Project by: BVLGARI
Place: Athens, Greece Photographer: Bvlgari
Publications: Yatzer June 26 2013
A unique journey organised by the prestigious luxury brand Bulgari which started from my hometown of Athens to Rome, continued with a private jet flight to the historic Watch Valley in Switzerland and poetically ended inside the grandiose doors of the Bulgari Hotel in Knightsbridge, London, was enough to make me realize, once again, that no matter where your beginnings may hail from, you have the power to conquer the entire world if you never give up on your dreams, follow your instinct and overcome all the obstacles that may arise along the way.
The perfect example of this philosophy was a Greek boy who was born in Paramythia, a small village situated in thePindhos mountain range in Epirus, Greece on 18 March 1857. Although all of his ten siblings died, Sotirios Voulgaris(Greek: Σωτήριος Βούλγαρης) not only survived, but with the guidance of his father Giorgio, he became a passionate silversmith first creating belts, earrings, sword sheaths and buttons in debased silver that became the springboard of the famous Bulgari luxury firm.
But before Sotirios created the luxury brand renowned all around the world today, father and son had to make the decision to expatriate from my country, Greece:
In 1873, whilst the Epirus region was under Ottoman rule, the Turks along with Christians decided to burn Paramythia down in order to rebuild it ex novo. The Voulgaris’ small shop was damaged in the fire, and to add insult to injury, Sotirios was the victim of an attempted robbery in 1876. At that point, Giorgio Voulgaris said to his son ''Let's go, let's leave this country where life has become impossible, and let us find a land where we can live and work in peace''. And so they did. First stop, the Greek island of Corfu (1877) where they opened a small store on the ground floor of a house where by chance, Sotirios met Demetrios Kremos, a Macedonian silversmith who went on to become his business partner. Together, they set sail for Brindisi and then Naples where they opened a small shop in Piazza dei Martiri in the autumn of 1880. But fate was to treat them cruelly and their store was looted whereupon they relocated to Rome in 1881. A generous Greek sponge merchant named Kindinis offered them a small corner of his shop window on Via Sistina so that they could display their sliver products. Although their business started to flourish, disagreements between the two followed. They parted ways and Sotirios set up his own shop in the spring of 1884 on the same street at number 85. In 1894, the business then moved to a shop on number 28 Via Dei Condotti. Nine years later a Charles Dickens novel was the inspiration behind the store named the ''Old Curiosity Shop'' chosen for the Bulgari store in Via Dei Condotti 10 on the ground floor of the Palazzo Lepri in order to attract British and American tourists which with the help of Sotirios’ sonsCostantino and Giorgio, went on to become the Bulgari historical flagship store of today.
But going back to history, in 1960, Bulgari moved away from the strict disciplines of the dominant French school to create its own unique style inspired by Greek and Roman classicism, the Italian Renaissance and the 19th century Roman school of goldsmiths. Ever since, the luxury brand has continued wowing us with one-of-a-kind pieces that illustrate a balanced mix of classicism and modernity, a perfect sense of volume and love for linearity, symmetry and rhythm. These facets have had the power to inspire the likes of even Indian-born British sculptor Anish Kapoor, one of the world’s most acclaimed living artists, who was called upon to interpret Bulgari’s B.zero1 iconic ring.