Our roots are nearly impossible to escape. And for designer Melissanthi Spei, this truth took time to both learn and accept. This Athenian struggled with her Greek identity for years, but as she learned to embrace her heritage, she has implemented her rich culture into her fashion business.
We came across Melissanthi and her craftsmanship through Maison Mode Méditeranée and were enthralled by her avant-garde style. We asked Melissanthi about her Greek culture, inspiration and favorite spots in Athens. ￼
Melissanthi, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a 32-year old Athenian fashion artist working between the disciplines of fashion, culture and performance. For 10 years, I lived in the United Kingdom where I studied and started my professional career and relocated back to Athens in 2017 where I began a new chapter in my professional life focusing on the cultural side of fashion while looking for collaborations and widening my horizons.
How has your Greek culture influenced your work?
My work has always had Greek folk art and culture as a main influence. Being Greek was something that I did not want to accept when I was younger, and it took many years away from home in order to accept it and be proud of it. It took a lot of self-discovery, and I wanted to break free from the stereotypes of what Greek culture means for someone on the “outside.”
Often, when thinking of what Greek culture and history is, people tend to think only of ancient Greece, which is of course a really big chapter in our culture, but being Greek is also so much more. Greek culture lies somewhere between East and West.
There are a lot of Ottoman and Balkan influences, and for me, this is something I find more relatable to our identity today.
How would you describe your style in three or four words?
Daring, unconventional, romantic, current.
You were an OpenMyMed Prize winner with Maison Mode Méditerranée, and we absolutely love this organization here at Ichtus Magazine. Can you tell us more about this experience?
It is a great opportunity that has widened my horizon and perspectives. It is amazing to be part of this experience; I have learned so much and met all these amazing people from a part of the fashion industry that would not be possible otherwise.
For a long time, I thought I was by myself in the way I was thinking, so it is great to be part of a bigger cause and that all my thoughts and beliefs about the future of fashion can be linked to a higher level.
Would you consider yourself a spiritual person?
I never thought of that before actually; in fact, I had to take a step back and process for a minute. I am a practical person, especially because being a maker is not about theory. You need to be able to create and give new life to things and make an idea into something you can touch. In a way though, somewhere deep in my mind there is a romanticism about it more in my values as a person if that makes sense.
What are your favorite Mediterranean places in Athens, Greece?
- I would recommend spending a night at the COCO-MAT Athens BC Hotel, which is in the archeological center of Athens.
- The Black Duck bistro is a hidden green space to escape within the city.
- Visit the Museum of Cycladic Art with its permanent and temporary art exhibitions.
- Go for a swim and relaxation at Vouliagmeni Lake, which is by the Athens Riviera.
- Wander in the historical center around Monastiraki and Psyrri for shopping in antique shops and independent Greek designer stores.
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