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Sophia Kokosalaki strikes exciting deal January 13, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Fashion & Style.
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Greek-born fashion designer joins forces with Italy’s Renzo Rosso

She burst onto the fashion scene as fresh talent and soon became the talk of the town as one of the industry’s greatest hopes. Now Sophia Kokosalaki is taking yet another great leap ahead.

Earlier this week, Staff International, the Italian manufacturing company operating under the umbrella of Only the Brave, announced the acquisition of the majority capital of Sophia Kokosalaki, the brand. The man behind both Italian companies is Renzo Rosso, owner of Diesel, the maverick fashion businessman who turned the cool jeans brand into the global leader of luxury denim.

“Renzo is a great business person, he is very easygoing and he understands. Staff International is a healthy company growing steadily and they respect their designers. What is very important to me is that they strike a balance between creativity and the commercial aspect. The deal took over a year to be finalized and I am 100 percent sure that I made the right choice,” Kokosalaki said.

Though the sale figure was not disclosed, investment in the brand will rise to dozens of million euros in the next few years. News of the fresh partnership comes at an exciting time for Kokosalaki, appointed creative director at Madeleine Vionnet last year. Her efforts to revive the legendary French fashion house, which is owned by the De Lummen family, will continue independently to the development of her own brand.

The 33-year-old Greek designer joins a select group of colleagues doing business with Staff International, given that the company collaborates in the manufacturing and distribution of brands such as Dsquared2, Vivienne Westwood and Martin Margiela, the reclusive designer’s fashion house is also controlled by Rosso. While Staff International presented a turnover of over 110 million last year, a few months ago the Diesel boss took control of Pier, yet another manufacturing unit of top brands including Chloe, Dries Van Noten, Azzedine Alaia and Dior Homme.

Unlike the industry’s leading luxury groups, namely LVMH, Moet Hennessy-Louis Vuitton is the owner of major brands such as Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Celine, Kenzo, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs and Donna Karan, and rival PPR Group, managing Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney, among others, Rosso is less corporate, driven by pure desire.

“I believe that part of my mission is the search for young promising talents outside of the ordinary. I have never made any acquisition only to increase the profit of the group, but exclusively because I am passionate about the art and sensibility of certain designers,” said Rosso in a statement. “In Sophia, I have found someone who is able to communicate emotions via her creations, and knows how to develop alternative fashion for today’s woman. I am certain that soon enough, the Sophia Kokosalaki brand will become a major player in the world of contemporary luxe.”

To achieve this, Staff International will stay away from the creative aspect, aiding the Sophia Kokosalaki brand to grow through logistics, finance, manufacturing and branding know-how. According to Kokosalaki, initial investment will focus on developing the collections and the brand’s worldwide visibility, while freestanding stores are in the cards beginning in 2008.

Not bad at all for the Athens-born-and-bred Kokosalaki, who studied at the University of Athens before graduating from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. After launching her first women’s collection in London in 1999, the designer went on to develop her signature style and is nowadays a member of the Paris fashion week calendar. The recipient of numerous awards, Kokosalaki designed the costumes for the opening ceremony of the Athens 2004 Olympics.

A debut joint venture between Kokosalaki and Staff International is scheduled to take place during the Fall/Winter 2007 shows in Paris in March.

Flowers speak in rich portraits of rare beauty January 13, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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A wilting flower suggests movement and melancholy.

The fragile beauty and rich language of flowers is one of the first impressions that the recent work of painter Natassa Poulantza will make on the viewer. In “Portraits” the title of her solo show currently on show at the new premises of Qbox gallery, a series of large-scale paintings, including watercolors, show flowers, a single flower for each painting, isolated from their natural surroundings and painted against a chromatically, velvet-like dark background.

Shown from an unusual angle and in larger-than-life proportions, Poulantza’s elegant and expressive flower portraits also resemble portraits of people, with movement, grimaces and temperament. They speak of the cycle of life and the passing of time. From the fresh, upright stems of the tulip portraits to the wilting stem of a chrysanthemum, the paintings go through youth, maturity and old age and contain joy melded with the melancholy awareness of life’s unavoidable end.

Partly inspired by Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs of flowers, Poulantza actually watched flowers as they grew day by day. She took photographs of the various stages and then used the images as the basis of her paintings.

To a certain degree, this process may explain the photo-realist aesthetic that some of the paintings have. Yet the use of photography is principally tied to the artist’s objective of testing the medium of painting and the position it holds in contemporary art. Despite painting’s comeback in recent years, this is also a medium that has been found on the margins of a contemporary art scene, where installations or concepts have, at times, been deemed more important than craftsmanship and pure painting.

In the exhibition, variations of a single portrait that bring to mind the multiple silkscreens of Andy Warhol may suggest the often thin lines that separate an original from its copy. This is one of several oppositions and ambiguities that Poulantza’s flower portraits communicate. Her paintings contain both joy and sadness. They radiate with a luminosity that brings to mind the use of light in 17th century Dutch paintings but are also covered in rich, dark hues that suggest an overwhelming, abyss-like space.

Filled with layers of meaning and painted with skilled craftsmanship, these images of flowers show the beauty of both art and life, the loveliness of flowers and the inexhaustible potential of painting.

Natassa Poulantza’s “Portraits,” at Qbox Gallery, 10 Armodiou Street, Athens, tel 211 1199991, to January 20.

Biomass fuel already popular January 13, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Energy.
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Provincial homes, greenhouses and industries keep warm with byproduct of olive pressing > Through photosynthesis, trees absorb carbon dioxide produced in the combustion of exhausted olive cake.

A renewable energy source that has been used to heat homes for years throughout Greece’s olive-growing regions comes from the trees themselves.

