Balancing between the well-structured France and luminous Greece, between the Zolotas history and the modern age or the recession and the commercial challenges abroad, Marianne Le Clère-Papalexis, the French President of the House of Zolotas, manages to succeed in everything with a natural, Parisian finesse; and all that in fluent Greek.
How did you get in touch with the house of Zolotas?
I was born in Paris and studied history of art at the Sorbonne. I was always fascinated by antiquity. Subsequently, everything was leading to Ancient Greece. So, when I started my internship in Zolotas, at rue Saint Honoré, I walked into a temple and discovered everything around jewellery. I fell in love with the House and its history and I was fortunate enough to feel loved by the whole family. The excitement of youth and my love for Greece, made everything veryeasy.
How were things at the House back then?
Things were very different in the early ‘70s. Style-wise, there were a few families worldwide that played an important role in the art of silversmith. Since 1895, Zolotas has been a key player, alongside Cartier and Boucheron. It was then that the House was reborn, creating collections inspired by the ancient jewellery. Those pieces were worshipped by international jet setters, such as Onassis, Niarchos, Callas, Kennedy and so on.
Since 2004, you’ve been the president, as well as the soul of the House. Could you mention your most notable career moments?
I’ve been through all the stages and I put my own mark on every single one of the posts I had within the company. It took a lot of effort and time. I was
given the opportunity to imbue my son – who is now the artistic director of the house – with all this experience. Setting up the new workshop, where we maintain old techniques using a state-of-theart equipment, is a career highlight for me as well. Also, we remained in Europe, – e, though many production units are being transferred to Asia, -insisting on using Greek artists, who have this unique ability to implement a project from start to finish.
Was it a challenge for you to continue with regards to the history of the family of the house?
Luckily, I had plenty of time to become confident enough to avoid missteps. We have to maintain the respect to the artistic techniques and the typical style of the house, and this is a huge responsibility. At the same time, design innovation and novelty, are definitely needed too. Therefore, all this requires a solid team; the soul of this team are our designers and craftsmen.
Between timeless and trendy, where does the house of Zolotas stand?
Someone sees a Zolotas creation and cannot tell for sure when it was made. It’s fantastic when I see an eighteen-year-old girl to choose the exact same piece as an older woman.
Lately, Greece is going through a difficult financial and social time. How did you adapt to this as a company?
During the first three years of the crisis, the most violent ones, we had to make major adjustments. We all had to face moral and financial issues. We tried hard not to lose our old customers by adding new, more affordable collections, maintaining at the same time our timeless style and quality. It wasn’t easy but thanks to our customers’ love and recognition, we still stand tall.
Who is the typical Zolotas customer?
Our typical customers who adore our pieces are men and women who feel captivated by the Mediterranean sun culture and the whole myth. We traditionally use gold, so this bright colour seems familiar. Our most important difference is that gold is our protagonist, while other international brands use stones which
we prefer to add in order to decorate the gold. Since our philosophy is different, we appeal to a whole different clientèle.
Recently, you opened the first boutique in Paris and not in Greece. Why there?
There has always been a Zolotas boutique in Paris, since the ‘70s. During the ‘90s, we transferred in a multi-brand store as a shop in a shop. However, this didn’t fit the bill. So, since the early 2000 we started looking for a space – ideally, a two-storey one – similar to our Athens boutique It’s been two years since we first opened at 3 Rue de Miromesnil and we managed to rebuild the relationship with our old clients who had lost us for a while. Also, we succeeded
in bringing in new ones.
What do you miss most from Greece while in France and vice versa?
When I’m in Athens, it’s structure and professionalism I miss the most. However, as much as I love Paris, Ι have to admit that there’s nowhere like Greece. When I’m in France, I miss the light. And by “light” I don’t mean just the sun; it’s the human light as well.
Words by: Lena Govari