The Greek-inspired accessories brand using centuries-old techniques – Emirates Woman
Founded on the mantra of paying homage to Greece’s heritage, Ancient Greek Sandals has become a worldwide hit.
As the brand celebrates its 10th anniversary, co-founder and brand creative director Christina Martini tells us about the journey of building the AGS brand.
Tell us about your career.
I grew up in Athens, Greece and studied shoe design at Cordwainers College London. My first job was as a product manager for an Italian luxury shoe factory called IRIS, where at the time shoe collections were made for brands such as Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton. It was there that I met the Louis Vuitton shoe designer who asked me to be his assistant. In December 2002, I landed at the Louis Vuitton studio in Paris. It was a dream come true and I really enjoyed my six years working alongside Fabrizio Viti and under the creative direction of Marc Jacobs. I worked for the women’s shoe collections (commercial and show). I then worked at Balenciaga, with the incredible Pierre Hardy, under the creative direction of Nicolas Ghesquiere. When I got pregnant with my first child, I realized I wanted to go back to my home country…at least for a year [or so I thought]. But it was then that I, with my partner Nicolas Minoglou, founded Ancient Greek Sandals.
What inspired you to enter the fashion industry and launch Ancient Greek Sandals?
Ever since I was little, I have been very drawn to fashion. I loved my mom’s fashion magazines and her closet! When I started studying shoe design, my goal was to work for a big fashion house. Then, once I realized that dream, I decided that I wanted to do something that was closer to me; more personal. I’ve always loved the tourist sandals that are sold around the Acropolis in Athens and on the Greek islands. I had an idea in mind to develop them, in terms of design and quality, then I met Nikolas, who had the exact same idea but a totally different skill set. It was perfect, so we joined forces and finally launched AGS in 2011.
Tell us about the AGS parts design process.
I always start with the concept of each collection. I usually choose an area or era from ancient Greece. Once I’ve decided where I’m going to focus, I then go to museums or buy archaeological books and do my research. From this research, I begin to create my first sketches then I select the best ones, from which I make final drawings in order to make prototypes. The prototypes are made in Athens by four different manufacturers with whom we work closely. When the sandal is finished, I try it on and make corrections based on fit and design. Once we have validated and corrected the prototype, we proceed to samples in order to present them to buyers during markets.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Every season is different: it can be Ancient Greek jewelry, architecture, ceramics and statues – all of which have been a huge source of inspiration. Other times it might just be a myth in my head or something I might have dreamed up. Every time I design something, I have a friend in mind who might wear this sandal because I want to create styles that are wearable and easy for everyone.
This year you are celebrating 10 years of AGS. How has the brand evolved since its launch? We started the brand with 30 women’s leather sandals in just two colors. Today, 10 years later, we have five different sandal constructions, along with the original natural leather sole: the comfort sole, the flip flop sole, the memory foam platform and the jellies. We have also expanded over the years to add a men’s, kids’ and from summer 2022 home and bags collection. We now sell in over 80 countries in around 300 stores, and in 2019 we also opened our flagship store in Athens. A lot has changed over the years, and yet not much. We remain a relatively small company and remain true to the same values and goals that we have stood for since the very beginning.
What sets AGS apart from other brands?
We created AGS because we felt there was a gap in the market for what we were creating. There was no brand that made quality, handmade, mid-priced sandals that could sit next to other top brands in international stores. The sandals are all handmade in Greece and I think these days with so much being mass-produced, it gives extra value to the brand. Finally, everyone has an idea of Greece, whether it’s because of the holidays we spent there, the mythology we taught them or the Greek cuisine! So, I guess ancient Greek sandals are familiar to everyone too…
Over the years, what were the obstacles you encountered when building the brand?
We had some challenges at first, mostly related to quality and our efforts to create the highest quality sandals possible. Luckily, we were able to fix these issues and move on, thanks to the amazing dedicated craftsmen we work with.
And the milestones?
There have been many milestones. First when the Rainbowwave showroom [headed up by Maria Lemos – a fellow Greek, based in London] started representing us and showing our brand to their incredible clientele. Colette and NET-A-PORTER picked up our sandals at the very first showing, which was amazing. We have done many collaborations with other designers and many monogram events all over the world – and these are still very close to our hearts.
When it comes to summer dressing, what are your favorite pieces?
Lem Lem dresses and caftans due to their lightweight fabrics which are perfect for the Greek summer. A Jacquemus sarong dress for summer nights. As for Greek designers, I wear Kimalé a lot – a Greek brand with naive prints – and Angelos Bratis for his bias-cut satin dresses in rich colors. Finally, I always wear jewelry from Lito and Sergakis – Greek jewelers and friends.
This is the Summer Escape number – where do you want to escape this summer?
I will normally sail the Ionian Sea, exploring small uninhabited islands. It’s one of my favorite things I dream about all winter long. This year we are planning to go to Epirus Mountains and Acheron River which will be a new experience for us.
July/August – ‘The Summer Escape Issue’ – Download now
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