Prerecorded and posted: November 11th, 2021
Rachel Elspeth Gross
Rachel Elspeth Gross 00:00
Hi, everyone, we're here with another episode of I can do that. And today we have with us George Stavropoulos. Thank you so much, George, for making some time to be with us this afternoon. We're really excited to hear about your, I guess, your grandfather's brand, your family's brand and the whole journey that you are all sort of embarking on right now. Yeah, it's, it's really it's really needing to experience I'm excited to talk about. Yeah, so would you start off kind of talking about maybe your grandfather and how what happened with his, you know, world famous.
George Stavropoulos 00:39
So my grandfather was a decently famous designer from the 60s 70s and 80s, unfortunately, passed in the late 90s, if I'm not mistaken, and grew up hearing about amazing stories about this man, he, unfortunately, him and his family, he was seven to 10 children, and he lost everything back after the after the Great Depression, and especially after World War Two, Greece, after World War Two was going through a tough civil war. There are massive food shortages, like most of Europe, but the fact that matter was that there's also competing geopolitical influences. So you had the Russians, and then you have the Americans, which was pumping a lot of money in foreign capital into Greece. My grandfather after World War Two, decide when to move to Athens, and he really need to put food on the table for the simple. My great grandfather have had a general store, which, at the time in an unindustrialized country would be like the best thing possible. And especially at a time where cigarettes ruled the world, selling cigarettes there was really great. They only had enough savings at the time to put three kids through a community college. And actually, my grandfather never finished high school. He was a high school dropout, and something I didn't expect. I don't recommend anyone to do today. He decided to work in a tailor shop in Athens. And one day he was sweeping the floor. And he looked up an address and said, Well, I can do this. So we saved up his money and brought when he was a kid, he would make clothes for his other siblings for all the girls in the family. And kind of combining all that experience hired one of the best seamstress in seamstresses in Greece, to teach you how to drape teach you how to properly so and teach him the really the craft right there. He was a guy who was a very neat guy, very witty, interesting sense of humor, thick Greek accent. He became famous when he he was always famous in Europe, he was supposed to take over YSL in Greece in I'm sorry, in Paris, B instead of YSL under the Dior fashion house. But my he met my grandmother who was a CIA agent, and they flew to Americans, my grandmother was like, I don't want to be in France, I want to stay in Greece, I won't stay in the US because she was first generation American, and a very pro us time. And so my grandfather said, of course, tear and move straight on over. He I think they got married in their in their late 30s, early 40s. So a really unique experience there. And then basically, his designs really embody the Greek Goddess and the Greek Muse and the Greek statue. So anything you see at The Met , for instance, on just that typical draping that very Greek style of the column design was really my grandfather's work. And that's what he really pioneered in the US. And it's, there's a, there's a great quote that one of my grandfather's former clients, another model actually told me so they both said, when we wore Stavropoulos gowns, we didn't feel like we were walking in a crowd, we actually felt that we were floating. And that really summed up in my mind and personally was the fashion in the era in the 1960s, where people were so elegant, always dressed to the nines. I still see that with my grandmother on my mom's side today, where she doesn't leave the house or doesn't even go to the airport to pick up someone without getting fully dressed up. But needless to say the brand kept growing and growing, growing until Unfortunately, he passed and back in 2003. We met Harold CODA and for those of you who don't know, doesn't know don't know Harold coda. He was the the former curator of the Met Costume Institute. And we were put into the Met Gala for the goddess exhibit back in oh three. And he, a lot of designers were cut and my mom basically one day, read about this happening and walked down to The Met and said I would like to speak to Harold with 10 dresses and said we'd like to also go from the archives and pick out a few dresses that we would like you guys to use. And talk about ambition is just keep on going keep on pressing and we managed and Harold managed to choose the dresses to be in the show. And then when I was born we had the first ever I think the first ever couture baptismal gown, which I was not allowed to use if I was a girl, because you made that for is god daughter. Sorry if I'm rambling.
Jonathan Joseph 05:09
No, my favorite. Wonderful.
