Constantine Chryssanthopoulos (CC) this time is the weekly interview of the Dubai Profile News Blog (DPN). The owner of WASP (www.wasp.gr), one of the most promising clothes brand in Greece believes that style makes the man, even if the man is naked. Enjoy an interesting interview with another young entrepreneur who has loads to share with.
DPN: Constantine, you run a successful firm in the clothing industry in Greece, WASP (www.wasp.gr). Will you tell us few things about your project?
CC: WASP started a few years ago with the concept of a men’s boutique that offers exclusive high quality clothes and accessories along with top service. WASP is influenced by the lifestyle and fashion of the 50’s and 60’s and reflects a positive look on life. It is located on a very prestigious street in Athens known for its high-end boutiques. Our clients are sophisticated, happy, stylish and “difficult” people that enjoy the fabrics of our clothes and see beyond the actual process of shopping. We try to create an interactive experience for our clients because only then we can better understand them and offer more efficient service.
DPN: What the name of your company means?
CC: The name of the company means White Anglo Saxon Protestant, which is an informal term originated in the 1950s for high status Americans with British decent with financial and social power. For us, being a WASP has nothing to do with money or religion. It is about lifestyle and images mostly. Polo shirts, colorful pants, tailored jackets, tennis, Gin & tonics, family and sailing are few of the images that come to my mind when I hear this word. The lifestyle of a WASP is a combination of work, sports and a general well being. That’s why we sell clothes for different occasions and moments in life.
DPN: Who is the most interesting celebrity you ever dressed in WASP?
CC: We have dressed many well known people from different backgrounds. I can’t pick someone as most interesting because that will be unfair for the rest! Celebrity customers usually look for something different that will make them “stand out of the crowd”. They prefer the more eccentric garments of a collection and usually wear them at special occasions and events. We don’t measure success in terms of “celebrity” customers but it is always a plus when someone famous chooses your brand over others. Daniel Cremieux which is the main brand that we sell, is the official tailor of the French Football team and Nicolas Sarkozy and has dressed many French and American celebrities.
DPN: Mark Twain the famous American author said that “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in the society”. Do you agree with that?
CC: Clothes don’t make the man. It is style that makes the man. It is the way you dress and the way you choose your combinations. Clothes are just a means to take style from theory to practice. I have met many people with great wardrobes but lack the ability to make correct clothing combinations. The importance of style lies in the ability to see the big picture.
DPN: What “lifestyle” means for you?
CC: “Lifestyle” is the simple things we enjoy in life. For me it is: Food, drinks, music, clothes, sports and friends. Not necessarily in that order. We, Greeks have made some significant steps in order to improve our level of living and have incorporated many different aspects of different cultures in our lives. For instance, lately there have been organized teams of people that go cycling around Athens and try to promote a healthy living attitude towards life. Greece, like the Middle-East offers a great variety of food and I often find the opportunity to try out new restaurants and new flavours. In order to stay in shape I do some home workouts a few times per week and eat small and frequent portions of food. I do enjoy working but I put limits in my work life because I want to be healthier and stress free. Good company, friends and drinks are at the heart of the Greek culture that everybody follows and enjoys at all times.
DPN: Who is the most talented fashion designer in your opinion?
CC: The most talented fashion designer in my opinion is Daniel Cremieux. He took the classic college, preppy look and incorporated it into fashion. Ralph Lauren was the first to do something similar but he did it the American way. Cremieux added to that way, attention to detail and French taste. He was also one of the first designers that included the today’s very commercial polo rugby shirt in his collections. One of the reasons I admire him is that he took the classic American college preppy look and he extended it and he later “invaded” the US with great success. Cremieux is a modern classicist that enjoys playing with colour and styles but maintains the chic French style of the 60’s. Lately there have been many new designers with great creations that received good comments but they are usually found in the hardcore fashion industry and not the commercial.
DPN: You operate in Greece, where the economy nowadays is in a really bad situation. How a young entrepreneur may develop among a difficult business environment like that?
CC: Greece is indeed in a bad situation which will probably get even worse. There are two pros when entering a market such as Greece’s: Less competition and lower costs. Then the next step is to choose the right product but even more important nowadays is to find the right target market for your product. It is more crucial than ever to focus on specific niches, especially when selling high end products in countries with economic problems. A great number of shops and businesses have closed down leading to less competition and greater control over customers and brands but on the downside, once thriving shopping areas are being torn apart especially with the presence of shopping malls and outlet stores which are situated close to the center of Athens. The government doesn’t take actions to protect small businesses and retail shops and due to daily strikes and temporary shutting down of central high traffic streets, people are discouraged to go shopping.
