Perhaps one of the best ways to cherish a time well spent in Greece is to take home treasures that keep us close to the memories we made here.
Whether it’s a t-shirt, a pair of handmade leather sandals, or fine jewellery, we all value that small “piece of Greece.” Not all of us are fortunate to live on the Aegean, which makes us long for the summers in order to retrieve these trinkets but thanks to Marianthi Vlachos, owner of the online store “Hellenic Aesthetic” you can now purchase these desirables all year long at your convenience! If you haven’t come across it yet today we not only introduce you to the online brand and the passionate owner behind it.
Twenty-nine-year-old Greek-American Marianthi Vlachos has created an e-commerce store that stocks trinkets and treasures sourced from Greece and delivers them straight to your door. It was her love for her motherland that grew after years of spending summers on the islands that inspired this concept. We sat down with the e-mogul and learned a bit more about her work and love for Greece.
Tell us about the Hellenic Aesthetic. What was the concept behind it and what products do you stock?
Hellenic Aesthetic is a brand and e-commerce shop inspired by summers spent in Greece. Our in-house jewellery line focuses on 14k gold jewellery manufactured in collaboration with workshops throughout Greece. Our jewellery takes its inspiration from Greek culture, both ancient and modern, including Greek key motifs and the ever-popular evil eye. It’s Greece’s enduring influence, the timeless “Hellenic Aesthetic”, that is reflected in our pieces, making these items that can be worn and loved forever.
We proudly offer a selection of Greece-based designers and brands, whose thoughtfully made products truly reflect the beauty and vitality of Greek culture. Our mission is to make Greek-made products more accessible in North America and the rest of the world while promoting Greek craftsmanship, travel, and culture.
Your deep love of Greece, when and how did it all begin?
I think it all began on my first trip to Greece when I was seven years old. I visited Rhodes with my mum and grandparents and it was the first time I had travelled outside the USA. We spent our days at the beach and our evenings at the island’s famous castle, visiting with friends, shopping and dining al fresco. It was such a magical place to me then, and that feeling has not gone away all these years later.
What do you love most about what you do?
Being able to connect people who live far away from Greece with a tangible piece of that place, and to see how much that means to them, is the best thing about what I do. People who are of Greek descent or who have travelled to and love Greece, really identify with Hellenic Aesthetic, and it’s so rewarding to see that.
When it comes to selecting products for Hellenic Aesthetic, what catches your eye?
I buy what I like and that instinct hasn’t lead me wrong yet! I would never offer something on the site that I wouldn’t wear myself, from a design or quality standpoint. When it comes to designing products I create things that I want but can’t find anywhere else. The curating of the items we sell and designing new products has become such an incredible creative outlet for me.
Who are a few of your favorite Greek designers at the moment?
We just began carrying a new Athens-based jewellery brand called ZENAIS. Their pieces are inspired by ancient history without being too literal which is something I always look for when buying. It came as no surprise to me when we sold out of three of their designs within 24 hours of listing them. We are also bringing in a knitwear brand called Combos who manufacture their clothing 100% in Thessaloniki. Greek clothing brands are a new category for us, and I can’t wait to expand on it in the coming year.
Are all of the items you stock made in Greece?
All of the jewellery we stock is made in Greece (with the exception of two 14k gold chains we sell, we do this because they’re sold in inches) and many of the houseware items we sell are made in Greece as well. To manufacture some items, like our signature scented candle, it doesn’t make logistical sense to have them poured in Greece. I partnered with US-based brand Astatula Candle Co. to make those, but I wanted to include a Greek-made element of some kind, so I developed an evil eye candle lid with a manufacturer in Greece. When developing a product I try and do as much as humanly possible in Greece.
What part of Greece are your parents from and how often do you visit?
My dad’s side is from Kefalonia and my mum’s is from Rhodes, Leonidion, and Constantinople. We visited Rhodes last summer and it was wonderful. Spend one day at St Paul’s Bay and you’ll never want to leave! We tend to visit Rhodes more than Kefalonia, but I want to change that in the future. Kefalonia is such a stunning island, one that truly has it all: scenery, history, incredible beaches, and amazing food. I can’t wait to make it back there soon, hopefully, next summer.
Tell us about your favourite destination in Greece. What do you love most about it?
In the last six years, I’ve visited as many different islands as I can. I think the more of Greece I see, the more difficult it becomes to pick a favourite place! It all depends on what you’re looking to experience. My favourite destinations for food are Sifnos, Crete, and Naxos. My favorite destinations for a relaxed, laid-back Greek island experience would be Folegandros or Koufonisi. For a more cosmopolitan vibe, definitely Hydra or Mykonos. When I’m feeling nostalgic I want to visit Rhodes, since it’s the place I spent the most time when I was younger.
A few of your favourite cafes, restaurants, and bars in Greece?
For cafes, Morning Bar, Philos and ANANA in Athens. Restaurants would be Nautilus in Mykonos, Athenian House in Santorini, Apostolis in Naxos and Babis Mores in Hydra. For bars, I’d say Alemagou in Mykonos, Couleur Locale in Athens (great view of the Acropolis), Sorokos in Koufonisi.
What should people not miss when visiting Greece?
Spend more time in Athens. Many people spend 24 hours or less here and it breaks my heart. There are so many incredible museums, restaurants, shops, art galleries, open-air theatres, and things to see and do. Each time I visit Athens I fall in love with it more and more.
Your drink of choice when you are in Greece?
For coffee, a Freddo cappuccino with no sugar, and for something a little more fun I love ordering a mastiha and soda water on ice with a squeeze of lemon.
Most memorable dinner in Greece?
One trip to Kefalonia when I was about nine we were having a late dinner by the sea and the power went out. The sky was so clear you felt like you could see every star in the sky. We were dining with a family friend who’s a singer. He grabbed his guitar and began singing traditional Kefalonian songs, the whole table joined in. It was such a magical evening and I’ll never forget it.
Best swim in the Aegean?
“St. Paul’s Bay” in Rhodes. The restaurant there is incredible and the view of the Acropolis of Lindos in the distance is stunning.
Favorite spot in Athens?
It’s impossible to pick just one, but I love this small wine bar called Heteroclito. They serve small plates and it’s very close to Ermou Street shopping and Syntagma Square. It’s the kind of place you can go with friends to sit and chat for hours or come alone with a good book or to people watch.
Where have you not been in Greece that you would like to visit next?
I would love to visit Corfu. The architecture there looks stunning, much like Kefalonia looked before the earthquakes. Hopefully next summer.
What do you always pack with you when you travel?
I always bring my 35mm camera. Shooting on film has become my new favorite hobby, whether I’m travelling to Athens or New Orleans I always have it on hand. I shoot with a Canon AE1 Program and I love how user friendly it is for a beginner like myself.
Finally, what do you wish you could take home with you to NYC every time you left Greece?
I wish I could bring the laid back pace of the Mediterranean back home with me. Living in this city can be overwhelming, and as much as I love it, it’s nice to slow down from time to time.