George Stavropoulos 05:13
It was my favorite story. It's it was I was born and actually bred before I was born. My parents didn't know if I was a boy or girl. And so in the Greek tradition, you dunk a baby in water and oil. And well first off you love the baby up unwilling dunk him, dunk him or her. And in front of all of your parents, family and friends, it's really a very private intimate moment which is like everything grease, if you can't on being very sarcastic. And, and my parents call it the men who love to borrow it. It was made for my, my, my father, my mom said my father in law's my father in law's God daughter can we please, borrow it. They asked us, sorry, what was the process entail? And my dad immediately cuts in so well. They lather the baby oil at that point, they cut him off, right there and they said, Nope, you can't have it. So it was something else we have that is very unique. But that's a bit about the brand.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 06:19
Yeah, so you guys are working on a few projects now. Right? You're working on the archiving the preservation? And then also what's kind of do next right into the future?
George Stavropoulos 06:32
Yeah, yeah. So right now we're working on building an Instagram presence, we realize that, especially during the pandemic, and this has always been a dream of mine to restart it, I think, me, especially coming into the pandemic at 20 years old. And seeing this and growing up in this industry, I was like, We really need mmm, and I especially my dad was a big, very big proponent of this from young age, from from when I was young age is always keeping the archives alive. So we decided with the Hellenic Institute in New York, doing a show when I was about 14 years old. And I was seven years old, I went to Kent State to, to show some of the dresses down there, because we have a we have a scholarship and a fashion chair down at Kent State. And so right now we're actually we have a we had a really great advisor, and we still do have this great advisor who advised me to first thing I should do is create an Instagram account and grow Instagram presence. And whether that be through strategic collaboration, that we're just getting the story out there, and allowing people to read about these one, one lifetime moments of the 1960s 70s and 80s. Where, you know, the US was very hip and cool. And it still is my baby. But it's and that's what we're really doing is trying to get everything through my parents eyes, my dad's eyes and, and the stories that I heard growing up, and really document that. And that will be a plot from from when we relaunched the brand later on. And that's kind of something we're looking at with our with our team of advisors as well.
Jonathan Joseph 08:05
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think your story and your family story is really important to hear, for many reasons outside of just the creative output, and these beautiful garments and the beautiful history, both of your family and of just the timing of it all. I think for anyone who's watching who has kids that may be you know, intrepid future entrepreneurs, or potential future designers. The idea of having a brand with a history having to re reimagine that history for a new audience. After a period of time, the idea of an archive, all of this is so inspirational, because there's not many people that have this rich family legacy that they then get the opportunity to reshare with the world a second time, and in many ways, just in a completely new format, in a completely new Zeitgeist. And I think that's at the core of what I find really interesting about this particular interview. And I'm just wondering if you had any advice for, you know, a Brand Builder that's young that's trying to build a brand that doesn't have necessarily backstory? And how do you what have you learned about the idea of brand mythology through this process?
George Stavropoulos 09:12
First thing, first off, anyone who wants to be first off an entrepreneur. And that's something when I was growing up, Steve Jobs was the epitome of the entrepreneur is always develop a story, always have a great story about how you got to where you are, and why you want to do it, and make sure your heart's in it. And maybe your heart's not in it. And that's fine. It's time and you're young to explore what you want to do and why you want to do it. But I think the best piece of advice that I got personally, when I was going down this whole route, and something my brand something I never talked about my family's brands like I never really talked about as a kid, because it was never my story to tell. And now that I can be part of this legacy, it's now my story it is that symbol meant your artistic creativity, your artistic capabilities and your creativeness with concrete ways to build your business. So, I am in college right now. And I study financial economics. And that's because it will give me a really strong foundation. on growing the brand. There are two sides of fashion, there's two sides of every business is the creative. And then there's also the business side. And my advisor when he told me to really grow our Instagram presence said, Well, he's an architect. And he said, something very interesting to me was that, when I wanted to become an architect, a young age, my aunt said to me, you should go and study philosophy. Take a class, don't have to don't have to study it. Take a class and economics, class management, take a class expose yourself philosophy, especially because it teaches you a way to think. And that's something I did immediately when I got to college, is that I took a class in philosophy, I took a class of a lot of reading a lot of creative writing classes in high school. And just keep on immersing myself in creativity, but also a way to think and with the brand mythology is just that will help you develop your story. And really express what you want to say with your work, not just put your work out.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 11:19
That makes a lot of sense. To me. I think like I look at those gorgeous chiffon gowns. But first of all, chiffon is like one of the worst, most terrible fabrics to sew it is so hard, so seriously impressed. But, you know, we said at the beginning about it really evoking, you know, traditional feelings with the statues about the goddess about the, you know, where he came from his home, I think, when we make work that's really important to us, maybe becomes easier to understand rather than more difficult, because if it's personal, if it's true, if it's real, if you feel it, then people understand that feeling that makes, you know, a lot of sense if you were to have the desire and the drive to do the work, and you back it up with the hard work part with the business training with the applicable skills that maybe aren't so fun, and then you do something that means something. Sounds great.
