…And this how everything started! Yiannis Solomozis’s Archshop is an innovative company that designs and produces fabrics and soft furnishings, offering the choice to “dress” interiors with everyday-use products that project elements of one’s self in one’s own space! ‘Family shop with factory potential’, ‘A firework that exploded like a bomb’ in the world of domestic and business upholstery and fabrics is just a small sample from the comments the company has received by private and wholesale clients. Archshop proves beyond doubt that even when a large part of the market collapses due to some crisis… quality, innovative ideas, and friendly prices always stand out and survive. The economic crisis, in this case, brought forth the virtual fabrics of Yannis Solomozis with which he dresses spaces, and what follows shows how goals can be achieved with realistic and cautious moves, fresh ideas, and a lot of hard work. Victory favours the bold, after all.
How did your relation to design start?
I had no relation to design, none whatsoever. What I had started out to do was marketing. We simply had a business ten years ago, selling sheets and fabrics. However, that was just a store where we resold fabric. I didn’t do anything else. I mean there was a choice of around 200 designs, for example, and through those I was trying to offer clients what they wanted. As time passed by, there was nothing really different to show, the store had what everybody else had...especially as people’s spending power waned, everybody went for a particular kind of lower quality products, and so our business suffered. It was three years ago that I decided to start a project producing digitally printed fabric for household use.
Was there really no relation with the world of design before? Usually, those who design have a previous involvement with /love for the visual arts...
No, there was nothing like that, it was pure risk. Since I was little I only loved music and cooking...nothing else. The whole thing started because I could not work with various companies the way I wanted. I did like my work, a lot! To take an empty space and «dress» it. I just couldn’t find the fabrics I wanted in order to work as I would have liked. I couldn’t find that special fabric, cushion cover, curtain, or upholstery material every individual client might want, so I was looking for a way to achieve that. We had a business, and we said «we’re closing down and taking a risk»! In the meantime, we even lacked the technology we needed to proceed with the project! It was a marriage of two different types of technology which could potentially work...the result was what you see here. Everyone can find exactly what they want! There is finally the possibility to «dress» one’s own space with elements that come from within their personality.
And is, then, yours the only professional service that offers clients this possibility today?
For the time being, yes. In regards with household furnishings, yes, there is no one else. Everything we use, the materials are made by us, you can’t find them in the market, they are made according to our specifications and the entire production is ours.
How long is it since this enterprise started?
It has been three years since it’s started, but the big bang happened in the last year and a half. Initially, I worked in production, then started creating my own designs and that’s how Archshop was born. I didn’t want to do it the simple way, i.e. to make a white duvet, for example, or a curtain on which someone else could print a design. I wanted to create the whole package. The job was done pretty well, I might add. Now I am producing designs by others as well, friends usually, who do what I do, and therefore we can understand each other, so we launch new lines.
That means you are in the interior designer category?
Exactly. And a month ago we started producing designs for exterior spaces. We changed the specifications of some materials and adjusted them for durability, as they will be used outdoors.
Could you describe in brief your company? On our phone conversation you mentioned going to Crete «to fill houses»...what do you mean by «filling houses»? how many people do you work with? Is there a similar company abroad?
In short, what we do is this: a client comes to Archshop and says «hi there, I want you to make me a fabric in wood texture», or, «I like flowers as a design pattern’, etc. and we do just that! A single piece, at a good price too. I haven’t seen anything similar in Greece, or abroad. I have researched it quite extensively. By «filling houses» (laughs) I mean decorating all three houses of the client –the one I’m talking about happens to be a friend – with sofas, fabrics, curtains, lamp shades and ceeling lights, etc. On Wednesday, I am off to the island of Santorini, to check out two hotels, and If there’s time, on Monday or Tuesday I’m going to Amorgos for a smaller project, 5 or 6 small hotels. As far as the people I work with are concerned, there are up to 20 or 25 all over Greece.
I see...You started from a fabric shop that was closing down, and have already created an innovative businnes that is based on an idea of your own, which nobody else had thought off before...
I was neither able to do what I really wanted, nor was there someone who could do it for me! I mean, I used to ask around: «Who could make this for me?» Nobody! No one would care to do it. Any design we like, any texture, e.g. wood, crushed paper, glass...anything.
Can you please tell me about the particular day the idea came to you?
