Christina Martini admits she’s a shoe girl through and through. “I dress from the feet up,” says the co-founder and designer of Ancient Greek Sandals. “I’ve always bought quality shoes. It’s different with clothes but shoes – I immediately fall in love with them.”
She credits her mother’s closet, filled with mid-heeled, 80s pumps with lace and glitter for igniting her devotion to footwear. “If I think about them now, they are hideous,” she laughs, sitting in her showroom in North London. “But back in the day, I just loved them.”
Sandals from tourist shops have also been a fascination, sparked by family vacations in Greece, where Martini was born and raised. Indeed, that rickety old footwear provided the inspiration for Ancient Greek Sandals. “They sell leather sandals, made out of not very good leather, in tourist shops there,” she says. “The idea was to develop affordable but high-quality sandals that one can find in the Greek Islands using good quality leather and great design.”
In 2010, after nearly 15 years working in Milan and Paris as a shoe designer, Martini returned to Greece with her partner, Apostolos Porsanidis Kavvadias, moving to the island of Corfu to start a sandal business and an olive farm. Even amid the recession, she opted not to produce the shoes more cheaply overseas, instead deciding to work with Greek craftsmen in an Athens factory. “It really would have been easier to make them elsewhere. But the whole concept was to make them in Greece, using traditional techniques to make something modern and new.”
Her home country, particularly its ancient mythology and nature, provides an endless stream of inspiration, with all of her sandals taking Greek names. “I was inspired by the myth of Icarus and Daedalus, who flew to escape Crete. They flew over the sea and Icarus fell in the sea – that’s the meaning behind this design,” explains Martini, holding out a pair of Ikaria Tulum sandals with a wing motif made from feathers, from her recent collaboration with Mexican shoe brand Caravana. It was the first time the sandals were made in Mexico, rather than in Greece; the feathers, a key design feature, reference Mayan culture. In turn, the second Caravana collection called Mykonos will be sold at the Caravana stores in Skorpios and Mykonos this summer.
The high level of craftsmanship and the elegant design of her covetable strappy sandals can also be attributed to Martini’s background as a shoe designer for Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga. “I learnt about quality and attention to detail,” she says. “Working with Nicolas [Ghesquière] and Marc Jacobs was a dream come true. I learnt that anything is possible.”
Shoes may be her true love but even Martini has her footwear pet peeves. “I hate high heels on holidays! I can’t understand how the women with these heels can walk on the pavement and the streets.” And with a whole wardrobe full of Ancient Greek sandals to choose from, why would she wear anything else?
Interview by Jainnie Cho