George Stavropoulos 12:12
Thank you. There was an interesting book that I read, which I think everyone should read, especially young age, especially in high school and something that was recommended to me and I get to read it until after I finished high school, which was principles by Ray Dalio. For those of you don't know Ray Dalio is a big hedge fund manager. And yes, it does not pertain to to fashion. It's something that he says it's the way in which you fail. And it's the way in which you succeed. And that book does not teach us anything about fashion. But that's teach us one thing is that you can have the best advisors in the world. But when it comes down to it, you're the one making decisions. And when we make those decisions, how can you have a core list of principles, as he says, that you can reference when you make those decisions so that you're true to yourself to the brand's identity, and true, what you're trying to accomplish, but also about how you fail? So kind of like there's a there's a wheel, if you look at if it's an upward trend, sorry, I'm I'm in test mode right now, if there's an upward trend, point here, and there's a little circle, and that circle says, okay, evaluate what you did wrong. So assess, okay, I might have screwed up on part of execution, develop a new strategy, a new way to attack it, and then implement that, and something else might fail. But that's what makes it so fun when you succeed. It's not fun to succeed without any hard work. It's amazing to succeed when you spend X amount of hours and save, like 25 hours on one little project, and then it works out in your favor. It's so crucial, and I think it teaches you a lot.
Jonathan Joseph 13:57
I mean, I for one love that you brought up the principles by Ray Dalio because Ryan and I our co founder here to talk about them a lot. And why I think it's important, especially for young people to read is in addition to teaching it a fail teaches you how to assess and this process of creating feedback loops and this idea of primary, secondary and tertiary consequences. It really builds in so many important modalities for just deconstructing and reconstructing reality that I think any kid whenever they want to do can stand to benefit from millionfold so if you just like made my short somewhere on the other side of his phone watching this Ryan is also thrilled.
George Stavropoulos 14:36
Sorry I did catch that.
Jonathan Joseph 14:37
oh, my co founder Ryan for Little Red Fashion he and I were consultants prior to this and so we would always recommend the clients like you better read this before we even start this process as we operate on Ray Dalio principles very heavily. So that was a great full circle moment.
George Stavropoulos 14:58
Yeah, it's a it's an amazing book, in my opinion. And I think, again, everyone should read it. And I, I was very fortunate enough for someone I was on someone's coffee table and I was like, What's this? You read that book? He take it and read it right now?
Jonathan Joseph 15:12
Oh, yeah. I mean, I remember we used to, I used to have a printed out copy of it when it was just the PDF that Ray made available before it was bound to book than it is now. So I used to keep the OG printed out copy, like hanging out in the office. And then if I had clients that would, you know, have a situation where it was applicable, I would just open it to the page and be like, Here, take a look at this page.
George Stavropoulos 15:33
Yeah. Yep. 100%.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 15:38
So I'm sure growing up in a family that was fashion oriented, you probably have a ton of memories. But is there something in particular that you remember early on, that like resonated with you or that maybe you think inspired you to continue this kind of work?
