VINTAGE MEMORIES BY VASSILIS ZOULIAS
Before Vassilis Zoulias began his career as a fashion stylist at legendary “Gynaika” magazine, and then changed his mind and turned to a successful fashion designer – whose household name is identified with the style of the sixties –, he entered the fashion-world at Mykonos’ iconic designer boutique Billy Bo. This may be heralded the continuation of his triumphant career that would follow. He is for sure a romantic Mykonos-lover and such as he Recalls Memories Of The Golden Mykonos Years That Seems To have passed irrevocably. Or maybe not…
With his dear friend Angela, not even 17 years old, exactly at the spot where Nammos is today.
I first arrived in Mykonos in 1979. Back then there wasn’t a port yet. You would get in a small sloop, put your suitcases inside – despite the wind – the old ladies of the island (dressed typical in black and wearing headscarves) would come down to help, suitcases were falling into the sea, that kind of stuff…
Anyways, it was windy the day I arrived, I was 16 years old and with a small friendship group, boys and girls, we had to go to Mykonos. And we did. These were my first holidays I went alone, without my family. We arrived, got down to the windswept harbor and we beheld a Mykonos where the mountains were without any buildings, such a strange view!
We found a room at this old lady’s place (we call them yiayia, which means grandmother). The Mykonians weren’t ready for the buzz that was about to happen, neither there were many hotels to stay, so the locals would put tourists, like us, into their homes. You could sleep everywhere, they would put two cot beds in the kitchen, another would sleep on the terrace, another one in the living room, another in the hall. Inside they would stay Italians, French and us. The yiayia couldn’t speak a word in English, she was speaking only with body language. In the mornings she would make us coffee, eggs, milk… The donkey would come bringing her the supplies, romantic times. The street we’ve stayed the first time I went to Mykonos, it’s below the windmills and now it is filled with shops. I always pass by it and I remember it.
What I want to emphasize is how the Mykonians were back then, how openminded they were, that this yiayia despite not understanding a word of what we were saying, she had all these people in her house and she found the way to communicate with everyone pretty well.
(left) Early 80’s at the empty and sunbed-less beaches of Mykonos. (right) Agios Sostis Beach in the mid-’80s.
I remember the women very vividly. They used to wear amazing clothes – like the Italian girl that stayed at the yiayia’s house with us, she would dress up at night with some golden high heels- and go out to… the catwalk.
Me as a young man by back then, I would sit and observe the people passing by, and that was enough for me. We would sit there at the known corner where “Kessaris” is, or at “Vegera” and “Nectar” and we would observe the people passing by.
When I arrived, I shopped from “Billy Bo” so I can wear the clothes at night and I also have some great photos from “9 Muses” in which I dance and everyone is wondering how do I have these photos. We had nothing back then carrying with us… There was only the photographer Fernando Arenas -he was taking photos at clubs at night- and in the morning he used to set them up and put them next to “Vegera” where all the people from the night before were passing by and buying them.
I remember “Elia beach” had a maximum of ten people, we used to go with the boat… there was also a bus that was going to the furthest beach. Last year, as I was going for a walk, I saw an old abandoned bus, one of the typical sixties buses that we used to see in movies and I thought that it is very likely to be that bus that we used to go with because there weren’t many buses back then.
The popular clubs were “Remmezo”, “Mad”, “Astra”. The shops were not many, but there was Billy Bo, Dimitris Mao, there was Acrobat from what I can remember. Parthenis, of course, had from back then this wonderful store. Billy Bo was sitting always, at the stairs and people were passing by… beautiful, romantic times.
“The Mykonians handled everything that happened on the island very naturally. Zero judgments! For what you’re wearing, what you doing … nothing. They were just happy that people would go there and would spend there their money. As simple as that.”
I worked at Billy Bo’s boutique in 1980. That winter Billy asked me one night to work with him, it was the spring of 1980, so I worked at his store in Solonos street, Athens. It was a big thing back then, like Christian Dior asking you to work for him, but I was a very good salesperson and on a short note Billy saw something in me and the summer of that year I went at the Mykonos store and I worked for three summers there, from which I have incredible memories.
