Style — Fashion



Mood of Living  /  Dec 4, 2013

Melissa Metaxa, co-founder and designer of Isapera sandals, is combining high couture with classic Greek style, creating timeless pieces Mood of Living immediately fell for. Inspired by her roots and summers spent on the beach in Greece, her sandals add an elegant touch to a leisurely feel.

“Isapera” [ίσα πέρα] in Greek means “Going forward, straight ahead and beyond.”

As a native Greek and someone who grew up in the fashion industry—Metaxa’s family had three boutiques around the country—it was only a matter of time before she would venture off into the fashion world on her own. Now she is excited to do what she does best: creating and designing, while also bringing business to her Greek community.

Q & A with Melissa Metaxa

Mood of Living: What is your background?
Melissa Metaxa : I was born and raised in Athens, Greece, studied history and philosophy of science in London, and then moved back to Greece to work for my family’s business in fashion retail. At the time we had three stores in Athens, so my childhood was split between school and the stores, which were very progressive at the time. My parents were one of the first to create a ‘concept store’ that sold clothes, music and books in a sort of hippie atmosphere. I was born in 1980, so while I missed the hippie era (which arose in the mid-1960s in the U.S.), I grew up in a business-oriented, competitive environment.
MoL: What made the stores unique?
MM: Our stores, called ‘Free Shop,’ were, and always have been, high-end fashion boutiques. My mother used to create her own line of clothes as well, and we had a space inside the store where we actually produced the clothes. That was my first glimpse of what design, production and creating is all about.
MoL: What did you do before you were a designer?
MM: My whole life was spent around fashion, so it was a sure thing that I would rebel. At the age of 17, I started to study the opposite of what my parents and friends expected. I spent three very studious, creative and intuitive years in London, while writing about art exhibitions for a Greek magazine. I loved it. I continued writing for magazines for five years. When I returned to Greece in 2000, I decided that my rebellious days were over and I started working in my family’s stores.
MoL: What was that like?
MM: I started from scratch. Sales, managing, merchandising and buying were my ultimate favorite things to do since they required traveling the world searching for new, fresh and creative talent. In 2010, my brother Alex and I decided we should launch our own brand of clothes and combine his managerial talent with my creativity. Our brand is called Wildwood and we launched it in our parents’ Mykonos store. Wildwood did great with international clients who loved the idea of buying something sophisticated and Greek.
MoL: What inspired you to create a line of sandals?
MM: After more than 12 years in the family business, I thought I should expand our idea and explore our Greek roots. I wanted to take my love for my country and explore its creative potentials. I came up with reinventing the traditional Greek sandal.
MoL: How did you have the courage to start your own business?
MM: With the help and support of my family, and especially my brother Alex, who became my partner. They all encouraged me to launch my idea.
MoL: Were there obstacles that you had to overcome? If so, how did you tackle them?
MM: There were obstacles in production, finding the right materials, coordinating the project and making sure all parties involved in the process would deliver their work on time with the quality required.
MoL: Is it tricky going into business with a sibling?
MM: Alex and I have sort of a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde relationship. He is super organized with all the managerial skills required, while I am more about running after inspiration and ideas and making them happen. We’re a great combination.
MoL: Where does Isapera get the leather?
MM: The insole and most of the Vachette comes from Greece. I wish all of it came from my country, but right now Greece is going through a huge economic crisis. Most production units, such as the ones making and dying leather, have closed down. It’s almost impossible to find Greek leather right now, and as much as I wish this would change soon, we need to import some of our leathers from all over the world—mainly our neighboring Italy.
MoL: Do you use local artisans to manufacture the sandals?
MM: We insist on manufacturing Isapera in Greece, by traditional standards. In fact, the manufacturers we use were renowned for being experts in the traditional Greek “tsarouhi,” which are the shoes worn to match traditional Greek war costumes of the 1800s. We re-interpret the Greek custom of sandal making, while also supporting Greek productivity, especially in such times of economic need.
MoL: What influences your design aesthetic?
MM: Greece has so much light and natural beauty. Our creations are very much inspired by the actual landscape.
MoL: Where do you envision Isapera in the future?
MM: We would love to spread the Greek aesthetic around the world. Last summer, I traveled to Paris and a beautiful French girl was wearing Isapera on the plane. This really moved me and I decided, then and there, to try and export the brand. We had a lot of great feedback and response at last January when we showcased Isapera at D&A (a designer and agent trade show) in New York.
MoL: What is the Isapera mission?
MM: Isapera in Greek means “going forward, straight ahead and beyond.” This phrase sums up our mission: Take a traditional Greek staple (like the Greek sandal) and move it beyond its usual circuit of thongs and wing-shaped straps.
Photography courtesy of Isapera

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