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A shop window with a view May 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Islands, Shopping.
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Situated on the isle of Hydra, Speak Out offers summer visitors a frivolous and feminine assortment of easy beach-dresses, funky one-off grocery bags and eye catching jewels

Island boutique-hopping is a popular summer pastime. Visitors are feeling relaxed and attractive, they’re not having to worry about paying the rent or mortgage back home and the last horrific credit card bill is but a barely-remembered nightmare. Anyway, how else would they fill in the time between leaving the beach, or rising from a long, lazy lunch, and heading for sunset cocktails or a romantic dinner?

Speak Out in Hydra is one of a growing number of eclectic boutiques springing up on the islands to appeal to shoppers in this tranquil, prodigal holiday mood. Situated amid the tavernas and souvenir shops on Hydra’s gleaming cobbled sea front, the store offers a varied but complementary assortment of clothing, accessories and jewellery assembled by magpie-eyed shop-owner Christina Stamatakou.

The look > Freshly whitewashed with a dove-grey tiled floor and plenty of natural light, the decor acts as a blank canvas for the rail of bright prints, the wall-hung bags and the glass cases of glittering jewellery. “I wanted it to be pale,” says Christina, “in keeping with the soft colours and simplicity of the island, but also so as not to distract attention from the clothes.” But there is one distraction she cannot avoid: the view out through the vitrine, past the spring display of amulet-rich bracelets and ladybird candles, onto the harbour ringed with majestic stone mansions. Looking in the white-framed mirror behind which the corner changing room is concealed, the customer’s gaze is caught less by her new ensemble as by the rippling sea and high-masted white fishing boats reflected beyond.

The goods > The first items that Christina brought into the shop were a series of papier mache sculptures of Botero-esque voluptuous reclining women made by Artemis Makridou. From those initial objets d’art, the collection has grown to include a veritable cornucopia of summer essentials: soft pleated silk-jersey gowns from Slovenian label Oktober; smock-fronted silk Liberty-type print sundresses by Greek duo Aesthetic Theory; tailored turn-up shorts from Fornarina; cheery striped marin tops in sorbet pastels from London label Traffic People; bubblegum-hued plastic beach slip-ons by Brazil’s Melissa; individually-designed Tyvex, a waterproof, machine-washable, recyclable synthetic paper/fabric, grocery bags from Portuguese label KrvKurva; intricate silver pendants and hooped earrings by Vally Kontidis; sensual scented candles by Fragrance Conspiracy, and spectacular multi-strand beaded necklaces from Katerina Psoma. The only thing missing is an array of bikinis, but Christina isn’t keen on mixing swimwear with jewellery and other apparel. “I just don’t think it matches, I wouldn’t put underwear in the shop either,” she explains.

Best buys > Speak Out’s own line of leather sandals, manufactured in Athens to Christina’s designs, are just the thing for strolling around Hydra’s picturesque passageways, especially as they are sensibly finished with a non-slip sole. Available in trendy metallics or funky summer hues like lemon-yellow and sky-blue, and in a range of models that includes simple ‘Capri’ and flip-flop styles as well as the traditional Greek ankle-laced ‘Sparta’ shoe, these work day-to-night, from beach to bar. The old-fashioned, wide-brimmed sunhats handmade in straw or canvas by Maria were last summer’s top sellers, and Christina expects them to be equally popular this year. “They are very beautiful and people need them,” she says simply.

The clientele > Visitors to the island. Christina started out stocking purely Greek designers, because the foreign tourists desired local pieces, but then branched out as she realised that Greek designers just didn’t cover the full spectrum of the market. As she found gaps, she filled them with interesting labels from abroad.

Background > Christina was born and brought up on Hydra and, after a spell in Athens, moved back there five years ago to open Speak Out. “I didn’t have anything to do with fashion, but I suppose I just had the instinct,” she says. The boutique was originally intended to be open all year round, but there just wasn’t enough customers to make it worthwhile. Now she teaches English over the winter months and opens Speak Out every March to October. Christina moved the shop from a backstreet of Hydra into the prominent position on the harbour front last April.

Price-wise > Bags and sandals start from 35 euros; tops from around 70 euros and dresses over 100 euros. Hats are priced at 40-50 euros. Jewellery prices start from 30 euros for silver fish pendants and rise to 680 euros for a gold 18-carat ring set with diamonds.

Location > Speak Out is in the port of Hydra, tel 22980 52099; for more info email > speakout@otenet.gr

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