Family run businesses have for decades been a vital part of the social fabric of Athens. The city’s history as a mercantile centre runs deep and if you wonder around the area surrounding Agias Irinis Square (close to Monastiraki) or along Perikleous St near Syntagma, you’ll find the evidence of a once thriving textile precinct with fabric and haberdashery stores scattered throughout. Around central Athens, shoe stores, take away food outlets and souvenir shops are a dime a dozen, but it’s the authentic, unique businesses and workshops that speak to the city’s historic heart that I’m always hoping to find. Most are hidden in lonely back lanes that survive on word of mouth and reputation, built over many decades.
Zama was one of those hidden gems that appeared so unexpectedly one afternoon. Their beautiful window display was what caught my attention as I roamed around the old market district of Athens. On a quiet street with not much else going on, Zama will lure you inside with their romantic lacy collars, frilly cuffs, statement buttons and zippers. It is the place of endless possibility and creativity, a haven to channel your inner craftsman and transform your wardrobe into the haute couture pieces that most of us can only dream of.
Fashion enthusiasts will be drooling, I certainly was. I felt like I had been magically transported to the Maison Esage in Paris. It wasn’t until the very friendly sales assistant spoke to me in Greek that I realised this was a very real Athenian store. The shop was buzzing with clientele, regular customers were welcomed on a first name basis, coffees were being made and no one was in a rush. It is a place that filled me with joy, not only because it was adorned from floor to ceiling with glamorous beads and beautiful threads but because specialty stores like this still exist in a city that has been doing it so tough.
Established in 1957 by Zaharias Vasilopoulos, Zama was the first business in Greece to import zippers and quickly became renowned as the place to go for all tailoring related materials.
Today, they produce all kinds of zippers in their workshop above their store and stock an impressive collection of ready-made zippers from the best brands in the business. (Lampo, Tom Ford, Raccagni among others).
Michael Gerotherodoros took over the business in 1994 and has since introduced a full range of sewing materials and fashion forward accessories that have upheld Zama’s heritage and reputation as the best haberdashery store in Athens. The recent global movement away from outright commercialism and mass production, to the desire to get back to basics through handmade crafts could also be helping spur things along.
From the elegant to eccentric, anyone with the most rudimentary sewing skills (like me) will find something to transform a blouse or jacket into a perfectly poetic fashion statement with bejewelled collars or glittery beads.
Zama is another of the city’s many hidden charms, that brings a little elegance and beauty to the grittiness of Athens. I am so glad to have discovered it, to be able to share it with all of you.
*This post was not sponsored in any way and as always, all opinions are our own.