DPN: Many people say that politicians led Greece to such a difficult financial position. Whom politician from Greece you do believe is the worst dressed one and why?
CC: As a rule, politicians in Greece are badly dressed. They wear the classic 3 button suit 1 size larger than their normal size without making any alterations. Their ties are even worse than their suits because there is a huge variety to choose from and unfortunately there is no tie dictatorship. Also, most of their clothes lose fit as they keep the shape of their well fed bodies. Of course there are always exceptions but there are few and not worth mentioning. On the other hand, in countries where fashion has thrived over the years we can see better dressed politicians. Maybe this happens because it is part of their lifestyle or they actually care about their appearance.
DPN: In a young age you lost your father, how did this influenced you in your next steps?
CC: Well losing my father obviously was a difficult chapter in my life but on the other hand helped me become more mature in some aspects of my life. His death re-arranged the hierarchy in my family and we all had new roles and more responsibilities. When you are 20 years and you lose one f your parents, you have to adapt quickly to your new life. You face new challenges that you are not prepared for and then is the time when you have to be stronger than ever and prove yourself that you can succeed under pressure. My father was a successful executive in the wine industry and a tennis champion. He was very likable and a very compassionate and strong person. He would never give up and was always calm when making important business and life decisions. He is my personal hero and I feel proud when friends say that I remind them of him.
DPN: What’s the most important lesson you learnt in your life up to now?
CC: I don’t think I have learnt specifically something big and important because life at least for me teaches small things regularly. I do like the idea of treating everyday as a new one because you never know what might happen. Many friends have passed away and this always makes you reflect on your own life. What would I change? Am I really happy? I wonder sometimes. In the business world I have learnt not to trust people that easily and be tougher and stricter. We live in a dirty world where a large portion of people are only interested in money and personal success and will use unnecessary and unethical means of getting their goals accomplished even if that means your personal harm. When money is involved you have to be extra careful and have clear terms with your partners and suppliers.
DPN: You studied in England, in the Reading University. How was your lifetime there?
CC: Studying in England was the most interesting and fun period of my life so far. For me, the university life was mostly about socializing, making new friends and being open to new cultures. The academic life was also very important and helped me with many aspects of running my own business. As a young student in a foreign country the most important lesson I learnt was to stand on my own feet because I had to do everything on my own, from travelling to new places to managing my pocket money etc. It is always a shock when you first arrive in a foreign country and you have to deal with many different aspects that since then were taken care of from your parents. But on the other hand you are free to make your own rules and live your life your own way with no supervision. University life gives you a taste of your future life with all the dangers and opportunities that you might meet.
DPN: After going back in Greece you worked in other companies before you established your own. Will you describe us your career up to now?
CC: My first contact with the business world was when I started working part time during summers at various advertising companies such as JNL. That part of my life was more of a scan of what I would like to do when I would finish my studies in England. When I finished my army duties I started working at a clothing importer called Franman International in sales as well as running the back office. Working at a successful import company such as Franman helped me improve my communication skills and gave me a better understanding of the Greek market and made me see gaps in the economy. I also learnt many “street truths” from my business relationship with shop owners that I was collaborating with as their supplier which helped me a lot when I started running WASP.
DPN: Who is your best friend?
CC: My best friend is George, I have known him for 25 years and we still laugh together like when we were 3 years old. He has always been there for me and he is the person I will call if I have problems because he knows how to help me and cheer me up. We have completely different characters and that’s why he still puts up with my nonsense. This is the reason why he is my best friend.
DPN: What’s the next day for WASP?
CC: The next day for WASP is a strong online presence and more WASPs run by sophisticated fun loving entrepreneurs. WASP is more of a lifestyle than a single shop. It reflects our inner thoughts, wishes, secrets and dreams and makes us feel strong and confident about ourselves. When the economy stands again on its feet WASP will hopefully have presence in more countries and will become your personal stylist and friend.
DPN: What will you wear in the most important day of your life?
CC: The most important day of my life was the day of my birth and I was naked. Take that Mark Twain!