All of us lived at the back of the store, including Billy’s friends. Dimitri Zourdos – the legendary make-up artist –, was joking around and used to dress up, wear heels and we would take photos or we would go out on the streets wearing Billy’s clothes – obviously without him having a clue –, and in the morning we used to put them back in their place like nothing had happened. We did lots of jokes.
(left) Mid 80’s, outside of Pierro’s: Vassilis with his dear friend, make-up artist and great mentor Dimitri Zourdos, Christos Zambounis and Rebecca Camhi wearing her trademark fur jacket (center) “The ’80s in Mykonos were all about fun and posing”, says Vassilis. Here across Billy Bo boutique with his beloved friends Angelo Droulias and Angela Efthimiatos. (right) Early 80’s outside Parthenis store, with photographer Calliope, the late designer Mihalis Aslanis, the make-up artist Dimitri Zourdos and Anna Veltsos, before the memorable wedding from fashion editor Laura de Nigris with publisher Aris Terzopoulos.
In 1984 I got my first job as a stylist at “Gynaika” magazine, and I started to go to Mykonos for the photoshoots. Mykonos has this magical light, I’ve done countless projects there. Also, when “Assouline” published a book about Mykonos, they asked for some of my photos from the fashion shootings, which ended up being in that book.
Countless pictures: on the rocks, at the beach, at the port, in houses… Mykonos is an endless scenery. The whole fashion world was interested in doing photoshoots in Mykonos. The Italian Vogue had been there and done photoshoots, Ellen Von Unwerth as well for the iconic Guess campaign, starring Claudia Schiffer and Antonis Fragakis, who was a friend of us and we witnessed all of that memorable moments.
The photoshoot of Guess with Claudia, the Myconians and Antonis were awesome. I’m telling that story sometimes to other people… I did the first photoshoots of models that would later become supermodels, like Vicky Kaya, Elena Kountoura, Vicky Koulianou and the first of Antonis Frangakis. Beautiful years, very filling.
The Myconians handled all these very naturally. You could see for instance a yiayia wearing a headscarf and next to her a half-naked woman wearing only the bottom part of her bikini, high heels and no one would bother. This island, apart from the energy and the natural beauty, I think it has something to do with the people. These are the Myconians. Zero judgements! For what you’re wearing, what you doing… nothing. They were just happy that people would go there and would spend there their money. As simple as that.
(left) 1982: The “New Romantics” period, wearing black patent leather tuxedo shoes with bows from Weston Paris. (center) Mykonos, 1979: Vassilis is sweet sixteen and this was his first night in Mykonos, on the dance floor at “9 Muses”. (right) Typical Myconos 80’s party at publisher’s Aris Terzopoulos house, where fashion editor in chief Laura de Nirgis organized an unforgettable 70’s-themed party.
“Countless photoshoots: on the rocks, at the beach, at the port, in houses… Mykonos is an endless scenery. The whole fashion world was interested in doing photoshoots in Mykonos.”
“Mykonos was always the perfect location for fashion shoots”. In Paraportiani, the late 80’s, putting just another hat.
One of the most vivid memories I have from Mykonos is the sound of the high heels hitting the paved alleys and afterward women holding their heels on their hands, in the most organic way, like it is a completely natural thing to do, something you don’t see anymore. The ones they did had loads of confidence back then.
That kind of people used to come to Mykonos, the ones that weren’t afraid to hold their shoes and, most importantly, they knew how to do so, with comfort and style. People ask me often “what is style?”. This is style!
One of the women I remember most vividly is Anna Colman, who was a model back then and lived in Mykonos during the summertime. Anna Colman used to come all the time to the island (she was a friend of writer and journalist Zahos Hatzifotiou) and I remember her to be very beautiful.
