True to BSTN’s proprietary ‘Feed Fam, Fuck Fame!‘ philosophy, we’re introducing you to some members of the immediate as well as the extended BSTN family. In their own words, they talk about themselves, their career, and selected topics close to their heart. This is Feed Fam – Episode IX featuring creative director Theodoros Giannitsacis, the founder of fashion label Pressure.
On finding the Nigerian Shawn Kemp to his Greek Gary Payton:
Playing on the streetball courts is how I started to really get into the culture. I became a fan of all the things. I started to buy jerseys, to buy the magazines, to wake up at night in secret. I mean, when my parents were sleeping, I was waking up to watch the games. And on the next day, I tried to make the same moves on the court. Shawn Kemp … he was dunking like crazy and despite me being small, I wanted to be Shawn Kemp. But it was impossible. (laughs) So I was Gary Payton. I was a little bit sad because I want to be the guy who dunks on everyone, but I was so small that I had accept that I was going to be Gary Payton. I was playing with a friend of mine, he was a Nigerian guy, very tall, very massive. And he was dunking. So he was my Shawn Kemp. (grins)
On home away from home:
When I was younger, I often asked myself how and why my parents lived the way that they did. We are in Paris, there as museums, cinema, everything! But my parents stayed amongst their social group most of the time. I understood later that the way they were living was partly because they were afraid to lose their culture. So, it became like a schizophrenia of sorts. We had left Greece to find different living conditions, not because we wanted to leave. At times it could feel like they had left Greece but very few things had actually changed for them.
Me however, I grew up here [in Paris] and I had everything. Since my first day of school, I saw different cultures, the best sneakers, the best clothes, the best movies, the best music. I was always on point on everything. But at the same time, my dad was always trying to bring me back a bit back and keep me in touch with the culture I shared with them, too.
On the origins of the Pressure brand:
The real reason for creating the brand is that I live this kind of Mediterranean way. I’m very attracted to this culture, not only the Greek culture, but all the Mediterranean culture. It can be the Greek, the Arabic one, the Italian one. I’ve been this way ever since I was a kid, maybe because I grew up with people from all of those different cultures in Paris. And after like so many years working for other brands or companies, I decided to be more focused on what I love, which is this culture. So I started to take projects that get me very close to this vibe with my agency, which was the first step of Pressure. At first, it was an agency.
Then, I decided to show how I see this culture in another way and what vision I would love to bring more into this, creating the magazine. You have street brands from a lot of different countries, but from Greece we didn’t have any. And I just wanted to be this guy in Paris, just sharing my culture in my way, which is heavily influenced by the streets.
Given the culture I grew up in and the people I grew up with, our first t-shirt actually featured the word pressure written in Arabic. It was included in some photo shoots and naturally snowballed from there. All of a sudden, it was in demand. I love clothes with meaning, clothes with a history behind them. But I never planned to start my own brand. But because I love clothes and demand happened, some shops started to ask us if they could sell the clothes in their shop. At the time, it was cool, but it was also very political. The message was very strong because seeing white fashion models wearing an Arabic t-shirt was fairly intense. But this is how it starts back in the day.
On putting Greece on the map:
I don’t know if it’s important for other people, but for me, it is because this is what I am. Using Greek types, Greek culture just came naturally. The reason why it’s important is because before 2004, when the Greece won the European Cup, a lot of people took notice. But before this, I remember the first World Cup that Greece took part in was 94. And that time I was super proud, wearing my Greece jersey to the park to play streetball every Sunday. But I remember arriving at the court and all of my friends saying “What is this?” So, I understood that in the street culture, in the sport culture, in the new generation, no one knew anything about Greece.
I felt a little bit responsible to use my crowd, my hood, my city, to share my culture and to just finally integrate this culture in my everyday life. So that’s why it’s important for me to share the Greek culture and to use Greek types for my brand. I make a point of traveling to Greece regularly. I have a lot of friends there. I drink the culture from Greece and I share it with my friends in Paris or everywhere I go.
On the influence of his pops:
I never did any research. Actually, my dad represents Pressure very well. My dad is my inspiration. He’s always outside with non-Greeks, and he’s very present in the street. Everyone knows him. He’s sharing everything with people. So, the stories that I saw from my dad, the stories the other people tell me, those are the stories that I use in my brain. That’s the research and the inspiration that I rely on.
