I met Katerina Kritikou, the creative mind behind AENÁLIA, some years ago in Paris, when the city of lights was home for both of us and the place to discover our secret kept self.
She always had a characteristic neo-Hellenic aura, a chic and classy allure from another era. Some years later, she put a piece of herself into jewellery creation and the result is exactly like her- an old love that you can never forget, not because it remained unfulfilled, but because of its quality. No matter how many years go by, it never loses its value.
AENÁLIA is the first brand that focuses on the rich heritage of Neo-Hellenic jewellery, creating statement pieces for those who want to tell a story about every piece they are wearing.
We recently spoke to Katerina about her stunning new brand and the concept behind it.
Interview by Polina Paraskevopoulou
When did you first realise you wanted to become a jewellery designer?
Ten years ago, on the streets of Paris. I was wearing my original neo-Hellenic jewellery pieces, my grandmother’s gift, and people from all over the world used to ask me where they came from. At first, I wanted to tell the world what neo-Hellenic jewellery is and rescue it from oblivion. Then there was my desire to set it free from its folkloric bonds and gave rise to AENÁLIA’s principal aim: the contemporary revival of neo-Hellenic jewellery.
How did you choose the neo-Hellenic period as an inspiration?
Αs an art historian, I wanted to dive into Greek history. It was clear to me that I wasn’t interested in Ancient Greece and the much talked-about Grecian style. My grandmother was a member of the local department of the Lyceum Club of Greek Women so I was surrounded by neo-Hellenic tradition since my childhood. I learned to appreciate traditional costumes and I literally fell in love with the jewellery pieces that accompanied them. Their beauty isn’t just striking in my eyes, it has a story to tell and I am very proud that it’s a Greek one.
How did you come up with the name AENÁLIA for your brand?
AENÁLIA is a non-existent word. It derives from the Greek word “aenaos” which means eternal. Apart from being pleasing to the ear, it states the timeless style of neo-Hellenic tradition.
What makes your collections unique in the industry?
AENÁLIA is the first brand that focuses on the redefinition of neo-Hellenic jewellery as part of present-day elegance. In that sense, uniqueness and wearability are at the core of AENÁLIA’s identity, regarding the customer as the carrier of a particular story, which derives from historical research. As far as I know, no brand has ever focused on neo-Hellenic jewellery and its revival. AENÁLIA is the first one.
Which elements/materials do you use for your jewellery?
Inspired by the rich heritage of silversmithing tradition during post-Byzantine period, as well as the remarkable variety of its creations, each AENÁLIA piece is rooted in its cultural context, meticulously designed and handmade with the greatest respect for traditional techniques. In this context, I use silver, gold-plated or oxidized, embellished with precious or semi-precious stones or enamels. There are several variations in each model. I also allow my clients the freedom to create their own AENÁLIA pieces by adding materials and the stones of their choice.
What is your favourite part about being a designer?
I love every minute of the process. From the selection of a specific neo-Hellenic jewellery piece that serves as an inspiration for my design to the historical research. However, the moment I take a new piece in my hands is by far the best one. There is a part not only of myself but also of Greek aesthetic in every piece of AENÁLIA.
What kind of person wears your jewellery? How do you want women to feel when wearing your creations?
A contemporary woman who is comfortable in her skin and feels special would choose to wear an AENÁLIA piece not only because it is unique but also because it has a story to tell, it has roots. I would like to give her the opportunity to feel connected with neo-Hellenic tradition and become a part of its contemporary version. I strongly believe in adaptability and continuity as a way to survive in real life as well as in art.
What are some of the difficulties you had to face?
First and foremost, finding the means and the inner strength tο get my project off the ground, which demanded a strong belief in my dream. The redefinition of neo-Hellenic jewellery, as the cornerstone of my project, was one of the biggest challenges for me. It involved in-depth knowledge of neo-Hellenic tradition and a highly critical eye to revive it in an appealing and contemporary way without losing its identity.
What is your favourite piece you’ve ever created – and what made it so special?
It’s the first AENÁLIA piece: the Oia earrings. It’s still my favourite piece and will always hold a special place in my heart. In my opinion, it successfully captures the essence of the Aegean Sea- exactly as any other AENÁLIA piece does with its birthplace.
What’s it like to see someone on the street wearing one of your creations?
I feel proud of myself and blessed to be able to breathe new life into neo-Hellenic tradition based on respect and love for my country’s history. The fact that a woman not only wears an AENÁLIA piece but also knows the story behind it gives me the greatest satisfaction. AENÁLIA’s goal is then being achieved.