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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 18 June 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 18 JUNE 2016 17 FASHION NELLY SKOUFATOGLOU A t the end of summer 2011, friends Dimitra Kolotoura and Mareva Grabowski founded their ethical fashion label Zeus+Dione, setting the foundations for one of Greece's most unique success stories in a time of crisis. The two women, in what at the time seemed a romantic impulse, made the decision to give up their careers and pursue their common dream over a dinner on the Greek island of Syros. Not everyone shared their determination, but against all odds they made it work. They named the label after Zeus, the father of gods and men, and Dione, daughter of Oceanus. From their divine unison, Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty and eternal youth was born. Dimitra and Mareva, first visited the historical village of Soufli, seeking for the 'trademark' material to dress their label of love. They came across Konstantinos Mouhtarides' old factory, once famous for its silk, which used to provide for most of the families residing in the area. While in the 1980s, the Mouhtarides factory was exporting silk fabrics across Europe, in 2011 the production had plunged so deep, that the business was barely surviving on making tablecloths and curtains for rich women in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Mouhtarides was initially afraid the two women were being naive and their venture into fashion would go down swinging. After many negotiations he accepted a down-payment and weaved 100 metres of silk for the first collection. The idea was to mix high quality fabrics such as silk and cashmere with handcrafted embellishments, in order to create a label which would fuse the minimalist modernity with the unspoilt traditions of Greece into stand-out designs. Dimitra's creativity and marketing knowledge combined with Mareva's understanding of finance and investment was the key to success. They had both tested the waters and had found what was missing from the market. They did their research and created a luxury brand targeting international markets, while helping independent local craftsmanship and production. Mareva, being also a member of the Asia Pacific Acquisitions Committee at the Tate Modern, part of the Board of Trustees of the Athens Biennale and a member of the Contemporary Art Support Committee of the Museum of Cycladic Art was familiar with the allure of traditional handcrafts. Dimitra on the other hand, a true style enthusiast, had explored the entirety of Greece and had witnessed first-hand, the creativity of many village women. The two founders approached several independent macramé artists from various regions of Greece and convinced them to work for Zeus+Dione. Soon after, the label employed a team of nuns from the St Irini Monastery in Crete, more than 70 people from the remote Pomakohoria, a feltmaker who makes shepherd's capes which double as a tent, island embroiderers who had learnt the art of embroidery from their mothers and grandmothers and would have otherwise been unemployed. "Each custom-made textile is weaved, dyed, embroidered and cut by expert artisans utilising traditional techniques with a contemporary edge," they explain. "Zeus+Dione's exclusive silk textiles are crafted uniquely for the brand in a quaint spinning mill in Soufli. Each silk shirt is then cut by hand, and later embroidered in Metsovo, while dresses and skirts are knitted by the craftswomen of the Cyclades. Beyond the production of custom textiles, selected designs are adorned with traditional patterns and intricate motifs handwoven in Crete, ensuring an elegant signature collection every season." According to Dimitra, "These women are very good with their hands, they have this talent. They used to make the thread themselves, cut the hair from the sheep, spin it, and take it to the loom which was next to their kitchen table and in their free time they would make a rug or a bed throw." The duo began to form an identity which was better expressed once head-designer Lydia Vousvouni joined the team. The young Athenian, who had moved to London to study fashion at Central Saint Martins had acquired some valuable experience as part of the design team at Marios Schwab and Aquascutum, and had previously been working at Chloé and Loewe. Lydia, swiftly grasped the essence of the Zeus+Dione idea and began creating classic, yet stunning clothing exuding confidence with a very distinctive folkloric Greek twist. Drawing inspiration from a rich heritage rooted in mythology and symbolism, Zeus+Dione transcends classical notions of style and design. The brand's lifestyle collections are influenced by minimal structures, geometry and precision, all of which are elements prevalent in classical Greek architecture & design. The inspiration drawn from Doric elements are the clean lines embellished with intricate details and elegant patterns stemming from geometric shapes. For Dimitra, "antithesis is the essence of Zeus+Dione", which has succeeded in juxtaposing creative ideas with pragmatic concepts, while staying true to deadlines and keeping a structural consistency throughout collections. "While various aspects of ancient culture affect the design of each new collection, the Greek letter, Delta Δ, is a predominant undertone of the brand, alluding to spirituality, harmony and creativity." Zeus+Dione speaks to all those who recognise quality and seek something rare, conceptualising a new lifestyle. Not only a year after they started setting Zeus+Dione, Dimitra Kolotoura, risked her status as one of the country's most successful travel PR agents pulling out of accounts the likes of the BBC, Condé Nast and the Greek National Tourism Organisation. Mareva Grabowski who happens to be the wife of the leader of the New Democracy Party, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, put her ventures in investment banking and asset management on hold. With 12 years at Deutsche Bank, MG Capital Advisors S.A. and Eternia Capital under her belt she decided to join forces with her friend and "find a way to help Greece", while doing something she loves. Contemporary wearability and individuality, in combination with the highly skilled artisanal craftsmanship behind the label has the label's sales and popularity going from strength to strength while Mouhtarides produces up to six kilometres of silk per collection. Our main purpose was to create employment for local people and preserve some of Greece’s most traditional and ancient crafts "Our craftsmen are paid by the piece, which can take several months to complete," the two women stressed. "There are so many people who are productive even though we know Greece is in a horrible situation," they said. The women employed by the label are in fact supported and looked after by the Zeus+Dione Foundation, whose purpose is to educate younger generations in traditional crafts and offer employment. More than 20 full-time staff based in the label's headquarters in Athens's Psyrri consist "a lifestyle brand inspired by the Greek tradition, Greek costumes, Greek light, Greek architecture." Meanwhile, the brand has also adopted a humanitarian face. Since the beginning of 2015, when Greece faced a mass influx of refugees, Zeus+Dione teamed up with ActionAid Hellas to launch a global initiative with the goal of raising funds that will benefit and give priority to women and refugee children in urgent need. The movement is called #childrenfirst. They designed a pendant and a bracelet in silver and gold in which for every one sold the total earnings will be donated to ActionAid with an aim to reach as many people as possible. By purchasing a children charm for a good cause ActionAid would distribute more dignity kits to women and their children in Lesvos and displaced people in more than 45 countries around the world. Find out more at www.zeusndione.com Current collections: Olympic Resort 2016 and Athlos SS2016 collections explore the sculptural element of the body figure, the lightness of it at the time of physical exercise and the volumes shaped during natural movement. Black, ivory and gold contrasts blend with rich blue and red tones to create a graphic form of lightness. The natural pallet of honeycomb shades in solid raw silk brings a more sculptural aspect to the clothes with hints of handmade stitching that depicts the artisanal craftsmanship. A synthesis of contrasting weights and dyes of silk yarns are specifically weaved to fabrics to manifest innovation in archetypal materials. Leather and raffia are combined in handmade bags and sandals creating a harmonious fusion of textures and techniques, while gold and marble highlight different volumes of geometric shapes.
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