An Interview with Melina Lambrakis – Co-Owner and Fashion Buyer for the Europa Art Group

We ran a story on Melina Lambrakis and her role at Europa Art Group in the August edition of SLOW Magazine, and we thought we’d give you a sneak peek into how exactly Melina answered our questions…

TCB Media: What role do seasonal trends play in your buying process? Do you stick to the trends or do you try to push the envelope a little?
Melina Lambrakis (ML): It’s important for us to offer our customers practical solutions as far as their footwear is concerned.  Shoes that they love and can wear every day… something they can dress up and down and go from the office to a date in. So, we ensure that we always offer our customers the staples each woman and man should own such as a sexy pair of court heels, a comfy pair of kitten heels, a classic block heel. For the man, a neutral-coloured moccasin, a pair of tan slip-ins and a men’s formal black shoe, etc. In saying that, we do definitely push the envelope with offering our more discerning customer, fun fashion-forward options to choose from, in line with current trends.

TCB: What are your forecasts for the Spring/Summer fashion trends?
ML: Transparent PVC is the hottest trend right now and was seen on several runways in London, Milan, New York and Paris by the likes of Gianvito Rossi, Casadei and Chanel to name just a few and so Europa Art had to bring it to SA for SS18. What you’ll see from EA is a lot of plastic detail mixed with leather trims and Perspex heels.

TCB: Do you think, now more than ever, that South African shoppers are concerned about quality when they shop?
ML: In this economy it is notable that our shoppers are more decisive and yes, quality is important but this has always been important to the Europa Art Group customer.  We have built the companies reputation on exceptional quality, hand-crafted (mostly) Italian footwear and this is what keeps our customers coming back.

TCB: Have you seen a marked difference in the designs coming to SA, and how the retail public respond to them?
ML: Yes, SA has become more trend-conscious over the past decade which was something that we were lagging behind in, so it’s nice to see that we’re currently on-par with what the rest of the world is doing.

TCB: What unique thing does each of the brands under the Europa Art Group name offer?
ML: Europa Art – Affordable hand-crafted quality leather goods. 45 years of South African retail experience. Leather uppers, inners and soles in most cases.  We mostly use synthetic soles in sneakers only.
Preview – Hand-picked designer brands that cater to the luxury market.  We’ve brought high-end luxury brands to SA shores, such as Tory Burch, Furla, Hogan, Cesare Paciotti to name a few.
Clarks – The heritage of Britain, established in 1925 with an enormous global footprint. It’s the number one shoe brand in the UK, known for style and comfort.
Folli Follie – “Folli Follie” means “Crazy-Craziness” which embodies the belief of the Greek founders about chasing after your dreams and aspirations, working hard to gain success whilst challenging yourself and those around you to succeed.  The brand offers a full fashion concept of trendy jewellery, watches and accessories, which includes bags, wallets, and sunglasses. Our product offering is also forever changing with new seasonal launches and we offer both 925 sterling silver, and gold plated and stainless steel jewellery so we have something for everyone.

TCB: Which fashion trend are you hoping will make a come-back? And which do you hope to never see again?
ML: As far as woman’s shoes are concerned, I hope to never see the Lavatory heel come back in to fashion but would love to see the Gladiator (heels and flats) become a classic.  I have only ever seen them compliment a woman’s legs.

TCB: Europa Art Group is a family-owned business – does that make the job easier, or more difficult? Why?
ML: Knowing that I have the support from my family makes business decisions a lot easier but at the same time my responsibilities automatically become greater, due to the fact that I must ensure that with their blessing, I always put the family first. I don’t put the family or the company at risk.

TCB: Women in positions of power in the business world are sadly not common enough – how do you think your gender has played a role in your career?
ML: Well in the fashion industry, women in business are a lot more common and so I have never felt discriminated against.  Thankfully, woman have been embraced in this industry and been given the opportunity to hold leadership roles, to grow as individuals and generally support and empower their fellow female colleagues. I support companies that take the stance in empowering woman.

TCB: What message do you have for women in business?
ML: Do something you love, that you are passionate about and always stay true to yourself and the values you hold.  Surround yourself with loved-ones that want to see you succeed and count your blessings every day.  These little tips will see you reach new heights as both an individual and as a business woman.

For more info on Europa Art Group and the brands they carry, please visit www.europaart.co.za.