Traditional factories and workplaces in Greece are dying. They either scale up their production, replace outdated machinery and modernise their production lines, or they just perish and close their doors. Just very few workplaces still cherish their old machinery, keep on producing like they did for decades. Mostly because their owners can’t afford renewing and replacing, sometimes because they just love their old-fashioned production line.
One of the oldest manufacturing venture in the country, Mentis, started in 1867. The factory opened in Nafplio in the Peloponnese, to dress King Otto and his entourage. When Athens became capital of Greece, Mentis followed the Bavarian king to Athens. He later expanded, investing in a silk factory for the production of Greek silk. For decades, Mentis produced passementerie.
Passementerie is the art of making tassels, pompons, fringes, cords, galloons and rosettes of yarn, embroidery, silk or beads. With his passementerie, Mentis decorated the houses of the wealthy Greeks, made traditional costumes and military uniforms, and worked for theater productions. The Mentis family and their people did this for more than hundred years.
When the business was finally forced to close in 2011, the Benaki Museum accepted the generous offer of the Mentis family (Spyros, Marina, and Othon Mentis) to create a living workshop and museum.
During my recent visit, I was expecting a museum, a workplace where everything has been preserved since the last production in 2011. But to my surprise I stumbled into a small group of women who were working on producing decorative balls for Christmas trees. They were working in a colorful factory hall with hugh ceilings, consisting of hundreds of spools of thread, yarn and tape. In another corner, two men were reparing one of the beautiful old machines.
The workplace ís a museum, but it’s also a passementerie manufacture which still produces ribbons, braids, tassels and curtain ties, using age-old methods.
The Benaki Museum-Mentis– Antonopoulos (‘NEMA’) Passementerie is housed in the old factory, located at Polyphemou 6, in the neighboorhood Kato Petralona, Athens. The workplace also serves as a shop, where you buy the colorful products.