On the influence of US sports culture:
I love American street and sports culture. But for me, it was important to show the street culture from the Mediterranean to the kids who are growing up today. On social media, a lot of what they’re seeing is just made up of famous American brands, American sport players and all of this. But in the Mediterranean, we have very cool street culture as well.
That’s why I started to make content in some villages in Greece, in Athens, etc. I shoot with real street people who might not know anything about clothes, but they are real street people. Street culture for me is not just skate, rap, basketball; it’s also the people who are living in the street. This is very important for me. Therefore, I started to showcase my clothes on these people who are not used by the famous brands.
On the appeal of the NBA and European basketball:
I was really into the NBA. My room was full of NBA posters and merchandise. I was NBA-everything … until I discovered Toni Kukoč and Vlade Divac. At first I didn’t understand why they were there. I was not paying attention. I just saw Toni Kukoč playing with Michael Jordan, and I started to read Michael Jordan saying good stuff about this European guy. And I was like: ‘If Michael Jordan, who is basically the God of the NBA, is saying good stuff about Tony Kukoč …’ I mean, maybe I was missing something.
So, I started to read more about Toni Kukoč and through him, I learned about the Jugoplastika Split teams as well. And I discovered that Split was a big team in Europe; they won the Euro League and all of this. And then Dominique Wilkins arrived in Greece, and I was like: ‘What’s happening?’ Until then, for me, NBA had been the NBA and European basketball had been cheap.
The same connection, that I had made with street culture, now happened to me with basketball: Athens became so much bigger, so much more important for me. When Dominique Wilkins arrived and Panathinaikos won their first EuroLeague title, I became aware of all of his teammates. All these European guys who went to NBA. There were some really good shooters, for example. Slowly, I caught on to the Euro vibe. Most of the cool guys were still in the NBA but there were some players who brought the NBA vibe back to Europe. That’s how European basketball became interesting for me.
On jerseys being statement-pieces:
In Greece, we still don’t have this culture of expressing ourselves with the clothes and especially with sports jerseys because there is no history of it. I mean, you don’t see people wearing jerseys in Greece because it’s still connected to violence, to politics. It’s very politic. In America, it’s cool. Jerseys are integrated into the lifestyle and everyday fashion, and this is what I love. In Greece, we don’t have this. Not yet, at least.
Even if I have been playing basketball for a very, very long time now, Giannis is the first guy that made me go onto a court and say ‘I’m Greek!’ – and me being actually selected to be on one of the teams. (laughs) People cannot escape the facts. The guy is an MVP and a champion, and everyone knows that he’s from Greece. The way he speaks English is the same way that many of us Greeks speak English, which, for me, is amazing. His jersey is the first one you’ll be able to spot on the streets of Athens. Kids are wearing Milwaukee Bucks #34 jerseys in the streets and no one can say anything. It’s cool. Now, if you’d wear another jersey, it’s not cool, it’s more political. But Giannis is cool.
On opening an authentic Greek restaurant in Paris:
My mom has worked in the food industry for a very long time, and she’s cooking every day. At home, we eat Greek food every day. I met a lot of people from different cultures with Pressure and they became close friends. And I became interested in opening a restaurant when I started to bring some friends at my parents’ place to eat. And most of them didn’t really know about Greek food, the real Greek food, and they were really falling in love with my mom’s dishes. They discovered that Greek food is much more large than the menus of some of the more touristic places we have in town.
For me, it’s the same with clothes, the same with music: it’s everything connected to culture. That’s why I wanted to share the food with others. When the restaurant opened, all the recipes were from my family. Sure, it was not the first Greek restaurant in Paris, but I can say that it was kind of the first one presenting some different recipes of Greek food. For example, we serve a soup with beans and red sauce, which no one can expect from Greek food, except for the Greeks. (grins)
And actually, it was a good step for me because this new way of expressing my culture connected me with another kind of people. Every night, I had people from Paris in my restaurant, super fashion. But I also had old people, old Greeks. I had street guys. It was a mix. People from Turkey, Serbia, Egypt, or Italy were all discovering similarities to their own food culture. And for me, this was Pressure. This is really what Pressure is about. We had a good moment and we all met and we shared our cultures. There are a lot of connections that we don’t know that we share with different countries, which is what represents my brand very well. And my brand represents the restaurant very well. And all of this is what I am.