In the labyrinth of alleyways that is Chora, one can at times be taken aback by the weighty names of international fashion houses interspersed with sudden fuchsia splashes of bougainvillea. Is this a charming combination, or an odd mismatch? It probably matters little. Whether you like it or not, as you walk along Matogiannia, Mykonos’ most glamorous street, your gaze will be drawn to a dress with vibrant prints, to an accessory that you’ve only seen in French Vogue, to those sandals that you would happily forgo eating in order to buy.
First stop is Parthenis. Located since 1979 between the windmills and Little Venice, this shop has become a landmark in its own right. In the freewheeling ’80s, designer Dimitris Parthenis would sit barefoot and dressed in a robe on the steps outside, waiting to welcome his customers. And when a particularly “good” client entered, he would lock the door and tend to them in private.
They would put on some music, pour a few drinks and try on clothes. Today his daughter, Orsalia Parthenis, carries on the tradition of cotton, monochromatic clothes with an almost monastic style bearing the famed “Parthenis Athens-Mykonos” label.
“Parthenis clothes have become so connected to this island because they are unisex, they have no gender. Mykonos is a place where sexuality is not fixed and genders are blurred,” she tells us.
On the other hand, Al Giga, the renowned stylist who in previous decades single-handedly dressed the Athens chic crowd, is a more recent arrival on the island – at least as a shop owner. It was only last year that he opened Showroom by Al Giga, featuring collections created exclusively by Greek designers – many of them his friends.
His initial goal was to promote their work and to create a fashion hotspot. Indeed, on the stone benches outside the boutique you are sure to see models, well-known photographers or the designers themselves, on their annual visits to the island. Giga plays the role of host, offering drinks, presenting clothes, chatting and laughing loudly and generally putting out good vibes.
If you ask him why he opened his shop here and not in Athens, he will say that there is a segment of people who come to Mykonos specifically to keep up with fashion trends, to see what people are wearing and what the shops have on display.
“Here one moment you might see Gisele walk by, then Charlize Theron, and immediately afterwards the Prince of Morocco will come in to do some shopping. This is not Greece, this is Mykonos,” he says.
If you’re looking for avant-garde creations by international designers, head to Free Shop. Since the mid ‘80s it has been introducing Greeks to new creators who would later go on to become household names. In the last few years, the owner of the boutique, Melissa Metaxa, has also been designing the Wildwood collection offered here. Vibrant prints, lively colors, loose lines and more accessible prices make the collection the most sought-after in the shop.
Right next door, Soho-Soho is for browsing big-name brands. Marni, Givenchy, Pucci, Oscar de la Renta and others all rub shoulders. The shop’s collection of swimsuits is always stunning.
You’ll find a similar atmosphere at Enny Monaco, the highly regarded Athens boutique that, of course, became much-loved on Mykonos, too. It is the only place on the island where one can find Christian Louboutin heels. And yes, on Mykonos you just might need them. Balmain, Alaia, Gucci, Giambattista Valli can all be found in this wonderful shop with its archways and paved courtyard. A personal shopping service is also available.
But this year the best news is something else: Enny Monaco is turning the listed neoclassical Venieri Mansion in Chora into a pop-up store. On display will be numbered, collectible Mexicaba bags by Louboutin, which will no doubt provide lovers of the fashion house with an additional reason to visit Mykonos this summer.
The small, brightly-lit store that is home to Balenciaga is tucked away down a small side-street. It is perhaps in keeping with the slightly aloof style of the Italian brand that one needs to seek it out. The punk shoes that are a favorite of many a blogger, the neon pop accessories and the fashion house’s androgynous jeans are all here. This year, you’ll also find on display “that” oversized blue bag that bears a striking resemblance to Ikea’s iconic carry-all.
Speaking of haute shopping, the time will come when one will look for the trademark white camellias of Coco Chanel. The French house is of course represented on the island, specifically in the stunning boutique Linea Piu, with the much-Instagrammed olive tree at its entrance. Set into cutouts in the interior stone wall are the house’s 2.55 bags in various colors and prints, in a display that resembles an art installation. And lest you forget that you’re on an island, here you’ll find a large collection of Chanel hats, beach towels and swimsuits.
The Louis Vuitton store, located right next to the bar Astra, speaks for itself. You cross the flagstone-paved courtyard, climb the steps and enter an L.V. shrine. Wallets, keychains, tote bags, shopping bags, briefcases and, of course, beach bags (all featuring the famous logo), are on display in this truly beautiful boutique with a Cycladic flair.
Keeping it traditional
Amid the temples dedicated to grand fashion houses and famous designers, you will also find several shops featuring little-known labels. What these lack in name recognition, they make up for in exclusivity (being found only on the island) and in their distinct Cycladic aesthetic.
A case in point are Kontiza bags – hand-made from cotton fabric with prints designed by the Mykonian owner. You’ll find them laid out on the steps leading up to this lilliputian shop. The bags are perfect for the beach and promise to rekindle memories of Mykonos wherever you carry them. Also available here is the traditional knitted cap of the island – the so-called koukos – in a variety of colors. Once upon a time, these were knitted by local women for their fishermen husbands who preferred them to conventional hats as they would not be blown off by the wind when they were out at sea.
Efharis in Little Venice is the local star designer. A onetime employee of HSBC, who hails from Athens, she eventually moved to Mykonos and began designing, sewing and selling wonderful clothes made of cotton and silk. She herself eschews the word “ethnic” but her silk sarongs, airy caftans with their golden threading and dresses with embroidered flowers have a distinctly Greek island feel. Last year, Kate Moss combined one of Efharis’ dresses with her brown leather sandals for the supermodel’s most “island chic” look that we can recall.
Next door, a shop selling tourist goods known as Annezo’s Souvenirs has a comprehensive collection of hats. Straw fedoras (known as kavourakia) are available in every color imaginable, and make for fun and stylish beach accessories. For the more eclectic, a collection of authentic Panama hats is also available.
The final stop, and one of the most loved, is the tiny shop in Little Venice offering that accessory most identified with Greek island fashion: leather sandals. Mykonos Sandals has been here since 1948, a time when the only “tourists” in Chora were those islanders who had come from the village of Ano Mera! The owner, Maria Rampia, sticks largely to timeless designs, producing and selling simple and authentic sandals made of natural leather for men, women and children.
Hot New Arrival
Outside Chora, the island’s shopping scene is about to go where it has never gone before. The cosmopolitan beach of Psarou is acquiring its very own shopping mall – the first on Mykonos – in the form of Nammos Village. The complex will feature five buildings, domestic and international brands, underground parking for 300 vehicles, a 5-star delicatessen, an open-air café and the so-called “botanical gardens” – imported palms and other plants to frame this haven for shopping.
To add to the grandeur, at the entrance you’ll find original works by Salvador Dali that are being rented from foreign galleries and are available for purchase. In a place where the shopping is already surreal, they’ll fit right in.