The first thing that welcomes the visitor to the tiny store of Olgianna Melissinos in the heart of Monastiraki, the old commercial district at the foothills of the Acropolis in the Greek capital, is the overpowering smell of genuine leather.
Against the backdrop of finely made sandals, belts and bags, old photos and framed articles that cover the walls floor to ceiling, and a radio playing calm instrumental music in the background, Olgianna and her husband Christos work tirelessly — but cheerfully — behind their benches.
Olgianna is a third-generation shoemaker, as her grandfather started the family business in 1920 specializing in climbing boots and luxury shoes. In the 1950s her father Stavros took over the business and, shortly after, an interesting proposal came his way.
“At some point, a choreographer came by his shop and asked him to make ancient Greek-style sandals for a performance. He did so, he liked the venture and made a few extra pairs for sale in his store,” Melissinos told Xinhua.
Extremely common during the ancient Greek and Roman times, sandals have a celebrated, centuries-old history in Greece, documented by various artifacts unearthed by archaeologists. But by the 1960s, when Melissinos took that order, the art of sandal making had almost died out, as open shoes were not popular or even considered socially unacceptable at the time.
“His neighbors made fun of him. They told him ‘no one is going to buy these things you make’. But he laughed and said ‘never mind, someone will’.”
Artistic by nature, Melissinos, dubbed “the poet-sandal maker” because of his talent for poetry and playwriting, saw the project as a challenge to his creativity.
“He started designing sandals on his own but also ‘stealing’ designs he saw on ancient statues, frescoes, depictions of ancient Greek sandals — he studied a lot. And he started experimenting,” Melissinos said. The first pair was sold in no time. “In a matter of a few years, this whole neighborhood changed and even those who were skeptical at the beginning started making sandals,” she added.
Greece experienced its first major tourism boom during that period and the liberal fashion trends of the time helped establish sandals as an iconic fashion item, a symbol of timeless simplicity and elegance, a shoe equally enjoyed by celebrities and hitchhikers, all basking in the Greek summer.
Nowadays, the sandal, in its countless variations, forms, materials and colors, remains the top go-to summer footwear. And the tiny store that was one of the first to make sandals again in modern Greek history is now featured in sophisticated travel guides and prestigious fashion magazines. But as Melissinos said, word of mouth is their biggest marketing weapon.
According to the sandal maker, quality and craftsmanship make the difference. In her store, everything is handmade of genuine leather by Christos and herself: sandals, belts, wallets, handbags. They do not give the impression that they are in a rush. They take the time to care for every little detail, to think of aesthetics, to add that tiny touch that makes every handmade product in the world unique. Their customers can have the sandal of their choice fitted on their feet, they can ask for little tweaks or even different color straps to create a sandal as close to their needs and taste as possible.
“There is a whole story behind this store proving that the shoes are made with talent and craft. There is an atmosphere, they adjust the shoes to your size, you can pick the colors. In 10 minutes, they can give you a totally personalized pair of sandals. It is a very nice souvenir from Athens,” confirmed French traveler Diane Petit just after she had her own pair custom-fitted by Christos.
“Approximately 70-80 percent of our orders are ‘sur mesure,’ because we also want to achieve the perfect fit… We want to have a personal relationship with our customers,” Melissinos stressed.
And just as the Melissinos family craftsmanship has passed down to the third generation, so has the loyalty of their customers.
“I was very moved one time when I made small sandals for the great-grandchild of one of my father’s customers. It really counts when you are being honest and straight with your customers. The loyalty and the love they show you can go a long way, for generations,” the sandal maker explained.
As most sectors of the Greek economy, small and medium-sized shoe making industries suffered a severe blow during the decade-long economic crisis. Several manufacturers were forced out of business or moved out of Greece to where labor was cheaper.
It was a very difficult time for her business, Melissinos recalled, but she refused to compromise on the quality of her products in order to lower the prices. As she said, what kept the small business afloat was foreign customers, but also a shift in the mentality of Greeks.
“We worked hard, and I believe that our customers –especially the Greeks — rewarded us, because they also returned to the mentality of buying one top quality product rather than 10, which are not of good quality,” she stressed, referring to a big part of Greek society that was prone to hyperconsumerism before the crisis.
