Marrying a prince is the ultimate fantasy for some women – but the role usually comes with a sizable social responsibility. Princess Tatiana of Greece is living up to hers by drawing on an innate love of ethnic handicrafts and leading a new initiative to help Greece's economically beleaguered artisans become financially self-sufficient. The Venezuelan-born, Swiss-raised princess (née Tatiana Blatnik), who worked in Diane von Furstenberg's New York public relations department before marrying Prince Nikolaos of Greece in 2010, is making it her mission to give her country's talented artisans an international platform from which to market their wares.
Her company, TRIA ETC, has recently teamed up with the TreadRight Foundation, an organization that supports projects that benefit international communities (www.treadright.org), to create worldwide distribution through fashion and lifestyle boutiques for artisanal products including shawls, bags, bedspreads, and ceramic dishes. A fan of both Valentino and their couture shows, the 35-year-old has a refined taste level that is bound to modernize and benefit what these traditional Greek artisans are already doing. I spoke with Princess Tatiana about her new project, preserving the human touch in fashion, and what it's like being a real princess.
How did your awareness and love of Greek artisan crafts first begin?
I moved to Greece two years ago with my husband, at the height of the economic crisis. So while most people were leaving Greece, we were coming here. My husband has always dreamed of living in Greece. When we arrived, people came up to me and told me about the rich cultural heritage of artisan crafts in Greece and how it was dying out. And so, this whole project just evolved organically. It wasn't something that was planned. I really believe in the power of supporting and promoting artisans around the world.
It works on many levels, too. It encourages economic self-sustainability among the artisans. But also it seems to be encouraging a new generation of artisans.
That's it, exactly. I believe that people will see that there is opportunity and potential in something that was maybe forgotten or regarded as a lost art, with no potential. I look now more at quality and where things come from, rather than just purchasing things. I think that people are returning to their roots, questioning and trying to find out who they are, where they come from. From agriculture to fashion to accessories, people are going back to the basics. So if we can find a way of training the younger generation, I think that we can do a little bit to help save artisanal craftwork and ensure that it doesn't become an extinct art.
With advancements in technology, you start to worry that some of these wonderful ideas will lose the human touch. But that's something you have a deep appreciation for – that human touch. When did that start for you on an aesthetic level?
One thing that opened my eyes to it was making my wedding dress. I had no idea of the amount of time that goes into preparing the lace and the detail. I've been around Valentino quite a lot, so I've really admired his work. It's true, I have had exposure to the couture world. But I would say that my biggest exposure was from my mother. She's my style icon, and she always mixed ethnic looks with modern. That was passed down to me, from supporting things like Donna Karan's Urban Zen Foundation to Diane von Furstenberg's Vital Voices project, when she was working on initiatives with African women. I've just always been interested in artisanal accessories. I like that folkloric look.
Even now, being in the public eye to the degree that you are – what a wonderful opportunity to promote some of these gorgeous pieces! For the last three years, I've kept a really low profile. I wanted to move to Greece and see what it was like, and everyone told me it takes two years to settle and I didn't believe them and I didn't want to believe them, because I didn't have three years to spare. But actually it does. I've been here almost two years now and now I feel ready to start coming out and promoting and supporting because I'm doing something that's really, really close to my heart. We are collaborating with existing designers because it's just my partner and I. We don't have design experience, so we're working with different designers and we'll see how it evolves.
When you married the prince and entered into a world that most of us could only dream about, how did it change you, realizing that you suddenly had this platform, and this kind of responsibility to live up to? Did it change you?
No. I mean, to be honest, it's quite interesting. I was a charity representative in high school, I studied sociology at Georgetown, I did quite a lot of social work. Community service has always been something very close to my heart. I think that marrying Nikolaos made it grow in me. And now I found an outlet. The irony is that prior to marrying my husband, I felt that I had to behave like a princess, and dress like a princess, and wear tiaras and tights and beige pumps. And I sort of acted like a princess! And now I just happen to be married to a prince. I lead a very, very normal life. I'm very active, very sporty. I have a daily routine like everyone else. Once in a while I'll put on a ball gown and a tiara. But apart from that, my life is very simple, but still very exciting. I think that the irony is that after marrying a prince, I realized that it's not about acting like a princess, it's just being who you are.
This interview has been condensed and edited.