ZEUS+DIONE meets The Hellenic Initiative
ZEUS+DIONE – A Greek Fashion Label Based on a Myth with its Own Great Story
Since the onset of the Greek economic crisis Hellenes have pondered and agonized over the question, “What is to be done?” Dimitra Kolotoura and The Hellenic Initiative are among those whose next step was to “just do it.”
Kolotoura and her friend Mareva Grabowski-Mitsotakis founded their ethical fashion label Zeus+Dione with the same vision, setting the foundations for one of Greece’s most unique success stories in a time of crisis.
Drawing inspiration from a rich heritage rooted in mythology and symbolism, Zeus+Dione transcends classical notions of style and design. The story of its birth is itself inspiring.
Dimitra owned a successful communications company in London. Her creativity and marketing knowledge combined with Mareva’s understanding of finance and investment was the key to Zeus+Dione’s success.
Their friendship goes back many years – Mareva’s brother is Dimitra’s best friend. Both were taking a welcome break at Dimitra’s house on the island of Syros in 2011.
“The children were asleep, and we were both working very hard, me at my company, she at her fund,” Dimitra said.
It was “when everything was collapsing,” and they both had the same thought: “Let’s do something about the situation in Greece.”
As admirers of the beauty of the products and souls of their countrymen, they were shaken by global media coverage of the crisis.
“We were upset over the press reports, with lies like, “lazy Greeks, they consume and don’t produce,” so we said ‘why don’t we do something about it’” by spurring the production of beautiful things “and at the same time presenting the heritage and culture and spirit” of Greece.
And they did.
“When we started, the idea was to have it as a hobby. We said, ‘let’s do our main jobs and work with our sandals and shirts a couple of hours a day’ – and then the operation grew because the response of the market globally was immense, so we decided to focus on Zeus+Dιοne.”
There were a few skeptics.
“I was at a press event in New York,” Dimitra said, “and a woman from a fashion magazine came up and brusquely asked, ‘so what’s so special about your shirts?’” Dimitra paused and then responded, “your silk blouse probably came from China and is probably cut from a million-meter length of silk. My silk blouse? I know who made it.”
Dimitra knows the lady in Soufli near Alexandroupoli, literally on the border with Turkey, who lovingly created the shirt – and all the other craftsmen.
“Soufli’s a beautiful place…they produced fine fabric for many centuries, even for Byzantine emperors, but in the 19th the industry went into decline.”
Zeus+Dione now works with the unique producer of the silk. “The crisis caused the production of silk to plunge, but we have given it new life as fashion brands in Greece and the rest of the world re-discover its fine quality.”
Dimitra and Mareva had exactly that in mind from the start – “to preserve traditional arts and support the craftsmen and help them to expand by transforming their goods into something modern,”
The two founders approached several independent macramé artists from various regions of Greece, and they have worked for Zeus+Dione since the beginning.
“Most Greeks remember the fabric as table cloths and doilies on their television sets. When we met the owner, we marveled at the beauty of the fabric, and he asked ‘what will you do with them, make curtains?’ We said, ‘no, we will make clothes.’ When he said, ‘nobody has ever done this,’ I replied ‘we will do it.’”
And slowly but surely they discovered more people to work with.
Zeus+Dione presents updated versions of traditional goods created by people devoted to excellence, demonstrating continuity through the centuries of Greek craftsmanship and creativity. “It’s modern now, but it carries the attributes of the past,” she said as she gestured to a little stool with a frame of noble marble and a seat beautifully woven from traditional heavy twine.
Each custom-made textile is weaved, dyed, embroidered, and cut by expert artisans utilizing traditional techniques with a contemporary edge.
“We are preserving a way of life,” she said, bringing into our modern world the spirit of a warmer way of life.”
The delight and pride in what their partners are doing is apparent in Dimitra’s voice and it is reflected in the atmosphere of the Zeus+Dione store near Syntagma Square.
“Look at this lace from Ilia! We don’t get it from Paris, we make it in the Peloponnese.” She also noted the fantastic Museum of Traditional Greek Costumes near Costa Navarino. “We get inspiration from such places.”
“Look at this! We make the sleeves of rose silk in Soufli, then we send them to Argos for the embroidery. We work with many workshops and factories. Production-wise, things can get a little crazy, but in the end, we always think that it is totally worth it!
It is thrilling how a single item represents a lift in energy and spirit all over Greece.
Asked how the company performs the logistic miracles, Dimitra said, “we have a very good manager at the company, Yiannis Kolotouras, and he’s brilliant.” Yes, that’s her brother. “He was there from the very beginning.”
When Dimitra and Mareva learned about THI they loved the way it helps new businesses, large and small. “We were ecstatic from the beginning and now we see all the young people they are funding and we find it exciting.”
They also appreciate and support endeavors like the Libra Group’s Hellenic Entrepreneurship Award.
The world is learning about the talent of young Greeks in all fields – business, arts and science – and THI is helping to give young entrepreneurs opportunities to show the world what they can do, generating hope among people who left when they see that good things are happening in Greece.
Zeus+Dione is a Greek brand which proudly supports its country, bringing new mindsets and hope and a lifestyle that balances productivity and joyous living. “We are a lifestyle brand. We are a fashion brand that promotes a way of living,” she said.
Some of the clothes in the charming store evoke a serene elegance, others, a divine simplicity. Dimitra said, “I really love the scene when a woman walks into the store and says ‘I want this beautiful handmade piece to be a part of my life.’”