Since Odysseus carried wind in a leather satchel to speed his journey home, Greeks have had a flair for accessories. Thousands of years on, Athenian accessory designers are earning legions of fans with their charismatic creations. Here’s the lowdown on five innovative local brands where leather is king.
Nikolaos Germanos Shoes
“Art, architecture and street culture” fuel the edgy, hand-made creations of footwear designer Nikolaos Germanos. A graduate of London’s prestigious Central Saint Martins, this Sparta-born aesthete made his way to Athens via stints at leading fashion houses. Among the independent publishers, bookbinders and old school cafés on Kallidromiou Street in Exarchia, his bold leather designs add to the neighbourhood’s DIY vibe. Expect to find brightly coloured clogs, suede desert boots, monk-strap platforms and dressy heels. Or, if you prefer, you can customise your own pair of shoes.
Ancient Greek Sandals
In Greek mythology, Hermes’ winged sandals carried him “as swift as any bird”. Ancient Greek Sandals’ playful, fashion-led versions have carried this 100 percent Greek company all the way to Hollywood and the White House (famous fans include Michelle Obama and Angelina Jolie). Creative director Christina Martini—who once designed shoes for Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton—has refined and embellished the “tourist sandals” she loved to wear on Greek island holidays. You can now scoop up a pair of these long-wearing leather lovelies for yourself at the brand’s first flagship store, opposite the National Historical Museum. Since its 2012 debut, the label has matured beyond the much-copied “Ikaria” winged style (though every pair still sports the signature winged buckle). High-grade, chemical-free leather is twisted, woven, thinly sliced or braided; shaped into irresistible slides, chic micro-wedges, feminine lace-ups, or elegant updates on traditional sandals. Stay purist or rev it up with slinky collaborations with Greek jewellery designers such as Ilias Lalaounis and Ileana Makri. The two-storey boutique also carries men’s and mini-me children’s ranges, alongside some exclusive styles and goodies you’ll only find here (like limited-edition tan totes and leather candles scented with the essence of Greece).
Fashion-forward Athenians know that to make an entrance, you only need to slip on a pair of Elina Linardaki sandals. These flamboyant creations by mother and daughter duo Elina Linardaki and Beatrice Kalaitzi have quickly amassed a global following since debuting in 2014 (they now sell in over 70 countries). In Athens, new collections are snapped up fast by fans who believe in “more is definitely more.” Elina Linardaki designs are defined by ornate trimmings: bright beads, feathers, ribbons, and Swarovski crystals take centre stage. Elina and Beatrice also pride themselves on the fact that every pair of sandals is a one-off. You can acquire them at i–D Concept Stores.
The minimalist accessories at Redo are rarely what they first seem. Travel-friendly backpacks are created from recycled leather, micro-bags are made from cork, and straps are fashioned from mountaineering cord. This innovative label is the vision of Maria Mavroudi who came up with the idea to merge two of her passions—upcycling and bags—while studying architecture in Barcelona. The result was Redo, an eco-friendly range launched in 2012, which champions sustainability. The bags are built to be versatile, matching the varied demands of their socially-minded owners. Stop by Maria’s atelier-showroom to have a coffee, swap ideas, or watch the bags being made.
ReDo is currently moving to a new location in Athens.
Each pair of hand-crafted Kyma sandals is named after a different Greek island. You can choose between household names like Mykonos (sassy blue and white head-turners) or off-the-beaten track destinations like Telendos (a more muted style in olive suede). For brothers Alex and Deno Mantas, taking inspiration from the islands came naturally. They grew up on Patmos and looked to their local environment when launching their shoe brand in 2014. The result was Kyma (‘wave’ in Greek), a highly-successful range of minimalist modern classics. Every pair is distinctive, but all are sealed with an Aegean blue sole. Now stocked worldwide, it seems everybody wants to channel the Greek island spirit. In Athens, head to True Story or Silyra to find your own Greek island sole-mate.