I remember the photographer Calliope Karvounis. She arrived at the island wearing a silver Fiorucci suit combined with silver sharp-pointed sixties toes and with about fifteen suitcases -it surprised me-, but she was a stylist back then at Vogue- and I remember us walking to her room, and the porter dragging her suitcases behind us. Every night Calliope would wear a different outfit. I remember her wearing a red muslin dress and having short hair like Gina Lollobrigida.
Mods were in fashion back then, women would wear thick intense eyeliner and I remember us getting on a boat to go to a beach and she would turn up with a sixties scarf, big glasses, a tight midi skirt, pointy heels and she would go to the beach like that. Amazing style!
“That was a sophisticated era that you can’t find anymore on the island, mostly in the past couple of years. Back then there was a mix, there was a nice muss of aristocrats and hippies and all that had in total a bohemian background.”
I also remember Maria Conti, who was a fashion model and a friend of Billy Bo, who stayed there as well. In general, it was a spot from where everyone would pass by… For instance, Valentino would come to Mykonos and he would come to visit Billy’s shop, several French or Italian friends. That was a sophisticated era that you can’t find anymore on the island, mostly in the past couple of years. Back then there was a mix, there was a nice muss of aristocrats and hippies and all that had in total a bohemian background. And of course, there was “Pierro’s’, where everyone was passing by…
And there was Paola Zouganeli also, the wife of Makis Zouganelis who owned “Remezzo”. Paola was amazingly elegant, very well dressed and so was Anna Veltsou who was best friends with Gianfranco Ferrè. All this started of course with Pierro Amversa who was the one that opened the famous “Pierro’s” and had all these people coming in. Sophisticated people from all parts of the world, aristocrats, bohemian people and you could see nice outfits, beautiful women…
(left) Easter of 1987 in Mykonos Chora: With fashion stylist and close friend, Laura de Nigris. Vassilis is wearing a Yohji Yamamoto suit. (center) The late 80’s: With school years friend Angela, in total Chanel. Vassilis is wearing a suit by Gianfranco Ferré combined with his favorite Hermès vest, made to measure shirt by Christakis and Weston suede moccasins. (right) Vassilis Zoulias with his close friend Calliope in front of Pierro’s, circa 1985.
These were the groups of people that lived the time’s fashion era, accompanied by the music, as fashion and music were intercalated. We would dress up like that and I remember the artist Konstantin Kakanias – we just had met – dancing at “Mad” wearing loose trousers.
“Adams and the Ants”, the “New Romantics” and other bands were popular and during different eras, we would change too: in 1981 we were Mods, in 1981 we became New Romantics. In 1983 we would become something else…
According to the music, the style would change and so did People on the island. At Mykonos, you could see the hippies, the bohemian aristocrats, and of course the fashion pack that followed every single mega-trend, like me and my friends. Every year, as I said, we would dress up differently and all these would entangle with the old aristocracy – women over 60 were wearing haute couture and were friends of Ferrè.
On the island, you could see of course fashion designers as well… Thierry Mugler during the whole decade of 1980, Jean-Paul Gaultier had just started to visit, you could see every summer Gianfranco Ferrè at ‘’Pierro’s’’ watching the people, Valentino…
“I would like to express this idea: there has to be a beach where you would pay for the sunbed 20 Euros but there will be no sunbed! I am sure that there are a lot of people like me that they would be willing to pay what we once had in Mykonos and we no longer do.”
I was so in love with Mykonos and at some point, during the nineties from 1992-1993 and beyond that, I stopped going to Mykonos for holidays, because I was hurt from the change that was yet to come, I got disappointed with the whole situation. I tried some other islands and some other places and ten years ago I said I will go back again and since then I haven’t left.
And this is what happened: when I came back it felt an old love, like the ones that are successful sometimes. The one where you reconnect and everything works fine. We found our balances, me and Mykonos again, and we are fine now.