George Stavropoulos 15:58
Um, I mean, I have my own personal journey, about why I want to do this. And it's a very, very personal reason. And I think everyone has to love what they're doing. But I might, one of my closest family friends growing up was this woman named, named Yvette and the Veta love she divorced and remarried. And she was one of my grandfather's models, but one of her best friend one of his best friends. She was the mother tech offer actually, as well. She translated love the Czech operas into English and coached Renee Fleming. And so when I was growing up, especially when I was young, we used to go my aunt Diana, uncle, Mark family, friends, but, and have guided me throughout my life and really supported me through anything I wanted to do. My parents, Yvette, her late husband, as well, Malcolm. And I used to all, we all asked to meet up downtown when one downtown New York was just starting to get better. And we would all go to this one restaurant every Sunday. And then my parents would, and everyone believed that I should be exposed to everything because I was I'm an only child. So it's, it's easier for me to come along with their mind portable, I still am portable. But growing up, I would sit there and she used to wear some of my grandfather's dresses used to talk about the stories. And then when I got to brown, which was my elementary middle school in high school, K through 12, small boys school, they there was a woman who actually knew my grandfather's brand. And said to me at a young age was my one of my best friends, Andrew's grandmother's, and she's like, your grandfather, you have no idea who he is yet. But study art study fashion. And it kind of those experiences really cause a spark in my mind. And when I was in high school as well, I went to a I went to a conference and there was a security guy who was reading my ID card assign me and then he was still propolis Why have I heard that name and he was very into fashion. And I think that showed me this young age and I use fashion to express myself as well was that fashion is a way to it's so it's so hard to interpret for anyone to enter anyone else fashion but it's a way of expressing yourself on a day to day basis how you're feeling at that moment and the way you dress also indicates your confidence. And for me I could foresee as young and I used fashion as a way to like okay, this helped my self esteem this we had a uniform right we had a blazer and tie that much you can deal with it. But just wearing a certain like our skinny tie differentiate myself and make sure that I feel confident when I'm wearing every single day and that translates to college
Jonathan Joseph 19:10
fantastic. Yeah, we talk a lot about you know, the use of fashion as either armor or vehicle for self expression and actualization. You know, part of the origin of Little Red Fashion for me but we always talk about these early fashion memories because I just will never forget being a child with AFO braces for my cerebral palsy and my mom like going with me in the go through the garment district to find socks that were like all the colors that would match outfits but like long enough to put over the braces to like downplay them and I thought they were this like great vehicle for like owning my disability and being like these are awesome. I don't know was talking about it was great. Have a nice day. And those were, you know, important truths. And that's why fashion is such an important lens for so many people to find that voice and see the world in a way that resonates with their best selves. So I love that sir. I think that's great.
George Stavropoulos 20:01
Rachel Elspeth Gross 20:02
I mean, there's so many ways. No, please. It is and it's fun.
George Stavropoulos 20:06
No, continue. Sorry.
Rachel Elspeth Gross 20:09
No, no, just the fun part. I think matters a lot like work doesn't have to be horrible and painful and scary and depressing. Like you can really love what you do. And it sounds like you're well on your way to that I know, to Jonathan and I, that means so much for us to have things that we believe in, we want to fight for that we know is gonna make the world better. So yeah, I think I say this on the show all the time. But I believe that people are better humans, when they're doing work that they love. That means something. So let's get as many kids as possible to find work that they love.
Jonathan Joseph 20:45
George Stavropoulos 20:46
it takes a while. Yeah, I had to start working at 15, I was a teacher, I worked in a textile recycling facility. For the fashion industry lab scrap, really interesting, I didn't want to get any garments. They, yep. I worked there between my sophomore freshman and sophomore years of college. And it was a it was an amazing race, I learned a lot about data analytics, I also learned a lot about the industry, and how wasteful it is. And, unfortunately, how wasteful it is and how acrylic fabric acrylic based fabrics were just there. First off, not gratefully, they were horrible for garment. And also they just don't feel the same. And so that's something that always was true to me and growing up as well. And seeing it firsthand.
Jonathan Joseph 21:40
Yeah, for sure. You know, the sustainability question is one we definitely are bringing into our educational materials, we have an entire book that's coming up, it's gonna be all about, you know, a t shirt that goes on its recycling journey and meets other things that were not favorably like it was and all these different things, because these conversations are just so important. And I think giving kids as many tools as possible to figure out what part of the rabbit hole they're most at home in is really the mission at the end of the day. And I think interviews like this are important because they just allow kids and families to see there's so many different ways to find your way within the fashion industry that often don't get talked about and are untold stories and untold histories. Like the ones you are rebuilding for your family and your legacy, which I think is so amazing.
George Stavropoulos 22:28
Thank you. I think with that point that you made about other alternative routes in the fashion industry. If you're going into high school or if you're in middle school, anyone learn more cold call people email them, no one's gonna say no to someone saying, Hey, I mean, that's how I met Rachel. Yeah, I phone call. No one's gonna say no. It's like, Hey, can I hear about your story? Can I hear about how you got to where you are. And there are also so many opportunities in fashion my friend actually, when I was working at fab scrap worked on LVMH Louie Vuitton really healthy is such a massive company. And there's so many inroads where you can go and you can you can find your own career path. That's not related to fashion he worked in, in the business side at Hennessy. But still he interacts with the Louis baton side, he got to go and make special help make special collaborations with Hennessy and, and Louie Vuitton and working on that. And you don't have to work as a creative and fashion. There's so many other business, business paths and career paths that you can go down, that are so so unique to the business, growing a business acquisitions. If you're more on the finance side, if you're more on the law side, the legal side, you can do that one stainability side I was looking at, for instance, Montclair. And we have St. Andrews is known for one thing, and that's their student fashion shows, alongside Kate Middleton, and we'll come in here and Alexander McQueen
Rachel Elspeth Gross 24:07
and Alexander McQueen. I mean, I'm just joking. But you're not wrong. True, true.
