Zeus + Dione’s regeneration of the Greek silk industry

14 February 2018
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Dimitra Kolotoura and Mareva Grabowski founded their luxury lifestyle label, Zeus + Dione, at the height of Greece’s economic crisis in 2011. ‘I still remember those terrible headlines saying that Greek people consume and don’t produce,’ recalls Kolotoura. ‘Which simply wasn’t true.’ Determined to turn this negative perception into a positive one, the two friends decided to start a brand that would utilise and showcase their native country’s rich cultural heritage. ‘It was a romantic notion – we would create fine, sustainable clothes and accessories that would be designed and made in Greece,’ she says.

Kolotoura, who ran a travel PR company, and Grabowski, a Harvard MBA and founder of her own asset management firm, drew upon their credentials to set the wheels in motion. After devising a business plan, their next port of call was finding local artisans to work with at a time when demand for traditional craftsmanship was at an all-time low. ‘Helping Greek artisans create a sustainable future for themselves and others was key,’ she notes. ‘We spent a year travelling the country to find people that could help us to fulfil our mission.’

On their journey, they stumbled across a large silk production factory in the northeastern city of Soufli, which would prove invaluable. ‘The owner was manufacturing fine silk tablecloths for women in Saudi Arabia,’ says Kolotoura. ‘Most of the machines were out of use and there were barely any lights on, but once we saw the supreme quality of this silk we knew it was right for us.’ For the first time in years, the factory was able to hire local craftspeople, turn on its machines and start producing substantial quantities of silk. ‘It helped regenerate the trade again,’ she enthuses.

Today, the factory produces up to six kilometres of Soufli silk for every Zeus + Dione collection. ‘People have come to know us for these silk pieces because they are light, elegant and easy to travel in,’ she notes. Other Zeus + Dione signatures include lean cotton trousers and kaftans that are cut in doric-style silhouettes and adorned with traditional Greek embellishment. ‘For that kind of embroidery detail we work with skilled embroiders in
Argos and Metsovo,’ she adds. ‘For knit, we use artisans in Cyclades and Attica.’

Focal points from the brand’s Resort 2018 collection include a black and white geometric print skirt, inspired by the decorative houses of Pyrgi, and handmade crochet ponchos – pieces that exemplify its devotion to craftsmanship. ‘I think that people are becoming far more aware of what they are buying, which is really positive,’ explains Kolotoura. ‘The more we grow, the more we can expand our workforce, like one big family.’

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