by Kristel Liakou
“A T-shirt (or t-shirt, or tee) is a style of unisex fabric shirt, named after the T shape of the body and sleeves…” documents Wikipedia defining the meaning of the classic T-shirt. Let us add that, back in 1904, Jockey International (Cooper’s Inc.) launched the “bachelors undershirt”, manufacturing T-shirts as an undergarment. In fact, the tee was something new and fresh and the ads underlined the way it was made -no safety pins, no buttons, no needle, no thread- aiming to attract non- married men, without sewing skills.
The American underwear gradually became an outerwear, and for the first time, we spot the “graphic T-shirt” in 1939, when the Wizard of Oz screened in cinemas. A few years later, we spot a LIFE magazine cover, featuring a soldier wearing a graphic tee. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, graphic T-shirts took off because of music. The Beatles and Rolling Stones’ fans were more than happy to imprint their favourite bands’ logos on their tees. We guess this is close to how band merchandise had been born.
In Greece, a century later and surely many years after that Cooper ad, and far beyond the cheezy slogan T-shirts we saw last year from New York to Paris Fashion Week, small designers make the highest- quality, smart, meaningful, artsy and comfortable graphic tees. It is true that once you track down the perfect T-shirt, you’ll probably want to live in it and perhaps that is why you might want to get to know the Greek designers we will mention below.
LabelBac offers low price but high-quality tees with provocative designs -polite sexist messages– which serve the all-day-wear purpose. Bill Bac prints his designs on the tees in Greece, using the digital printing method. “My thought at first place was to design graphic T-shirts for people who hang out in clubs and have all this certain dance culture…” says Bac and continues “…I was majorly inspired by club culture -the music and the people’s attitude”.
Seven years had gone by when LabelBac had been established in 2010 and there’s no club culture left in Greece anymore. That means no inspiration for Bill‘s graphics. In order to keep his production at the same levels, he started collaborations with UK artists, and in order to be inspired, he started travelling. While wandering, he came up with a new project so-called “Megales Aliteies”. Perhaps this is how Bill found the inspiration for the new designs of LabelBac’s badass Ts.
Klelia Andrali kicked off her womenswear and accessories brand in 2015. Born in Athens, Greece but located in Brighton, England she often visits Greece because, in order to support Greek economy, she makes part of her collections in her homeland. Her work caught our attention while searching for the perfect graphic tee at a small Greek designers shop in the centre of Athens. What makes her tees special? They are high quality, absolutely bold and iconic. You could see them perhaps as an exhibit in Roy Lichtenstein’s Foundation. The SS17 collection is inspired by the Pop Art Movement. Bold graphic lines fused with softer circular shapes and an adventurous use of colour makes for a dynamic collection. Check out all the T collection here.
Another label established in 2015 is Roll Alone. John Fotiadis, the creator of the brand, ended up with that name after a long deliberation with friends. He was frustrated so he thought it was better to “roll alone”. See what he did there? “It all began because of the love I had for old hot rod muscle cars, old custom motorcycles and music,” says John who is currently rebuilding a Chevrolet Nova (1969) and a BMW R26 (1956). His tees are bold, old-school and perhaps reminiscent of the 1960s and in the 1970s. In fact, they are rock n’ roll influenced, matching John’s lifestyle, as a guitarist for several Greek bands (Lord 13, Space Slavery and Narshish). Back to tees now, he uses the silk screen printing process because he is mindful of good quality. You can find Roll Alone tees here and if you happened to be in Athens, Greece in specific marketplaces.
At the beginning of 2015, a young couple, Christina Katopodi and Konstantinos Kouvaras, took a trip and fell in love with Nafplion, Greece, so they decided to start their graphic T-shirt brand there. It would be their way to reveal a different side of Greece, far away from the “Greece of financial crisis” identity. They named their brand Armiriki after “…a local symbol -a tree that grows by the sea. If you’ve had any experience with the Greek sun, you’ll know how blessed you feel when there’s an armiriki to hide under. We see the armiriki as a defined area; a space for life and exchange.” as Konstantinos states.
For two years now they have created limited collections of unique, ethically made tees (100% natural cotton of premium quality for the fabric, the sewing threads and the embroideries, handmade screen-printing method, ecologically water-based inks that contain no harmful heavy metals, recycled/recyclable packaging materials). Check here for all their T collection.
The Greek Imp
[Imp= a small, mischievous devil or sprite] The Greek Imp is a brand that started rolling in November 2012 by Efi Gavrilou. She was fed up with the Greek crisis by that time and she created an artistic team of graphic designers, engineers, scriptwriters, fashion designers, managers and cartoonists. All of these creative people work together to finally create a unique collection.
The Greek Imp urges us to jump into a wold full of strange creatures and face our childish fears. This year’s collection was inspired by the Greek mythological creatures -Cyclops, Amalthea, Hydra, Minotaur, Medusa. This excellent graphics, totally Greece -inspired are imprinted on the high-quality T-shirts. It doesn’t matter where you are, you can find them here.