The Pride Spirit lives on:
from Stonewall to Thessaloniki
Ecce Homo is a queer start-up that designs, manufactures, and retails a wide range of top-quality undergarments for everyone, and by ‘everyone’ I mean literally everyone! Body positivity could have been our trademark, and inclusivity is our middle name. After four highly successful collections that embrace all body types, gender and sexual expressions, and races, and another one in the making (codename: #charmeuse🕵️), our signature style seems to be well established in the minds of our customers. So, I thought that maybe the time has come for us to get more intimate😙! Shall we? And that’s how it all started according to the founders of our firm, Stefanos and Panagiotis:
“ Almost every story starts with some looney characters, a journey, and a destination. In our case, the main characters are Panos and Stefanos, two best friends, the journey is called Ecce Homo, and our destination is no one else but you guys! Since our teen years, the time has passed irreversibly, yet the same spark still burns inside us. Maybe this explains somehow how we have ended up here, how we have joined our forces in our quest for providing you with the best queer undergarments. Long story short, a couple of years ago, Panos was casually surfing the web looking to buy his partner decent underwear as a gift. He was quite sure that a company, that not only produces high-quality undergarments for the LGBTIQ+ community but also one with a strong social responsibility policy, was somewhere out there. To his great disappointment, he came face to face with the harsh reality of the queer market. In other words, he came across oversexualized low-quality underwear. Sharing his concern with Stefanos, tA moment from Thess Pride Paradehey took together a life-changing decision right there and then: ‘let us produce ourselves the products we cannot find online’! In the following years, this initial idea has evolved into a multifaceted queer apparel company that addresses all queer folks and their allies across Europe. We, the colorful team of Ecce Homo, are gathered around a common goal: to provide our customers with solutions to meet their need for high-quality clothing, and with the means to craft their unique gender and sexual identities. “
In this blog post, I would like to talk about the setting of Ecce Homo’s tale, the city where all the magic happens, where all our designs are drawn, all our clothes get cut and sewed, in other words, the little address you see in the upper left corner of each package delivered to your home with all Ecce Homo’s goodies. This is no other than our beautiful hometown in which our firm is based, Thessaloniki, the co-capital of Greece in the north.
Being home to over one million inhabitants in its metropolitan area, and the capital of the geographic region of Macedonia, Thessaloniki was founded in 315 BC by Cassander of Macedon and was named after his wife Thessalonike, daughter of Philip II of Macedon and sister of Alexander the Great (yes, this queer fellow!). Nowadays, despite the heavy toll the Greek financial crisis has taken on it, it continues to be the country’s second most important economic, industrial, cultural, and political center. Apart from being the historic home of Alexander the Great (Colin Farrell’s hairy chest comes to my mind🤤), Thessaloniki has been raised to the status of the gay capital of the Balkans the past decade thanks to its flourishing gay culture.
In Greece, the laborious activist endeavors to organize a Pride Parade go back to the 1980s, but it wasn’t until 2005 that the first Athens Pride took place followed by the first Thessaloniki Pride seven years later. The latter attracts ever since thousands of LGBTIQ+ attendants from all over the world and especially from the neighboring Balkan countries. Also, Thessaloniki is going to host the EuroPride in 2024! But this is not the end of the story for the queer activism of the city. In order to continue, a little flashback to the historical roots of any Pride Parade is due (#historyisnotboring)!
To make a long story short, it was on June 28, 1970, that the first Pride march took place in the streets of New York City following a police raid on the Stonewall Inn a year ago, a gay bar at 43 Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. It was at this bar where a series of spontaneous demonstrations by members of the LGBTIQ+ community -among them many trans folks and queer people of color who usually get erased even from the stories they wrote themselves- took place. Protesting against the constant police harassment, a routine back in the 1960s, patrons of the Stonewall, other Village lesbian and gay bars, and neighborhood street people fought back when the police became violent.
In the collective consciousness, the Stonewall Riots have been registered as the hallmark of the Gay Liberation Movement, a turning point in LGBTIQ+ history. These riots, also known as the Stonewall Uprising, has sparked the revolutionary pathos (a Greek word for intense desire 😉) of millions of queer folks around the world ever since, given the global cultural influence of the USA on the rest of the world and the internationalization of LGBTIQ+ identities and of the movement itself. Having said that, let's go back to Thessaloniki!
As the story goes, as rights and recognition have been gained over time, Pride itself has lost the radical and revolutionary character of a riot or a march and instead, it has turned into a multimillion-dollar industry of joyous festivities where, in many cases, the celebration of a hard-won and yet unfinished sexual liberation has displaced the serious political reflection. Take for example the way major fashion brands are celebrating Pride Month.
Coming up with rainbow-themed collections of products usually far beyond the budget of most queer folks who battle every day with unemployment and discrimination at the workplace, these marketing gimmicks, and the purchase they get on LGBTIQ+ customers are evidence of how the Pride spirit has been co-opted by pink capitalism (🤑) sustained by the same brands that continue to promote a privatized, consumerist, white and cis ideal image of queerness divested of its subversive potential and according to heteronormative aesthetic standards.
In the case of Thessaloniki, this critique of homonormativity against the ‘institutionalized’ profit-oriented, state-supported, and privately sponsored Pride Parade has led to the organizing of a second Radical Pride (💪) taking place each year since 2017 along with the ‘official’ commercialized one, this time a self-managed and self-funded Pride that aims to carve out a space for grassroots political engagement all year round.
So, this is more or less the queer side of our Thessaloniki, a small place you’ve probably never heard of before. Nonetheless, the agonistic Spirit of Pride travels across space and time, all the way from the 60s Stonewall to the 2021 Thessaloniki, inspiring a couple of friends to start their own queer business on their own terms and against all the odds.