Yes, there is a tendency in this market.. the established merchants don’t want everybody to be able to work in a particular area with many stores, and some go to every single company and buy all the samples they can find. Without ever using them. Something of the sort had happened to me once, I had ordered sample catalogues from a certain company for some other projects I was working on at the time, and was waiting for the samples for about two months. After numerous calls, nobody would just come out and say it, «you know, the thing is, you are not getting any samples, we have given them to someone else». At some point, I spoke to someone, «listen, man, please tell me, is there a problem? Just let me know», I said, and he comes back like «basically, I have given them to someone else». That day I almost went mental. I say to myself, there’s no chance in hell...
«I am starting my own thing...»
Right, yes. The first year, I went to a fair, and things were said...
How did you chose the people you work with?
There weren’t any.
How did you start then?
On my own. What you see around is a «one man’s show»
About the fabric. How do you produce it then?
I produce the fabrics at a friend’s factory, where he makes simple household fabrics. We altered the production process so that it can be done under specifications, so that I can print what ever I want. It’s not actually printing, to be precise. It’s a digital silk print, which means the design is first printed on paper, the print is stabilised, and then the paper goes to this big cylinder that is brought to 200 degrees C , and that’s how the ink from the paper goes on the fabric. Then we take it, measure it, cut and finish it, I make the designs, it becomes the finished product, it’s packed, label on top, and off to the client it goes.
Do you get furniture from somewhere? If it is a sofa, for example, how is it done then?
In the current state of things, orders for things like beds, headboards etc., we make in house. The only thing I buy readymade are frames for the sofas. We intend to start making those ourselves in the future, as well.
Do you work with well-known Greek companies that produce fabrics and furniture?
Exactly. In most cases, however, they don’t admit it is us who supply them.
There is an issue there...I don’t know. It’s how the deal is. Perhaps because there is still an old habit at play that is difficult to change. Most say they get them from abroad.
Hang on a minute... A store sells one of your producst. And they sell it as their own?
Some stores that do designs themeselves, sell it as their own product.
When they have the final decision on the design, I’m guessing. Then you only do the production. Is there a case that one of your designs as Archshop is sold by someone else as their own?
Yes, that’s the way it’s done. This is how retail works.
And you are fine with this? Isn’t it a form of copy-right infringment?
No, once you sell a product, it does not belong to you anymore. They don’t re-print the particular design, nor do they produce it elswhere. From the moment I sell you something, I have no hold over the product. None, whatsoever.
Yes, but shouldn’t we know who the creative mind behind the product is?
That’s what I am trying to say. One can’t just say that the creator of the product is me. «You» are the creator, yes. That’s retail. Many people do not say it to avoid others finding out where they got it from, to check it out, because it is possible that some sell it for more than its retail price, others sell it at a lower price, and it’s bad news for the market. That’s how commerce works. Internationally, anywhere, everywhere...
Lets take me for example, and I have no clue about retail, seeing all these beautiful things for the first time online, on facebook, right? Never seen them before. Lets assume I want a bed for my home. Right? Then, I am looking and looking around and not finding anything I like. Then I am thinking I should get something out of the things that are out there in the market. I see now, though, that I can come to you and say, «You know, Yiannis, I’d like this design, in these dimensions, in this colour, that design, a certain kind of fabric, and to have it shipped to Thessaloniki». My question is why don’t you open your own store? As an interior designer. I imagine it’d be hugelly succesful! It’s like other retailers take advantage of you, that’s how it feels to me!
The youngest person doing something similar right now, quite known in Greece, is second, perhaps even third generation producer and/or retailer of fabrics in a family business, and...It’s just a bit difficult to enter this world and be arrogant.
You are thinking, however, of opening a store of your own?
Yes, around 2015.
It’s all set then!
Yes, of course.
Isn’t competition going to be an issue there?
No, as by then my own line will be out, and I won’t be offering that to others.There will be a branch of Archshop, on one hand, dealing with wholesale, another that will produce other artists’ design creations, and I am also producing a line by the name SOLO, which will be exclusively my thing, and its products sold only at my own outlets.
I see! What are the products Archshop is producing at the moment?
Basically, we make fabric, print it really, and we «dress» all the items: cushions, blankets, douvets, throws, curtains, panels, I make everything. Anything in fabric can be altered. Let me show you something I was showing a client just today! Aprons, large poufs, wall panels, the headboards I was telling you about, for childrens’ beds and in other dimensions too, etc. We design and make all of this, all of it!
Great! How can then someone contact you? How does a potential client know that there is a Yiannis Solomosis who makes it possible to have your own household dressed in the specifications you desire? The brand name is not widely known yet.
