While it is true that Design daily is travelling through Spain and France at the moment, dropping in on a few design and photographer friends (with a few corresponding posts to be delivered soon), this weeks post on Greece is for Lovers might lead to you to believe that D.d has also popped over to the land of sun, sand and taramasalata. Unfortunately this is not the case but ever since coming across a window display in a fashion boutique in Milan in April that featured their wonderful ‘The Harder They Come’ stools, I have been keen to do a post on this intriguing Greek design studio……so here it is:
All photography by Nikos Alexopoulos
The three founders of Greece is for Lovers, Vasso Damkou, Thanos Karampatsos and Christina Kotsilelou became acquainted while studying in London in the early 2000's. After showing their first collaborative piece at the Galerie Sofie Lachaert in Belgium in late 2005, the trio returned to Greece and in 2006 founded their own design studio under the Greece is for Lovers name.
Playing on stereotypical themes of ancient Greece using traditional materials such as marble and leather, the studio creates interior objects lighting and furniture which reference modern day Greek tourist kitsch. The studio’s aim is to convey their particular ironic aesthetic by using healthy amounts of humour. After the studio launched at the Pick-nick for 2 exhibition at Galerie Sophie Lachaert, they moved onto showcasing work like the 'Slice me Nice' chopping board at Milan's Salone Satellite in April 2007 and at events such as Designers Block and 100% Design in London.
Vasso Damkou left the studio in September 2010 but the remaining two founders have continued to design and release objects and to show regularly at various design fairs and events across Europe and America. Greece is for Lovers - the unofficial slogan for Greece in the 1970's - was chosen as the studio and brand name because of how it perfectly reflects the studio's interest in kitsch slogans and Greece's ongoing obsession with their ancient history.
The accessories, furniture and one-off objects sold under the brand Greece is for Lovers, start at as little as 15 euros for the hilariously named “No Sleep till Hades” range with the most expensive piece in the collection being “Ridden in Stone”, a 2500 euro limited edition skateboard carved in marble.
While the studio does create some limited edition work their production pieces are extremely well priced and offer a genuine alternative to trashy souvenirs while simultaneously poking gentle fun of them. The 'Atlantish' scarf printed on silk is just 50 euro for example.
Unlike Versace who seemed to worship the Greek key pattern, Greece is for Lovers manages to find ways of using it that are surprising and contemporary. Of course the pattern is another example of how the studio uses overdone tourist motifs and icons to create humorous and interesting objects.
Everything from the witty copy writing to subtle Grecian references such as the way 'GIFL' is given the traditional 'Greek Key' tiling treatment in the 'Flavour of the Month' paper weight, is carefully considered and designed. This may at first appear like a light-hearted romp but beneath all the fun is some seriously good product design.
One of the products that shows the studio's ability to cross over to a more orthodox market (no pun intended), the 'Vanity Faith' lamps take a ready made component - in this case a priest's hat - and turns it into a beautifully realised lighting concept.
In recent years the Greece is for Lovers duo, Thanos Karampatsos and Christina Kotsilelou, have shown at a variety of events and shows in Europe including at a group show called "Oukan Introduces: Skin 1" at the Oukan Concept store in Berlin in late 2012 and at The Sluice Art Fair in London the following year.
First shown in Athens in 2014, 'The Harder they Come' stools adorned the windows of Bel Boutique in San Babila during this year's Salone del Mobile. As usual the GIFL team came up with a witty one-liner for their collaboration with fashion designer Angelos Bratis - 'Only the tanned survive'. The stools combination of industrial concrete reinforcing steel and marble might just be a comment on Greece's contemporary building industry..........As usual with Greece is for Lovers products, the name itself is a work of art.
Many of Greece is for Lovers products borrow the kitsch visual language of modern souvenirs but then inject them with worthy old world materials like brass, marble and leather. The 'Build your Myth' dumbbells created in 2011 are a case in point with their corny poorly proportioned Ionic column being cast in solid brass.