If you believe a sandy beach becomes even more enticing with the right fashion gear, a series of made-in-Greece summertime essentials currently on sale at a temporary London outlet should suit you down to the ground.
Known as MONOspace, the pop-up is open for business in Islington’s Angel area through May 25. Featuring items by young and emerging Greek designers, the short-term store marks the fourth edition of an effort to promote Greece’s fashion talent in the British capital. The focus this time round is summer, with an emphasis on beachwear.
The mobile shopping series is the retail brainchild of Marina Bury and Myrta Mitropoulou, both 31, who have been living in London since 2008 and 2010, respectively.
Among the carefully chosen items currently available in Islington are handmade leather sandals, such as Esiot, a mix of gladiator, creeper and espadrille styles, and Most Chic – think Greek goddess with a modern twist; silk scarves by Grecian Chic; vintage swimming caps turned handbags by Rainy July; one-off bags made on traditional Cretan looms using local fabrics by LOOMhandmade; cotton, lace and silk garments inspired by Greek island life by Thessaloniki-based Ancient Kallos; as well as jewelry, such as pieces from Marmarometry, a brand combining Greek marble with geometry.
For Bury and Mitropoulou the idea is for each pop-up project to reflect the aesthetics of its temporary neighborhood, while among their preferred locations are high street venues. But why choose this city in the first place?
“London is the biggest European capital, a metropolis, maybe the only city with such multicultural inhabitants. If you are a Londoner, you gain a new identity that comes from the city’s own unique character,” said Bury, who has an arts marketing and events background and has previously worked at the city’s Saatchi Gallery, Christie’s and the Moniker Art Fair. “London is still one – if not the only one – of the European cities with strong purchasing power and it’s always been open to new ideas and always helpful towards new start-ups.”
According to the two business partners, red tape isn’t a problem in Britain, while a number of London rental agencies exclusively handle pop-up leases.
The first MONOspace edition in Shoreditch last year showcased forward-looking designers and labels such as Digitaria, Greek-Cypriot Stelios Koudounaris, menswear designer Sotiris Georgiou and innovative jewelrymaker Maria Mastori. What has been the reaction so far?
“Londoners love Greece and they are very friendly and open to the products from there and they always keep asking for more. Our favorite part of interacting with customers is when they’re asking questions about the production and ‘making of’ of the products we have in MONOspaces. People are eager to find out more about the products and they get very attached to them, especially when they hear stories about the designers and their inspirations,” noted Mitropoulou, who earned a law degree and attended fashion courses at Central Saint Martins and London College of Fashion before working for several London-based designers and public relations companies.
The success of the MONOspace series has led the two women to envision the creation of a showroom running parallel to the mobile outlets. Another ambition is to forge collaborations with iconic outlets such as Dover Street Market, Liberty and Selfridges in London and Colette in Paris. Promoting the eventual participation of Greek designers in London Fashion Week is also on the to-do list.
Meanwhile, summer and resort wear have always been a big story in Greek fashion production and the new pop-up follows a previous summertime edition in Notting Hill last year – a highly successful venture both in terms of sales and feedback, according to the two entrepreneurs. In Islington, the style accent is on items that customers don’t need to try on as the temporary outlet does not have a dressing room. “We are emphasizing sandals and cover-ups, jewelry and other accessories for the beach that are easier to sell but still offer great pleasure to the customers,” said Bury.
There are some tough choices to be made when selecting and curating every new MONOspace project, reflecting the wave of young designers and labels that appear to have arisen from the ongoing Greek recession.
“The question is how many will actually survive the crisis and make it big,” said Mitropoulou. “We believe that this is, unfortunately, another ‘bubble’ and in a few years you will see which ones are really ‘worthy.’” In the meantime, the MONOspace effort aims to carry on providing a hip platform for Greek style.
“Greek designers have much to offer and the state should start paying more attention to a sector that worldwide is considered to be one of the biggest sources of income for the local economy,” said Bury.