Of course, making unique, handmade products when trends in fashion are changing fast is not an easy task. It takes time, it costs more and has a small profit margin — but for Melissinos it is a personal choice.
“You have to love it and then you can make your clientele love it too,” she explained.
Melissinos is confident that handmade crafts not only are not dying but are being reinvented and highly appreciated by more and more people.
“We have customers who tell us ‘I was very happy that I kept these (sandals) for 10 or 15 years. We had a great time ‘together’ and they refer to all the places these sandals took them to, and how they connected emotionally with them,” she said.
Over the past years, more and more travelers have visited Melissinos’s store with a travel guide in their hands. Tourists today are more sophisticated, they are looking for authentic experiences and products, they do not shop randomly, the sandal maker claimed.
And lately, visitors from China have joined the store’s most valued group of customers.
“They are always on the lookout for good quality products. They even take more time to decide because this is something new to them. But once they trust you, they become your best customers. I think you have to gain their trust,” Melissinos said.
This year, the coronavirus pandemic has made things much more difficult for this small business. With approximately half of their customers coming from abroad, and with travel restrictions that are prone to change at any moment, Olgianna and Christos are faced with uncertainty. But combining art with technology, they run an e-shop that ships worldwide and are optimistic that they will be able to welcome their friends back in Athens soon.
Sexual violence: Mrs Akeredolu pledges to partner stakeholders
The wife of Ondo State Governor, Mrs Betty Akeredolu, has pledged her readiness to partner with relevant stakeholders to end cases of sexual violence in the state.
Akeredolu spoke on Tuesday in Akure at a stakeholders meeting on gender-based sexual violence
According to her, an action plan must aim at addressing the issue of rape in the state holistically.
The governor’s wife, therefore, advised stakeholders to collectively come up with a reasonable action plan that would end the menace.
Mrs Titi Adeyemi, the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, said the essence of the meeting was to have a follow up forum on the previous meeting with stakeholders on rape and gender based violence.
Adeyemi noted that the spate of rape cases and gender-based violence was becoming alarming.
“It has become so worrisome, especially during the coronavirus period, which concerns every individuals.
“There has been an upsurge on issue of rape and all hands must be on deck to curb it.
” That is the main reason Mrs Akeredolu and relevant authorities have shown great concern at this time.
“We have put a team of experts together, people who have technical knowledge on gender-based violence issues to look for a lasting solution.
“We have a whole range of stakeholders coming together to evolve an action plan to tackle the menace, and I believe that this move is going to assist the state and the society at large,” she said.
Adeyemi said her ministry had concluded plans with the Ministry of Budget to include funds for gender-based violence management in its budget.
She also said that a desk for management of gender based violence cases would be created while government would build the capacity of care givers as well as empower victims.
The commissioner commended the governor’s wife for contributing to the proactive measures put in place to curb the menace in the state.
Mrs Bola Ogundadegbe, the Chairperson of Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) in the state, disclosed that the 112 rape incidents recorded since 2017 had been charged to court.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that stakeholders at the meeting included representatives from Ministries of Justice, Education, Health, Women Affairs as well as representatives of non governmental organisations specialising on rape cases.
Edited By: Muftau Adediran/Mufutau Ojo) (NAN)
Digital economy: Nigeria must shift focus from certificate to skills – Pantami
The Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, has advocated for shifting of focus from certificate to skills education for the actualisation of Nigeria’s digital economic drive.
Pantami made the call at the Graduation Lecture of the National Defence Collage Course 28, titled; “Digital Economy and National Development in Nigeria”, on Tuesday in Abuja.
The minister added that emphasis on certificate must be reduced in engaging labour force, urging that focus should be shifted to skills if the nation must catch up with development.
He said that many developed and developing countries such as China, United States and Morocco had shifted attention to skills rather than certificate, adding that many of them had established skills centres.
According to him, certificate is important but secondary to skill and that is why we must pay attention to skills in our journey to digital economy.
“The digital literacy and skills pillar recognises the fact that citizens are the greatest assets in any economy, including the digital economy. It will support the development of a large pool of digitally literate and digitally skilled citizens.
“We recently provided a platform, the DigitalNigeria.gov.ng platform, to enable Nigerians receive training in diverse digital skills. Over 36,000 Nigerians have enrolled on the platform since the 2nd of April, 2020.
