It’s hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm and pride, which John Maimonis has for his Greek heritage. Working as a technician in the telecommunications industry, he yearned to create something which could express the feelings of pride he felt being Greek. Enter Greek Freak Nation, his collection of edgy, urban tshirt designs featuring slogans such as ‘Filotimo’ and ‘Oxi’, which have attracted a global fan base.
GCT recently had a chat with John about the inspirations for his designs, his connection to his roots, and the exciting new items which will be hitting his website soon.
Tell us a bit about yourself- where were you born and raised? Where do you live now?
I am a 31 year old Greek Canadian. I was born and raised in Toronto and now live in a smaller town near there with my wife, Kristina and our beautiful son, Jude.
What part of Greece is your family from? Do you feel a strong connection to your roots?
My father is from a village called Vresthena, which is in Sparta, Lakonia. My mother’s family comes from Volos. I have travelled to Greece a few times in my childhood to visit family. I long to go back to Greece as an adult to explore the country and the people, and to feed this deep connection I have to my roots. I feel so lucky to have my Greek heritage, with such rich culture and powerful history.
Have you always been interested in design?
When working on a concept for a new piece, my one criterion is that it must be something I would be proud to wear. I don’t have a background in design, and there has definitely been a learning curve for me in the execution of my ideas. Ultimately, I am proud of what I have been able to put out there.
Tell us the story of Greek Freak Nation? How did it all come to fruition?
Growing up, I always felt that I had to choose between personal style and showcasing my Greek heritage, and I knew this was a gap that must be closed. There are only so many Karagounis jerseys one person can wear. I needed something edgy, something fresh, something Greek. I had been stewing with this idea for quite some time. And now Giannis Antetokounmpo, The Greek Freak, is a worldwide basketball superstar and is carrying Greek fans along with him for the ride. From his alias came the brand name, Greek Freak Nation, and with it I am giving Greeks an outlet to express their heritage with fashion and style.
Are the tshirts sold exclusively online or can they also be purchased elsewhere?
Our brand is sold exclusively online and we make our products as accessible as possible by offering free worldwide shipping. We may consider expanding into retail in the future.
What is your favourite piece from the collection?
I would be proud to wear every piece from the collection. That being said, my favourite piece is definitely the Filotimo tshirt. Each time I put it on I am reminded of the Greek code I strive to live by. It unites me with Greeks around the world. When I wear it, people everywhere stop me, shake my hand, and chat a bit about what it means to live with Filotimo. There is no greater word.
What has been the most challenging part of this journey?
We all know what a great contribution Greek people have made to civilisation throughout history. The hardest part of this journey is taking that history, that pride of culture, and making it relevant. I want to give the young generation of Greeks all over the world an outlet to express that pride of being Greek and it’s extremely difficult, yet exciting, to find ways to make that cool again.
What has been a highlight?
Truly the most humbling part of this process has been connecting with like-minded people all over the world who are reminding me every single day exactly why I love being Greek. I am building real friendships with complete strangers. It’s amazing. This brand was created out of a need – my need – for a stylish way to express the love I have for my culture. I had no idea what it would become. My customers, my collaborators, my brand ambassadors, my friends, are all validating that there is a place in the market for urban, edgy Greek apparel. More than that, they are reminding me in the best ways possible that we truly are all “Made with Filotimo”.
What type of person do you have in mind when designing the tshirts, and who have you been most happy to see wearing your designs?
When designing the collections, I think of myself. Someone who is proud to be Greek, who wishes to express that love of heritage, but is too conscientious to be wearing soccer jerseys and “I heart Greece” tshirts everyday; someone who needs more out of Greek clothing labels. I am lucky enough that people from all over the world, in every age group, are supporting my brand.
Tas Melas is a Greek-Canadian television host with his own show on NBA TV (a major professional basketball network in North America). He recently wore our Greek Freak Nation Tee on air and it was the feature of the segment!
UFC Fighter Elias “The Spartan” Theodorou has been one of our biggest supporters and has been seen wearing our Greek Freak Nation and Protest Tees in various media outlets.
Youtube sensation and Greek-American rapper, Billy “So Tiri” Anastasiou has featured our Filotimo Tee and Mitropanos Tee in his social media outlets and has created quite a buzz.
What inspires you?
My son is my inspiration. I get to see the world through his young eyes and he reminds me everyday how important it is to remember, honour, and celebrate our roots. Much of what drives me forward on this journey is the understanding that we have to make a real effort to continue our cultural traditions and weave Filotimo in the fibre of our everyday lives. It doesn’t happen on its own. It is my responsibility to teach my son what it means to come from the great land of Greece.
Will you be adding more designs or products to the range? What can we expect next?
We will be releasing new designs on an ongoing basis and have some fun colours about to hit the website. We are particularly excited about our upcoming collection of snapback hats. You can expect great things!