Monday, July 22, 2024

How to Throw a Greek Summer Party

When guests arrived at the Mouki Mou store in Athens at 6 p.m. on the last weekend in May, they grabbed cool glasses of Greek rosé before retreating into the concrete-clad boutique. Its founder, Maria Lemos, who grew up in Greece, opened the shop in the city’s historic center, Plaka, in 2023, ten years after establishing Mouki Mou’s flagship on London’s Chiltern Street. In both places, she curates a roster of under-the-radar clothing and homeware brands that center craftsmanship with a tactile, wabi-sabi approach. On this particular evening, the brand in focus was Dosa, founded by the American-based Korean designer Christina Kim, 67, in 1983. The label is known for its roomy clothes in natural, hand-woven fabrics that nod to workwear such as shepherd jackets, kurtas (long, loose shirts common in Pakistan), cossack tops and dashikis (boxy tops worn in West Africa), as well as its no-waste approach to production.

In addition to showcasing Kim’s latest collection of clothes, Lemos, 59, who is also the founder of the London-based public relations agency Rainbowave, commissioned Kim to design an art installation. The work, titled “Shades of White / Whisper of Gold,” is a curtain of delicate gold leaves created in collaboration with the Oaxacan paper-making co-op El Taller Arte Papel. Each paper form was made using the impression of a bay leaf collected from a tree outside the co-op’s workshop, then embedded with wire and colored by hand with gold pencil and spray paint. “For me, white and gold mean Greece,” she says. “It’s the Greek light, and all those whitewashed villages.”

As the temperature dropped, guests wound their way up two flights of stairs to the U-shaped roof terrace which was planted with verbena, oregano, jasmine, thyme and miniature pomegranate trees. On their way, they took in the new Dosa collection, arranged on the store’s second floor and composed of gauzy kaftan dresses, delicate camisoles, loose pants and shawls, all in creamy hues with orange and golden accents. Shoes with gold leaf motifs by the Athens-based company Ancient Greek Sandals and 18-karat gold rings and pendants with roughly hewn crystals by the London-based designer Pippa Small were also on display, made especially to coincide with the collaboration. Once outside, attendees could see the acropolis on the hill above as the sound of musicians playing Athenian and Ionian kantades, or love songs, drifted across the roof garden and into the night.

The attendees: Friends and collaborators of Lemos’s came from many corners of the world: Kim, 67, flew in from Los Angeles; Jon, 65, and Tiina Rosen, 60, of Tiina the Store, the recently shuttered minimalist clothing and design boutique in Amagansett, came over from New York. Other attendees included the British actress and producer Daisy Bates, 50; the Ancient Greek Sandals founder and designer Christina Martini, 47; the Italian artist Paolo Colombo, 75; the interior designer Leda Athanasopoulou, 33, who designed both the store and Pagostas, the guest house Lemos and her husband, Gregoris Kambouroglou, 61, opened in Patmos in 2022; and Tina Daskalondonaki, 50, the curator of Athens’s Museum of Cycladic Art.

The table: Servers clad in uniforms by the Danish bedding and sleep wear brand Tekla wove between all three levels of the property, proffering large white bowls of fennel and phyllo pies and golden-crusted fried zucchini flowers stuffed with rice, but there was also a heaving table on the east side of the terrace, from which guests could help themselves to food. An oatmeal-colored linen tablecloth by the Venice-based fabric designer Chiarastella Cattana formed a backdrop for gray and white earthenware dishes by the Danish father-son designer duo K H Würtz. A hammered copper bowl filled with floating marigold heads made for a statement centerpiece.

The food: Working with the Athenian catering company Dipnosofistirion, which specializes in classic Greek fare, Lemos sought to celebrate what she calls the country’s “gilded ancient past — keeping everything simple and striving for philoxenia, a love of one’s guest.” Food and drink were served on every floor to keep everyone satiated at all times. Street vendor-style brown paper cornets were filled with shelled pistachios from Aegina “because they’re such an ancient form of food in Greece,” says Lemos; slices of olive bread came from Tromero Paidi, Lemos’s favorite bakery in Athens; miniature dolmades (vine leaves stuffed with dill, parsley, spices and rice) were made on the island of Kasos. In a break from tradition, there were bite-size madeleines studded with poppy seeds for dessert, along with bowls of cherries and apricots, as well as candied pistachios from the 96-year-old Athenian confectionary Aristokratikon.

The drinks: Guests were greeted by copper carafes of Magoutes rosé, a blend of 80 percent Xinomavro grapes and 20 percent rare black Moschomavro grapes, all grown about 2,600 feet above sea level on the rocky terrain of Siatista, Macedonia. The delicate pink wine, which has notes of red currant and strawberry, was served in classic glass taverna tumblers. Also on offer was Lemonodasos — a lemonade made with citrus from a lemon forest in Poros, a port town in the Peloponnese peninsula.

The music: At the start of the evening, the musicians Spiros Mandalas and Dimitris Christodoulopoulos, who perform as the Singers of Zante, were positioned at the shop’s front steps. They played the mandolin and the guitar and sung Ionian and Athenian kantades. Their lyrics mused on old Athens, describing the labyrinthine back streets of Mouki Mou’s neighborhood and its beautiful houses, flowers and women. Once guests filed indoors, the duo brought their music to the roof.

The conversation: Many of the guests were longtime fans of Dosa and spent the evening extolling the brand’s love for craftsmanship, tradition and upcycling. Others marveled at Athens’s new cultural landscape, discussing the opening of a new outpost of Michael Werner Gallery earlier in the month and the launch of the latest issue of Nomas, an art and travel magazine published by fellow guest and photographer Yannis Bournias, 52.

Tip: When you’re hosting, dress simply. “I’ve thought about this a lot since my husband and I opened the guest house in Patmos,” says Lemos. “Flat shoes are super important because you’re running around looking after your guests.” In this case, Lemos wore the London-based brand Le Monde Beryl’s black woven leather Mary Jane flats with a short Dosa dress in khadi cotton and giant cubic earrings in yellow gold by the New York designer Judy Geib. “You don’t want to outshine anyone, really. You’re not the center of attention. But you have to be elegant and comfortable at the same time. I want to get ready in five minutes when I host — my focus needs to be everywhere else.”

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