(clockwise) Early 80’s, Mykonos night out, wearing black patent leather tuxedo shoes with bows, from Weston Paris. Summer of 1982, working at the Billy Bo boutique. Vassilis Zoulias was and is still οbsessed with fashion magazines. Here, circa 1984, reading Harper’s Bazaar. Mid-80’s: Αt the Cavo Τagoo area.
I can see that still in today’s Mykonos if you want to find an isolated beach – even if it is in the middle of high season –, you will and you can have a nice time without being in the middle of all this crowed chaos. Even the atmosphere and the air of the island hasn’t changed. The island’s appearance is different, it’s been overbuilt, there are some damages and that is something that bothers me.
I would like to express this idea: there has to be a beach where you would pay for the sunbed 20 Euros but there will be no sunbed! I am sure that there are a lot of people like me that they would be willing to pay what we once had in Mykonos and we no longer do. I don’t know who will do this. A naked beach, where you would pay to put your towel on the sand. I would for sure go.
That is why we constantly go to the beach of “Agios Sostis” because it is the only one left without all this messy crowd and now we find other ones like “Fokos” or “Myrsini”, the beach behind “Fokos”.
I don’t get it! All this thing with the countless sunbeds being stuck next to one another. I’m just putting this idea on the website, whoever listens and does that, will make loads of money. I believe that it will be full of people that want to experience the old Mykonos.
Don’t get me wrong. I support concepts like the one of “Scorpios”, I like it a lot, the place is beautifully reclaimed, and when you visit you have a nice time as it doesn’t offend you with its presentation as other spots do, it is harmonized with the environment.
I always stay at Haris and Angelos’ houses that are somewhere in Ftelia, isolated up in the mountain. I could stay 30 days on the island and only three of those I would go to Chora. The beautiful part of Mykonos is that, if you want, you can go to a very hype place, for example where “Filippis” used to be and now it is “Ling-Ling” – obviously I would prefer “Filippis” to still be there as a romantic guy that I am, but anyways.
What I want to say is that the island does give you that option if you want. You can go to Chora and you get to experience that fuss, you can go to that type of restaurant if you want to spend money and spoil yourself, you can go to “Matsuhisa” or “Nammos” and after that, you return home and you have your peace.
But, you can go as well to the tavern ”O,ti apemoine”, at Ano Mera and eat delicious food. This restaurant has been there for 30 years and serves Mykonian homecooked food, and the prices are OK. That Mykonos exists too. Or you can go to the newly made beaches, which we wouldn’t even think to visit back then because it was pointless as all of them were empty so we didn’t have to go far.
Something has to be done with the beaches and the sunbeds and of course the beach of Agios Sostis to stay preserved, so cars don’t reach the beach, it is important to not make infrastructure to be able to do that.
“The Mayor of Mykonos – who is very good at his job – has to take very seriously the matter that he is the Mayor of an island that should be handled like Venice.”
These small actions will save Mykonos. Furthermore, it will be saved if laws are being followed and the Mayor– who is very good at his job– take very seriously the matter that he is the Mayor of an island that should be handled like Venice. For example, the shop windows to not be 100% outside the shop but 30% like the law says, so all this mess at the alleys don’t happen.
Also, the issue of lightning at night is very important. I went last year at Hamptons and the only lighting in the most centric street was from some lanterns from around the streets. Not these headlamps. You are walking through some streets at night and from the very intense light, you think it’s daytime. The island has lost its magic and its charm. It doesn’t need that much light and strong light like that. It’s meaningless.
Mykonos is our Venice and we should, at any cost, save the shutters, the doors. Even the sight of a yiayia knitting as we pass by. It is a part of Mykonos’ tradition. The mayor is very good but he must take some brave decisions and maybe some relationships would fall apart. Determination and courage are highly needed. Some things are of course maintained, for example, the port is perfect.
But inside the streets, there is impunity concerning what I’m putting outside of my shop. And it is not like the old days that there were only 10-15 shops. Nowadays everyone owns a store and they should, as Mykonos is the place where everyone wants to own a shop. I want it too! I would like to open my store very much, maybe next year, I’m still thinking about it. Let’s see…