity mean to you? For me, identifying as Greek is very important, because this country has been the cradle of civilisation and the base of humanity as we know it. I think that, if Greeks remembered this more often, not in an arrogant way, but in its essence, Greece would be a very different country.
4 June 2016
18 June 2016