My product can be found in stores that sell home furnishings. If one wants something specific they can contact me directly. Indeed, the brand name is not well known yet...we are in the process of building it. I just want to be very careful in my steps! I could have done this one to two years before, to be out there in the market openly. I just wasn’t sure, I hadn’t tested all the fabrics and the specifications properly. Each product I release has its individual specification. I mean, I just didn’t issue a fabric thinking «buy it and we’ll see what happens in a year’s time». I waited, did some testing, left it exposed in sunlight...naturally, at considerable cost, right? No discussion about it. But it had to be done properly. Now, that we are sure about all these aspects, we have the momentum to go.
Don’t you need advice by a «professional» interior designer? I mean when you «dress» a house, or a hotel etc.?
Possibly, but some things come out instinctively, it comes very easy to me to combine colours in the right way! However, I do work sometimes with architects, decorators...we have worked on many projects. Right now, in Santorini, I am working with a friend who’s an architect, on two hotels that will be done thematically, and it’s the second job I am getting from that particular hotel group.
You started this when a fabric failed to be delivered. What was the first thing you dressed/created working your way?
I had sewed a laundry sack for a client who couldn’t find what they wanted. I sat down on a Sunday and did the whole thing from scratch. The next day I got the machinery I needed...I have sold the sack, regretfully.
Amazing. From a laundry bag to...
A designer laundry bag though, not just ...(laughs)
...«dressing» an entire hotel! And when you say you are «dressing» an entire hotel, you mean sofas, linen, cushions and pillow cases, headboards, shades, pictures...
Not linen, they have another provider for that. And we didn’t include pictures as the project was already heavy on design and we tried to avoid it. But we did these huge cushions for their pool space, outside, like poofs!
Great! A cient comes to you, for example, from Thessaloniki, and their house already has certain colours and pieces of furniture, and they need a painting but aren’t sure what it is exactly that they want, they are ambivalent, and need help to decide. What happens in this case? Do you talk things over, online using pictures of the space, etc.?
What do I do then...I try to understand the client’s mind, what they like, what they would like! They say what they like, in the beginning, they send a photograph of the space, and we compose the picture. It’s done 3-D, the client can see what it would look like in their own space...we set it all in 3-D and we proceed with realising the project.
It all started with a fabric you needed, and now you undertake the decoration of entire hotels. Is PR a big part of all this?
I am very bad at PR. It’s the product that’s good. Excellent. It’s its own advertisement and it works rapidly too. Instantly. I mean, by the time the products will be in Santorini, I know we will have four more commisions coming in for next season.
I repeat: from a pillow to a hotel! Did you ever imagine that the response will be this wild? Especially in the middle of a financial crisis....
Yes, it doesn’t seem strange to me. I was sure. I knew it, expected it. I mean, I know exactly how it will go down, with certainty.
The people you work with are all friends of yours, designers/decorators?
Yes, I can’t work with anyone else. I can’t work with someone I can’t talk to, I can’t go out for dinner with, I just can’t, it’s impossible. They have all sorts of professional capacities. And most of us «suffer» from attention deficit disorder (laughs). I mean, one minute we’ll be talking about one thing, and in twenty minutes we will have analysed about 15 other issues.
What are the lines that Archsop is currently working on?
It’s mainly my own line that is released as Archshop, and three more lines of other brands. In different areas: furniture, high-end tourist products, museum–shop products and clothing. From next year, I will be working with my own production company, Solo, on my very own line.
And that’s it. I can’t do it with anyone else. It must be something very special to be able to work on.
Who are the rest of the people you work with?
All the others re-sell the products we produce for clients.
Who does the cutting of fabrics, the sewing, the further detailed work on them?
It’s a family business, we have external associates who come in to do these jobs, but everything, all the fabrics that come out of production pass through me. The whole lot! I am always in production when something is being done. When there is too much to do, we hire extra people. I don’t have permanent staff, it’s just three people helping with the work on the fabrics. The whole business is set up in a way that makes it easy to prepare for anyone whatever they want, very very quickly. My brother also comes in to help with financial matters, as I rarely have time to deal with those, and my mother simply puts up with me through all this.
Do you know how to sew too?
Anything, anything. One day, the girl who was doing the sewing couldn’t come in, and I had to deliver some product, so I go on YouTube, and that’s how I learned how to sew. Properly sew! I had my laptop on my side, there was I Korean girl, I remember, the best video ever, only I wasn’t able to understand the instructions (laughs). But her video was shot quite expertly and it was fun! I do everything, I like things like that.
Where does the inspiration for the designs come from?
