The business and tradition of Greek doilies is about to become extinct in Greece. Perikles Toumbektsis, the owner of perhaps the only small textile factory remaining in Greece, talked about the art and business of Greek doilies and how the country’s economic crisis has crippled this old Greek tradition.
Toumbektsis is the owner of the traditional textile factory Authentiko based in Ionia, Thessaloniki, possibly the only small textile business in Greece that produces fabrics and textile products exported across the country and the world.
The arts of cross-stitching, knitting and weaving with a loom are intrinsically embedded in the Greek culture. This tradition goes way back in time and used to be a women’s favorite pastime, as well as duty. It was an activity that many would do collaboratively to bond while they were creating their daughter’s dowries.
Often, girls started at a young age in order to fill their dowry chest. The time of pride was when they would show off their creations to their guests on their wedding day, a sign that the girl would be a good and qualified housewife.
While this was happening in the old days, in the 1980’s and 1990’s, traditional textiles became a form of business for many who started creating factories that were producing doilies which were sold to Greeks and foreigners.
“Even though nowadays the grandmothers keep crocheting, the Greek crisis has hit hard the textile industry in Greece and closed down most of the traditional textile factories,” explained the owner of Authentikon.
The handicraft business employs four highly-trained people using eight traditional looms that guarantee the quality of products, which feature traditional patterns, classic motives, warm colors and original Greek artwork. The overall looming procedures are supervised by a loom expert engineer and then all products are sewn and packed by qualified employees. Toumbektsis is responsible for the management and marketing of the industry.
Bed sheets, aprons, table cloths, semens, kilimia, cushions, blankets and chenille rugs are some of the most typical textile beauties offered to clients. Everything is manufactured in meter cloth to meet requirements and to space needs. The industry takes special orders from touristic enterprises and hotels in Greece, the USA, South Africa and Australia.
According to Toumbektsis, the Greek Diaspora is keenly interested in obtaining traditional textiles that remind them of their rich Greek artistic and cultural heritage. “We aim to introduce the glamor of Greek textiles to the Greeks, Greek expats and foreign visitors interested in the Greek culture,” he told Greek Reporter.
“Our last client was Doromu.com, a new Greek online shop in the U.S.A. We were delighted that they imported our products in America. We need more people like them to start introducing our Greek culture and products worldwide,” he said.
Authentiko was first established in 1982 by the Toumbektsis family but has been under the direction of Perikles Toumpektsis for the last 18 years. The production of traditional tourist textiles began as a prosperous business back in the 1980’s when tourism in Greece flourished.
Whether for practical use (sheets, throws, covers) or decorative purposes (semens, cushions), traditional textiles produced in Greece were among the basic gifts and Greek souvenirs visitors of the country took back with them when their vacations in the country were over.
According to Toumbektsis, both foreign and local tourists have supported the operation and products of the textile industry, recognizing the quality and worth of the productive powers of the country.
With a strong presence in textile expos, Toumbektsis noted that the importance of traditional textiles remains practical, explaining that “people prefer them to modern day mass products because of their originality, high quality and beauty.” The Greek Diaspora has become the best client for Toumpektsis’ business. “Greeks all around the world love our products and use them all the time for decorative purposes,” he said.
This is why the business, like many others in Greece, has turned to exports over the past few years. The ongoing crisis has taken its toll on the domestic market, weakening Greeks’ purchase power. Toumbektsis has been successful so far in promoting and introducing his products to Greek populations and Philhellenes around the world with the help of trade agents, the Internet and the Greek consulates and commercial delegates.
The business focuses primarily on the target groups of foreign and Greek visitors of the Greek islands, and especially Crete, winter resorts across the country (Metsovo, Pilio, etc) and exports in countries with a strong Greek presence (the USA, South Africa, AUstralia, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, etc.). What’s critical, he said, is to avoid losses.
“We are trying to do what most of us are trying to do nowadays: not to get in debt. Our products are timeless and unique in their art, so that current difficult economic times do not intimidate us. I am positive that things will soon change for the better and that we will do great business once again,” he concluded.