“We are championing a paradigm change that lays emphasis on skills, in preference to merely having degrees without skills.
“The National Defence College is an institution that supports the development of skills and there are many digital techniques that can support the great work that you are doing here,’’ he said.
Pantami stated that the digital economy was a prime catalyst for development, adding that in less than one year, government’s modest efforts had already yielded remarkable results.
According to him, the recent first quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that ICT contributed an unprecedented 14.07 per cent to Nigeria’s total real GDP.
He explained that emerging technologies came with different solutions to security challenges of every nation such as data analytics, artificial intelligence, robotic technology, drone and many more.
“These are some of the emerging technologies that will go a long way in promoting security of nations. The security officials are in better position to look into and see how to customize them and make use of them.”
Also, the Minister of Defence, Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi, said the Federal Government had taken steps to adopt, adapt and internalise the digital economy in a functional manner.
Magashi, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Sabiu Zakari, said it was important that security and defence establishments show more than a cursory interest in the digital economy.
He added that the adaptation of digital economy could result in increased cybercrimes thus undermining national security.
“I wish to commend the Commandant, staff and the entire College community for their collective efforts in pursuing the ideals of the College.
“In particular, I commend you for organising the graduation lecture, which was exciting, educative and would be helpful to the economic and security needs of the Nigerian nation,’’ he said.
Earlier, the Commandant of the collage, Rear Adm. Markson Kadiri, said the lecture had become a key component of the training programme of the College and a major highlight of its annual graduation ceremonies.
Kadiri said that a total of 107 participants had successfully completed the course comprising 67 officers of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, seven Senior Police Officers and 15 participants from key Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Others according to him, include 18 senior military officers from the Armed Forces of friendly nations.
“The Course was conducted under the theme “Economic Diversification and National Development in Nigeria”. Economic diversification is a broad based strategy designed to cause positive and multi-sectoral economic growth and development,’’ he said.
Edited By: Ismail Abdulaziz (NAN)
China’s A-share market sees IPO boom in July
In July, IPOs in the country’s A-share market raised a record amount of 109.81 billion yuan (about 15.73 billion United States dollars), surpassing 100 billion yuan in a single month the first time, said the paper.
A total of 52 firms were listed in July, accounting for 30 per cent of the total number of IPOs in the first seven months of 2020, which stood to 169.
In breakdown, the main board of the Shanghai Stock Exchange attracted 35 listings while the Growth Enterprise Market of the Shenzhen Stock Exchange hosted 43 IPOs from January to July, the paper reported.
Meanwhile, the STAR market, or the sci-tech innovation board of the Shanghai Stock Exchange, saw 73 companies listed during the same period.
The stock market posted stronger gains amid the robust IPO activities, the paper reported in July, the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index, Shenzhen Component Index and ChiNext Index, China’s NASDAQ-style board of growth enterprises, went up 10.9 per cent, 13.72 per cent and 14.65 per cent, respectively.
Experts say that sufficient liquidity has created conditions for high-quality companies in different industries to raise funds in the A-share market, thus directing funds from the capital market to the real economy.
Edited By: Dorcas Jonah/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)
Ford Motor’s CEO steps down amid waning investors’ confidence
The Chief Executive Officer of Ford Motor Company, Jim Hackett, is stepping down on Oct. 1 after three years at the helm.
In a statement on Tuesday, the American multinational automaker said Hackett would be succeeded by Jim Farley, its Chief Operating Officer.
According to reports, Hackett’s exit is coming amid the company’s $11 billion (N4 trillion) global restructuring programme said to be floundering.
Reuters reports that the No. 2 United States carmaker also “faces slumping demand in China, its second-largest market’’.
The 65-year-old outgoing CEO failed to secure investors’ confidence in his leadership amid a sharp crash in the value of the company’s stock under his watch.
Under his leadership, Ford has struggled with product launch problems involving the Ford Explorer, the Lincoln Navigator and the Police Interceptor.
But shares of the company rose by 2.8 per cent in early trading, on Tuesday, according to the news agency.
He will be the Ford’s fourth chief executive officer since the 2008 economic crash, reports say.
Edited By: Josephine Obute/Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)