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Zylo: the Wooden Sunglasses of Syros Setting a Worldwide Fashion Trend
by Kelly Fanarioti
And yet it happens!
Pericles Therrios left Greece because of the economic crisis but then returned and found success with his life partner Eleni Vakondiou.
Pericles chased his dreams in distant Canada, but the climate didn’t suit him so he made a second life decision and went back to Greece. The problems he faced when he returned to his native island of Syros in the Cyclades (Aegean Sea) included making a living. So with Eleni they decided to make wooden eyewear. “There are times where a simple morning thought is enough to change everything you take for granted,” he says. “The way you live, the way you work, the way you see things, your general state of mind. We were lucky to witness a morning like that: when the light of the sun lights up an idea in your head.”
The decision also rose from the fact that they were making wooden constructions long before that. As Eleni explains to NEO, they had all the machines they needed at home and woodworking was anyway their favorite hobby. “We were dealing with the wood as a hobby,” she says. “Then when Pericles returned to Ermoupolis (capital city of Syros) we decided to make it a business and he suggested wooden framed sunglasses. That’s how a beautiful journey for us started right here on this picturesque island.”
They made their first pair using olive wood, but chose not to show it to anyone. It took six months of trials before it produced the results they had in mind. “We started handling and shaping wood in various ways, learning new techniques and procedures. As we were training ourselves, the wood started to train and educate us, as well. We are thankful for every piece of knowledge we extracted from this process and proud of our creations.”
Deciding this would be their future, they appealed to the world to help them set up their business. Their campaign on the well-known Indiegogo platform went much better than expected, and in a relatively short time they managed to raise the money they needed. “The truth is we did not expect for things to go so well because we believed Greeks were not that familiar with the funding of various projects over the Internet,” Eleni explains. “That was a huge misperception—we’re very grateful to all our Greek supporters.”
Their handmade sunglasses under brand Zylo Eyewear didn’t take long to stand out and become known all over the world. Online orders were steady and customer reviews on social media were and continue to be excellent. “People loved our products from the very first moment, and many people sent us small gifts and thank you cards to the shop. I think the fact that we started from scratch in conjunction with the quality we offer, is the cause of our glasses’ impact,” Eleni says.
The style of sunglasses particularly loved by the world is the one named Gregos, which according to Mediterranean naval tradition, is the northeast wind that brought the Venetians back home: a wind blowing from Greece. “My grandfather Yiannis was a fisherman and he was a very stubborn man,” notes Eleni. “He was known to the locals as to vremeno: the wet guy. He always came back to shore with his pants wet. His fishing boat was used by three generations of the family. We inherited his stubbornness and wanted his relentless commitment to his fishing boat to continue through our sunglasses.”
This limited edition line of their sunglasses is made from the wood of a boat built in 1979 and every pair is unique and numbered.
This “journey” of Eleni and Pericles has its share of ups and downs. One of these is the increasing knockoffs of their glasses in the Greek market. Eleni and Pericles say their customers report poor quality knockoffs at luxury prices. “Several shops were bringing Chinese glasses and promoting them to our customers. Many complaints have been made and many customers have even contacted the consumer counsel. This is still happening today; but we cannot change the world. We move forward and try to offer the best quality to our customers.”
Another difficulty faced by start-ups in Greece is the exhibitions where designers present their products. As Eleni explains to NEO, a company has to spend a fair amount of money at these exhibits to get the attention of people. “We have taken part in two exhibitions but the field of optics and fashion in general is difficult, tough and highly competitive. You have to get people’s attention. I remember the case of a company that brought a catamaran to the showroom and showed its products in the catamaran. Another one made sweets on the spot and attendees followed the smell that came out of the oven and ended up in the particular pavilion. ”
These competitive trials and others make the two young designers sometimes lose their courage, but as they admit, their mood changes every time they look at their creations and then they start working with even more passion.
“Syros, the ideal place to live”
The place where Eleni and Pericles decided to set up their business is no accident at all. Apart from the fact that Syros is their native home, it is according to them a blessed place other bigger cities can be jealous of. “Ermoupolis, also known as the princess of Cyclades is a place you would never get bored. It has a lot of permanent residents and even in the winter life here is very beautiful and mostly qualitative”.
What the creators of Zylo Eyewear emphasize is not only the natural beauty of the place with the imposing mansions but the fact that all year round, great cultural and sporting events take place on the island. “The mayor of Syros, Mr. George Marangos, has done a good job for the promotion of our island. It’s really a place worth visiting all seasons.”
However, their love for their island directly affects their work as they try to show Syros in every way through their products. “We live in the center of the Aegean; we grew up near the sea, and under the sun. And that’s what we are trying to convey through our design process. From the names of the sunglasses, to their designs, the graphic creations and their photographs, we are trying to give the feeling of the place we live. From images of Ermoupoli’s houses, fields under the sun at the villages of Syros, everything relates to the bright blue color of the sea and the bright light of the Aegean sea, reminding us its islands.”