George Stavropoulos 24:18
Our designers are not that big. But we always look for the next big designer and small designers here and I'm not a member of that community. But all my friends are members of fashion shows. And they each do something every each do something unique. One person's on on logistics the other person is doing. He's head of corporate sponsorship, so figuring out a way for this charity fashion show to make the biggest contribution that they can. And they make I think like 1000s and 1000s of pounds from a student run perspective and a massive production scale. It's very impressive what they can do. So needless to say, there's so much you can do in fashion. And if you want to really work in fashion, email, someone even asked to shadow them for a week. Just follow around what they do on a day to day basis, or just get them get coffee.
Jonathan Joseph 25:16
It really, it really can be that simple. And you know, I think sometimes it's easy for people to forget how easy that can because sometimes, as an industry fashion comes off as very inaccessible. And there are definitely barriers to entry for certain historically marginalized groups. And that's something we're directly addressing with we're doing. But encouraging people to be more adventurous and more risk taking in that sense, where like, sometimes it's just getting over that hump of confidence of being able to have the hutzpah to say, Hey, can you help me? I'm really interested in this and I love this. And anything that can empower kids to reach that point is an A in my book.
George Stavropoulos 25:55
Yeah, there was a interesting Vice video on on George Lois. I don't know if you know George Lewis, he was who madman who Don Draper was based off of, he was also a good friend. My grandfather's because the Greek community in New York was very small. Someone who advise my dad on one one, we should restart the brand. And he was very interesting, because he said, You can't be a cautious creative. That's stuck with me, for me only I think I watched that video. You can't be a cautious creative, anything you do. too, to you have to be there are people who are going to hate what you do. The people who love what you do. Someone said might one of my best friend's dad said to me, if you're taking everyone off, you're not doing it. Right. If you're friends with everyone, you're not doing it right. But if you're taking some people off, you're doing well. You can't make everyone happy.
Jonathan Joseph 26:54
Rachel Elspeth Gross 26:56
That's awesome. No, it's yeah, it's everything is a fine line, right? Between any kind of an extreme and...
Jonathan Joseph 27:02
Rachel Elspeth Gross 27:03
Always a dance always a dance. Um, so one last question. I know you already mentioned I guess a books we usually ask, you know, book for our last question, but obviously you and John, I'm gonna have to read it now. Since you both swear by it. Um, there was one thing that you could tell if there was like, 12 year old you knew standing in front of what would you what would you say? Make this little easier for you? This whole journey
George Stavropoulos 27:28
is 12 year old me was a weird kid. It was a very weird. I was.
Jonathan Joseph 27:35
You're in good company.
George Stavropoulos 27:38
I don't think anyone is normal at 12 years old. Frankly. I think everyone is just doing their own thing. And then you look back on and you're like, wow, okay. Don't be so. so self conscious everything first off, works itself out. And never lose, never change who you are to appease someone. That is, I people will say 100,000 times, but never lose who you are, the more true to yourself you are, the more successful you'll be personally and fulfillment wise, but also career wise.
Jonathan Joseph 28:23
Absolutely, I cannot agree more. Yeah, no, I mean, we, I like to say we are our best selves, the closer we vibrate to that authenticity, like as long as you can live in your authentic self, where it's close, you know, are constantly working towards getting to that perfect iteration of what that is for you on your own terms, then you everything else will just come to you in its own due course.
George Stavropoulos 28:44
Rachel Elspeth Gross 28:48
All right. So we're right about a half an hour, which is about where we try to keep these it's so easy to just like talk for hours about fashion. But we can hang out for a second after Jonathan logs us off.
Jonathan Joseph 29:00
Yes. So with that said, thank you so much, George, for joining us today on this episode of #ICanDoThat part of our Little Red Village. And as soon as you are our newest Little Red Villager here as it were, and I want to make sure anyone who's watching who hasn't yet, check out our website, sign up for our mailing list and make sure that you preorder your copy of the little red dress our first of over a dozen kids books about fashion that is coming from us here at @LittleRedFashionco and you can check out our next episode of I can do that next Thursday, same time as always hear on Instagram at Little Red Fashion co Thanks. Bye everyone.
George Stavropoulos 29:34