I’ve said before that a few words… carefully chosen words, can have an effect on how people perceive things. So it was with Allison’s studio at Firostefani, here in Santorini. Most of the early summer I watched a lot people walking past and glancing in… not really knowing what the studio was. Most would keep walking and some would walk in. Those that did walk in almost always bought something because they immediately realised that what was in there was unique.
From the very start I had told Allison that I wanted to write something that positions Aegean Designs very clearly in the minds of passers-by, of visitors to this island, as well as visitors to her website/online shop. Something that makes a statement… takes a stand, has some impact. To be honest, initially I wanted it to be a lot more telling… a lot more controversial. But quite rightly she wanted it more subtle and didn’t want conflict with other shop owners.
So after seeing yet another group of people walking by… unsure of what Aegean Designs was, I sat and wrote a couple of lines that were framed and placed outside. Since then… well since then people’s reaction has been overwhelming. I always knew that if people saw her work they would love it. We just needed a way to make them stop and look. The sign outside Aegean Designs studio is this:
I can’t even begin to tell you how many people have walked in and the very first thing they say is “I agree with you”. This reaction is further magnified when they can actually see Allison painting on her table outside. They stop, look, take photos and chat. They talk about their frustrations with mass-produced “junk”, they talk about the items on display, the colours and the personal touch behind everything in the studio. They love what they see and they love the setting of the studio. As one lady from New York put it (after buying a just completed, hand painted “taverna-scene” apron) “this will be a special memory for me” and she asked me to take a photo of her (in her new apron) and her husband.
The studio has indeed produced a lot of special moments for me and a lot of other people that have visited. There have been incredible conversations about dreams, about art, about passion and about living on Santorini. People express themselves in many different ways. Many walk pass, stop, read, walk in and comment, then continue with their walk saying “I’ll be back”. Sure enough… later that afternoon, or the next morning, they are back with their husband, wife, partner and they proceed to buy presents for each other and their loved ones… saying things like “this is the most unique shop on this island”. Hearing that gives me a special thrill and I can’t even begin to imagine what it must feel like to Allison… after all she is the one that creates everything in there. Given that this small studio was just a dream a few months ago… it must give her incredible satisfaction to see people getting so much pleasure from seeing and buying her creations.
The colours are incredible and the items are things people can use and feel good about. The French women absolutely adore the hand-painted aprons, as do all women that see them and a surprising number of men… who (like me) love to cook. Couples on their honeymoon love buying thank you presents for their families and loved ones… as well as the “special” necklace for the new bride – who is still walking on clouds. People ask to have names written on espresso cups or aprons… to further personalise them, or they have special jewellery made to order. They get all excited about designing on the spot… or watching Allison paint the t-shirt, apron or hat that they will take with them. It is a special experience for them… and funnily enough it is exactly what we discussed in the middle of winter when planning the studio. The way we had envisaged interaction with visitors is exactly how it has worked out.
Memories and gifts… indeed should not be mass produced. It’s a message we have since trademarked and will use on all marketing material for Aegean Designs. It is not just a slogan… it’s a lifestyle position. It’s about personal experience and thoughtfulness towards those you love enough to buy gifts for. What the hell is the point of going to a special place and buying a gift for a loved one that was made thousands of miles away from there?
My thoughts behind the slogan were best summed up by a French woman who, after buying a dozen or so gifts for family and friends, said “and I will also take this is for me” – a taverna apron as per pic above . She had a huge smile on her gorgeous face and as I folded it for her I mentioned that she will look great in it as she serves dinner to her friends and family. She smiled and said “No, no, no Michael… I will hang this up in my kitchen for everyone to see… it is art. It will always remind me of my visit to your island”. That French accent is like a heat gun… just melts you !
Happy weekend to you !