Meg Cope had been a London eye surgeon for nearly two decades when her youngest child Zac was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2012. What followed is an uplifting tale of a life re-designed: and one which led the glamorous mother-of-three to a new home in Athens and an exciting new luxury fashion venture, Zaccys, named after her son, (in which a percentage of every sale of her artisan wedges goes to children’s cancer charities). Here, Meg shares her inspiring story with Insider.
Until Valentine’s Day 2012, I had been happily working as an eye surgeon for 17 years. But that was the day that Zac, my youngest child, aged 2 years old, was diagnosed with leukaemia.
I had to stop work immediately to look after him during three and a half years of treatment. My life perspective changed greatly and unfortunately my fundamental relationship with medicine altered too. Hospitals held too many negative and painful memories. I also felt that the care and energy I had left in me should now be focused on my children and family. Medicine is an all-consuming job, which I had really loved, but Zac’s illness and years of treatment changed my priorities.
Simply being able to give my three children breakfast in the morning, take them to school, and help them with homework or their worries was a real luxury. I finally got to see what I’d been missing during all the years of juggling a demanding job with various childcare arrangements.
I have always been interested in design, loved fashion and enjoyed drawing and painting with my children. During Zac’s illness we had plenty of time to be quietly creative together. In addition to the many drawings of dinosaurs, pirate ships, and Pixar characters, I was able to escape into a world of beautiful designs and ideas for the perfect espadrille.
If you want something done right … do it yourself!
I had struggled to find a replacement for an ancient and much-loved pair of espadrille wedges that I had bought on holiday in Italy and came to the conclusion that I would need to have some made. I started drawing some basic designs that ultimately turned into a collection. My decision to leave medicine was exceptionally difficult. However, through Zac’s struggles, I realised more than ever that you only have one life, and that you really do have to take risks to make it the one you really want to live.
Of course I’ve made plenty of mistakes and starting out in a new industry can make you very unsure of yourself. Maintaining a clear vision for what you want to do and developing a thick skin is essential. I aspired to create a luxury version of the classic rustic shoe with specific elements that elevated both the quality and the aesthetic. I have learnt the hard way to always trust your instincts, even when you aren’t the expert anymore. But seeing my family and friends wearing and enjoying my shoes is a real thrill, and getting positive feedback from my customers is hugely gratifying.
London vs Athens
We relocated to Athens for my husband’s new job in July this year. Already, I feel very at home in Greece. Being half-Armenian, I appreciate the Mediterranean climate and warm people (also the fact that Athenian women seem to really like their shoes!).
I also see much more glamour here than in London. Athenian women obviously take great and care pleasure in maintaining their appearance, even for running everyday errands. I have had a fantastic early response to the product; it obviously suits the lifestyle and climate perfectly. In fact we just shot our latest catalogue on the Athenian Riviera near my home (see overpage).
It’s impossible not to be creatively inspired by Greece. What I love most of all is the light here.
Everywhere you look also there are interesting architectural or artistic accents, often ancient, usually beautiful and sometimes very surprising. I have really enjoyed walking around the small craft, leather and jewelry shops in Monastiraki and Plaka. I see even in the simplest of cafes, attractive and inviting styling, and combinations of colours and materials that bear all the hallmarks of artistic endeavor.
Most of my favourite early experiences of Athenian life have revolved around the outdoor lifestyle. Things like swimming off the rocks in fish-filled turquoise waters after the morning school run, followed by a freddo cappuccino under the bright blue sky.
As for my children, they love the weather, the outdoor lifestyle, and of course, the food. Our proximity to the sea and the islands is a hugely positive change from our former city life. They also appreciate the more relaxed approach to daily living compared to London.
Zaccy loves that the company is named after him. He thinks he’s famous! Hopefully he’ll still be happy about it when he’s older. I know he will appreciate the altruistic aspect of the business as he is a very kind and thoughtful little boy.
Since finishing his chemotherapy over a year ago, he has really flourished. He continues to have regular check-ups and will do so for another 4 years. I am so grateful for the fact that he was very young when he started his treatment, thankfully he has forgotten much of what he went through. In some ways, our whole family is still coming to terms with his diagnosis. During the years of treatment, it was more about daily survival. The thinking time comes later.
In many ways, our lifestyle here is the same as it was in London. My husband still works long hours but travels less which is a huge bonus. I am busy looking after the kids and their daily routines whilst juggling the business.
But my work-life balance is infinitely better and I cherish the freedom, flexibility and creativity I now have in my life.
Zaccys espadrilles are built on comfort, versatility and timeless luxury for the busy woman who wants to look and feel good on the run. You can wear them everywhere from a backyard barbeque to a wedding! (The unique deeply-cushioned, combination memory foam insoles provide day to night comfort.)
The construction of our espadrilles involves a wedge, a platform and a lack of ankle fixings: this combination provides comfort, height, leg lengthening and is supremely flattering.
All Zaccys wedges are leather-lined with the finest leathers from Italy and Spain and are made entirely by hand, involving at least 15 different processes. (Our Spanish manufacturing partners also produce shoes for some of the world’s largest, luxury fashion mega-brands.)
Zaccys espadrilles are available online at www.zaccys.com with free delivery and returns to Greece. They are also available at Attica Golden Hall and a range of luxury boutiques across Greece. A financial donation of £2.00 to Children With Cancer and CLIC Sargent charities is made for every pair of Zaccys sold.