Crude olive cake, the residue left after the olives have been pressed for oil in local mills, is sent to processing plants where it is turned into refined oil and a fibrous residue, known as “exhausted olive cake”, a kilo of which provides 4,000 kilocals of heat, according to Panayiotis Hatzelis, who has a crude olive cake processing plant in Sparta.

The same mount of mineral heating fuel will provide 11,000 kilocals, nearly three times as much, he added, but is around five times more expensive. “It is a very economic fuel,” Hatzelis said. “The starting retail price for a ton of the fuel is 35 euros. A ton of mineral heating fuel can cost up to 600 euros.” Hatzelis said the above retail price applies to those who come to collect the fuel themselves.

Packaged quantities of 35-40 kilos per bag are sold for about 10 euros each, less if people bring their own bags to be filled using the plant’s own equipment. Prices vary from region to region, the delivery distance and method, and according to the crop yield for the year.

Paraskevas Sotiralis and his wife use the fuel to heat their 140-square-meter home in a Laconia village about two hours from Sparta and are happy with the results.

“It is much cheaper than mineral fuel and more environmentally friendly. It costs us about 350-400 euros for the approximately 4 tons we need to heat our home every winter, and we don’t really economize on heating as it gets very cold here,” they said, adding that the only difference in maintaining the furnaces is that the ashes must be removed every day and the vents cleaned every so often.

For the past 15 years, the Monastery of the 400 Martyrs, set in the mountains near Sparta, has been using exhausted olive cake to heat the entire monastery as well as to provide hot water. The furnace can be combined with a hot water boiler just like conventional furnaces. “We have it on nearly all the time in the colder weather,” said Father Ephraim.

According to Myrsini Christou of the Center for Renewable Energy Sources (CRES), all the country’s production of exhausted olive cake is sold, none is wasted.

“It is an environmentally friendly, non-toxic fuel, as the carbon dioxide emitted during combustion is the same amount required by the olive trees for photosynthesis. Nitrogen oxide emissions from all biomass fuels are about the same as for conventional fuels, but the particle emissions are very low,” Christou said. “It burns easily and has all the advantages of a biomass fuel.”

Christos Zafiris, who is responsible for CRES’s Biogas Thermatic Unit explained that for every 100 kilos of olive crop, the mills produce 20 liters of olive oil, 40 kilos of crude olive cake, 38 liters of olive mill wastewater and 2 kilos of leaves. The processing plants then take the crude olive cake to be processed into refined oils, which account for just 2 kilos of every 40 kilos of crude olive cake. From the same amount, they manufacture 18 kilos of exhausted olive cake, which they sell as heating fuel to homes and local industries and farms, or keep for their own furnaces. Another less useful byproduct of the processing plants is the water vapor they emit, about 20 liters in the above-mentioned process.

While the fuel itself is far cheaper, the furnaces are more than double the size and price of those for burning mineral fuels. Panayiotis Michalopoulos of Kalamata, who manufactures furnaces for both mineral fuels and biomass, said that the starting price for a complete biomass system with a capacity of 35,000 kilocals was around 1,500 euros, compared to 650 euros for a furnace with the corresponding capacity for mineral fuels. Michalopoulos said the comparatively large amount of storage space taken up by exhausted olive cake makes it impractical for apartment buildings, but ideal for homes in the countryside where storing the fuel is less difficult.

It seems that the use of this fuel is only limited to the size of the olive crop itself, and any advertisements would only be preaching to the converted. But it is not only farmers, villagers or small provincial industries who benefit.

A Spanish electricity conglomerate, Endesa, which supplies 43 percent of the country’s total, is reportedly planning to build two olive-waste-fired power stations to produce 32 megawatts, or enough to supply 100,000 people.

For additional information visit > www.cres.gr

Not all waste produced by the olive oil industry is beneficial, unfortunately. According to the TDC-Olive project, an initiative in the European Union’s Sixth Community Support Framework program, for every 1,000 kilograms of olives pressed for their oil, about 350 kg of solid waste and 450 liters of wastewater are generated by the traditional process in local mills. The corresponding figures for the three-phase process used in areas of intensive production are far higher, 500 kg of solids and 1,200 liters of wastewater.

Disposing of the olive mills’ wastewater, a toxic effluent, is a problem, however. In Greece the total annual production of this water from the some 3,500 mills is about 1.5 million tons every year. According to CRES’s Myrsini Christou, new technologies are currently being developed to confront this problem.

Since 1980, the area on which olives are grown has more than doubled, providing jobs for 800,000 people in Europe either directly or indirectly. With more than 4 million hectares under cultivation, it is the second-most important agro-food sector in Europe.

A journalist’s artistic side January 13, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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Tapestries displayed.

Active as a journalist and translator over the past 33 years, Lida Moschona has just unveiled another dimension with the launch of her first exhibition of tapestry works at the Athens Municipality’s Cultural Center in the city center.

The show, featuring approximately 40 works, is titled “Language of Threads.” Moschona was drawn to the field of tapestry in more recent years and has since explored a world that was previously unknown to her. Her creations indicate that the journalist-translator has made significant inroads into her more recently discovered discipline, an art form that dates back to antiquity.

“The weaver’s hands caress the highly strung threads… Thought is emancipated to create colorful images of natural and mythical sites. At times, the fingers exceed the linen’s cleaner purpose. They exceed the order of upright and horizontal intercrossing to leave behind something different, another type of order that lies beyond intention,” notes the artist’s instructor Sophia Tsourinaki, in the exhibition’s accompanying publication. “The thread of truth is manifested like activity from within. Forms express infinity.”

Athens Municipality’s Cultural Center, 50 Academias Street. To January 20.