ATHENS — Family lore has it that when the hospital discharged each of Ilias Lalaounis’s four daughters after their births, the first place their father took them was not home but to his jewelry workshop, an intricate labyrinth of studios and staircases in the shadow of the Acropolis.
“My dad said it was to get the smell of the workshop,” his third daughter, Maria Lalaounis, said with a laugh. “He wanted to make sure it was in our DNA and in our senses.”
Lalaounis — a fourth-generation jeweler who died at 93 in 2013 — was one of the most celebrated jewelers in Greece during the last century. He was a prolific artist and consummate marketer who revitalized the country’s industry in the 1960s and 1970s while introducing his own creations to a global audience.
Today, almost 50 years since their father founded the company in 1969, the four sisters still control the business, each taking responsibility for different aspects. (And all still use their father’s surname.)
Aikaterini, 58, is the director of retail and public relations in Greece. Demetra, 54, is the chief executive of the international business. Maria, 53, is the chief executive of the Greek business and the brand’s creative director. And Ioanna, 50, is director and curator in chief of the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum, which her parents founded in 1993 on the site of his original workshop. With the exception of Demetra, who lives in London, the sisters all live in Athens.
Trying to escape an unseasonal heat wave that gripped the city in September, the sisters gathered in the museum’s cool interior to discuss how they continue to build on their father’s legacy, as well as adapting the business to both contemporary tastes and economic realities.
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