While eating, listening to music, sleeping...Often I wake up and say to myself «Oh, that’s crazy!», and I sit down and take notes, or else I will just forget about it, and then wake up in the morning and it’s already forgotten, so I go to my notes and read them.
You are self-taught in design as well....
Yes, like Jimi Hendrix, but not as good…(laughs). I don’t think I am that good. Though, I am very commercial…I started with Photoshop and Illustrator another day it wasn’t possible to have the graphic designer do the work for me. I had to change a logo for a club that was opening somewhere in Nea Makri, if I remember correctly, and we had to make the logo and print it out. So, I went online again, on YouTube, looked around for the software, downloaded it, set it up, and worked it out, and that’s how I started doing that on my own.
Great, up until now you have learned to sew, to design...
Everything, everything, by next summer when we will have received this machine we ordered from Sweden and England, we will start making soaps. My first soap will be black. The first black soap that cleans.
Will you be doing any designing for clothes as well?
Last winter I wanted to make a coat but didn’t have time to do it, something else came up, and so I didn’t even start the project, but next winter I’m definitely doing it. I want to release a line that’s innovative, and, naturally, something I personally like.
Do you visit commercial fairs and expos abroad often?
Yes, all the time. We usually go to England, France, Germany, Italy. Now it’s Italy as I said before. In September we are going to France, to Maison & Objet (International Trade Fair), where I’m hoping I can exhibit next year with my own brand.
The pictures you have posted on facebook, with product stands, are they from fairs in Greece?
Yes. I travel locally all the time, every week. Initially, I wanted to experiment, to take Archshop products in other stores. I did a trial in our own family store that’s now closed. That’s why I kept it open for a little longer, anyway. I wanted to test people’s responses when they actually see the products, if they like them, how they are perceived, if they look for the label to see the brand, how they would like them to be packaged, etc. I never give something to a seller and say to them: «Learn how to sell it». I give them my own opinion: «This is how it sells the best. You can take it from there and adjust it to your personal taste».
Do you think that you are about to take over the european market, which I’m assuming is the most crucial market...?
I think I am...
And in 2015 you will have your own store..
You bet! I absolutely want to have one in Athens and one in Thessaloniki. In Athens I want it where the old furniture stores used to be, I love the old centre...Psyri, Gkazi...somewhere around there. It should be big...a large industrial space.
Do you take advice?
Absolutely! I listen to people intently. In the end, though, I’ll always do what I think best, but I always listen carefully to everybody.
I imagine you have «dressed» your own home yourself.
It’s actually empty, all white, nothing in it. I can’t look again at my products! I see them all day long, I see them in my sleep, I see them when I’m driving, I don’t want to, I can’t go into the process of doing this! I don’t even have curtains at home.
What was the first big order that you felt satisfied by the most?
Hasn’t come yet. I think it will be huge (laughs)! If I say, that thing I have made is perfect, It’s like saying I’m done, that was it. I am a perfectionist, and I always like to take small steps. You know what’s the deal? Established designers have this highly egotistical way of thinking, and the younger ones who come out are very arrogant. I mean, when a new designer sees an older one going down, they speak badly of them. The estblished ones, when they see a new one rising they say «who is that?». I don’t want to be either. I respect the old ones and...
Have you ever heard negative comments about your work?
In the beggining that’s exactly what I mostly heard. From the competition...in that sense, yes. When I came out first, they said I was just a firework. A firework that exploded like a bomb in the end (laughs).
What do they say about your work now?
Now, no one is really talking. They say absolutely nothing. Or I just stopped paying attention. I’m trying to do my work as well as I can, and always be informed about new trends.
How did SOLO, the brand name of your own line, come about?
Everybody knows me as SOLO Bbc...When we were little, we had this club with my firends, called Bad Boys Club, about 12-13 year’s old mentally...and we were all so curious, and that stuck since then! We all used to wear the same Tshirt and go out. Solo is the first part of my name, Solomosis, and I kept it as SOLO, a little more representative now that I work solo.
Do you still hung out with those guys?
Yes, yes, with most of them. I mean with those we formed the core of the group, we are still friends. There was a time when the group expanded, we were about 50 people all going out together!
That’s not a group of friends!, that’s....
...a real gang!
I think we covered just about everything...I have nothing more to say. Congratulations!
Thank you, thank you. (laughs).
Archshop’s showroom is on Ectora Str. 8, Gerakas, 15344 Athens.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/archshop
Interview: Eleni Mark
Translation: Konstantinos A.