Turkish designer Serena Uziyel certainly has an impressive backstory to support the launch of her namesake collection of shoes and bags. A former graduate of Parsons School of Design in New York (where she worked with brands including Moschino, Calvin Klein and Donna Karan), Uziyel later honed her shoe-making skills in Milan and Florence before joining high-street behemoth Zara. Two years later, she introduced a shoes and bags line to chic interior design and lifestyle label Sanayi 313, bringing handwoven slip-on flats to the attention of luxury retailers including Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Bergdorf Goodman and cementing their cult status in the contemporary accessories market.
Going solo, Uziyel has infused her eponymous line with a kind of confidence and flair that only comes from such an impressive background: think velvet clutch bags and elegant leather point-toe pumps with chain-link details, all on display in her recently opened flagship boutique in Istanbul, and for Fall’20, in Level Shoe District in Dubai. We caught up with the designer to discuss her Middle East takeover and heritage-infused design aesthetic…
Hi Serena. What do you feel makes the accessory market here in the Middle East stand out from the rest of the world?
Well, it’s innovative, rich in design and extremely inspiring to me. As a designer and lover of travel, I’m always focusing on the culture of a country and I have found that the Middle East has a deep appreciation of couture, luxury, and creative expression.
And when it comes to your customer, have you noticed any preferences in terms of design details or colors?
Statement pieces with ‘ancient glamor’ is one of the aspects that our Middle Eastern customers seek the most; they value bright colors, handcraft details and the positive energy of ‘shine.’ We use a special ancient wrapping technique for our Catena Notte chains, with three shades of gold and three shades of silver threads mixed together; it’s an intricate process that takes almost 35 hours to create one full pair of chains but it also means no two shoes are the same.
How does your own Turkish heritage shape your creative process?
I have an immense admiration for tradition, art and craftsmanship and I’m constantly inspired by my family history and my origin. My heritage is a big part of who I am as a designer and I’m always interested in exploring different forms of artistry around the world – this is what led me to establish my namesake collection last year.
Tell us about the pieces that you’ve launched at Level Shoe District in Dubai.
From the Thory and Ophilia sandals to the Catena mules, these shoes are handcrafted with braided straps and beautiful chains – the whole collection speaks elegance with minimalistic design.
You credit shoemaker Giuseppe Joseph Amolo as your mentor – what are some of the key tools you took away from your experience with him?
I do believe that every major brand has a secret maestro behind them. Giuseppe Joseph Amolo, who passed away two years ago, was a grandmaster shoe crafter in Tuscany and meeting him was such an important milestone in my life. I learned how to perfectly construct a shoe, step-by-step, while combining each component in harmony and, most importantly, I was able to do that with an architectural approach.
What inspired the design of your flagship store in Istanbul?
Located between the narrow streets of Kurucesme where nostalgia meets modern-day life, my store is meant to feel welcoming and airy. Throughout my career, I have spent a lot of time around the world…so I like to think that I have pulled my inspiration from all of the cities where I’ve lived or visited.
With 2021 just around the corner, you must have new launches and projects in the pipeline…
Well, for SS21 we’ve designed more casual styles that are meant for women who are always on-the-go and ready to travel around the globe. We also have an exciting campaign collaboration coming up with a digital influencer (we’ll be able to disclose more details closer to the launch date!). Additionally, we’re launching Serena Uziyel pop-up shops all over the world, including Dubai, so watch this space…