Founded on the mantra of paying tribute to the heritage of Greece, Ancient Greek Sandals have become a global success.
As the brand celebrates its 10th anniversary, Co-Founder and Creative Director of the brand, Christina Martini, talks us through the journey of building the AGS brand.
Talk us through your career.
I grew up in Athens, Greece and studied footwear design at Cordwainers College in London. My first job was as a product manager for an Italian, luxury footwear factory called IRIS, where footwear collections for brands such as Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton were made at the time. This is where I met the footwear de- signer of Louis Vuitton who asked me to be his assistant. In December of 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 was working for the women’s shoe (commercial and show) collections. I then went on to work at Balenciaga, with the amazing Pierre Hardy, under the creative direction of Nicolas Ghesquiere. When I fell pregnant with my first child, I realised that I wanted to return to my homeland… at least for a year [or so I thought]. But it was then that I, alongside my business partner Nicolas Minoglou, founded Ancient Greek Sandals.
What inspired you to enter the fashion industry and launch Ancient Greek Sandals?
Ever since I was a little girl, I was really drawn to fashion. I loved my mother’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 had realised this dream, I decided that I wanted to do something which is closer to me; more personal. I always loved the tourist sandals that are sold around The Acropolis in Athens and on the Greek islands. I had an idea in my mind to develop these, in terms of design and quality, and then I met Nikolas, who happened to have the exact same idea but a totally different skill set. It was perfect, so we joined forces and finally launched AGS in 2011.
Talk us through the design process for AGS pieces.
I always start with the concept of each collection. I usually choose a domain or era of Ancient Greece. Once I have decided where I am going to focus, I then go to museums or buy archaeological books and do my research. From this research, I start to create my first sketches and then choose the best ones, which I make final drawings of in order to make prototypes. The prototypes are made in Athens by four different manufacturers with whom we work very closely together. When the sandal is done, I try it and make corrections based on fit and design. Once we have validated and corrected the prototype, we proceed with samples in order to present them to buyers during markets.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Each season, it’s different: it could be Ancient Greek Jewellery, Architecture, Ceramics and Statues – all of which have been a huge inspiration. Other times it could be just a myth in my head or something that I might have dreamt. Every time I design something, I have in mind a friend that could wear this sandal because I want to create wearable and easy styles for everyone.
You’re celebrating your 10-year anniversary for AGS this year. How has the brand evolved since it launched? We started the brand with 30 women’s leather sandals in just two colours. Now, 10 years later, we have five different constructions of sandals, as well as the original natural leather sole: the comfort sole, flip flop sole, memory foam flatform, and jellies. We have also developed over the years to add a men’s collection, kids and from summer 2022 home and bags. We now sell in more than 80 countries at about 300 stores, and in 2019, we also opened our flagship store in Athens. A lot has changed over the years, and yet nothing much. We still re- main a fairly small company and stay true to the same values and goals we have upheld since the very beginning.
What sets AGS apart from other brands?
We created AGS because we believed that there was a gap in the market for what we were creating. There wasn’t any brand doing qualitative, handmade medium-priced sandals that could sit next to other big brands in international stores. The sandals are all handmade in Greece and I think nowadays, since so much is mass-produced, this gives an extra value to the brand. Finally, everyone has an idea about Greece, either because of the holidays that they’ve been on, the mythology that they have been taught or Greek food! So, I guess Ancient Greek Sandals are familiar to everyone too…
Over the years, what have been the hurdles you’ve experienced when building the brand?
We have experienced difficulties in the beginning, mostly related to quality and our endeavour to create the highest quality sandals we can. Fortunately, we were able to resolve these problems and move on, thanks to the amazing dedicated craftspeople we work with.
And the milestones?
There have been many milestones. Firstly when Rainbowwave showroom [headed up by Maria Lemos – a fellow Greek, based in London] started to represent us and show our brand to their amazing clientele. Colette and NET-A-PORTER picked up our sandals from the first-ever presentation, which was amazing. We have done many collaborations with fellow designers and many monogramming events all over the world – and these are always very close to our hearts.
When it comes to summer dressing, what are your go-to pieces?
Lem Lem dresses and kaftans because of their light fabrics which are perfect for the Greek summer. A Jacquemus sarong dress for summer nights. In terms of Greek designers, I wear a lot Kimalé – a Greek brand with naïf prints, and Angelos Bratis for his bias-cut satin dresses in rich colours. Finally, I always wear jewellery by Lito and Sergakis – Greek jewellers and friends.
This is The Summer Escape Issue – where do you want to escape to this summer?
I normally go sailing on the Ionian Sea, exploring small uninhabited islands. It’s one of my favourite things that I dream about all winter. This year, we are planning to go to the Epirus mountains and the Acheron River which will be a new experience for us.
July/August’s – ‘The Summer Escape Issue’ – Download Now
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