October’s – ‘The Renegade Issue’ – Download Now

Having previously worked for global brands, Turkish designer Serena Uziyel launched her own unusual designs, focusing on traditional art and handicraft techniques.

What does the first 30 minutes of your day look like, your morning routine?

I start the day very early with a 20-minute meditation session. I then take a walk around the Bosporus and if I am traveling, I try to find a pleasant walking path to clear my mind and prepare myself for the hectic day. It’s very important for me to smell the fresh air and enjoy nature early in the morning.

Serena Uziyel portrait

What was the catalyst for you to launch your own brand and how did you know it was the right time?

I was inspired by my rich family history and origins; my vision is sculpted by both heritage and the exploration of different cultures along with forms of artistry around the world. I’ve always dreamed of being a strong female voice in the world of accessories. I’m extremely hands-on in the design and production process, and my vision for launching Serena Uziyel was to carry on the ancient craftsman techniques. It all began with an appreciation of the past through a modern lens.

How do you infuse handicraft techniques with such cool, modern designs and was this part of the brand ethos from the outset?

One of the most precious values to me is heritage as it’s found in traditions and rituals. I have been raised in a family where women are powerful, inspiring and courageous. Their integrity and moral values are exhilarating and promising. My grandaunts were milliners in the late Ottoman Empire and the beginning years of the Turkish Republic until the 1950s. They owned a small millinery shop behind the ancient streets of Beyoglu. They were twin daughters of a wealthy ambassador and they never married. After the loss of their father at a young age, they became entrepreneurs to support themselves and began crafting hats catered to the elite society of Istanbul. These stories from my roots have always uplifted and inspired me. I actually display antique millinery molds from my aunts’ boutique in our very own boutique in Kurucesme. At the same time, I find my inspiration everywhere. I am inspired by life and what life has brought me to this day, mainly through history, my roots and the women in my family. I think all these elements create beauty for Serena Uziyel ‘s timeless yet modern pieces.

“Shoe design and shoemaking is much harder than it looks, you need to give the most of yourself to build a unique shoe.”

How have you incorporated your Turkish heritage into the creative process?

I execute a lot of my craftmanship with the local artisans of India and Turkey. I love experimenting and being hands-on in the process of creating. The silhouettes and the details have to be exceptional all the time. The Antique threads (sirma) reminds me of a beautiful, magical and ancient world. Each artistic element is executed with rigorous precision, and it can take up to 50 hours to weave and execute a complicated embellishment on a bag or a shoe. It is almost impossible to repeat the same pattern or texture when crafting details like this by hand. My diverse choice of primary materials such as the metallic thread and the roughness of raffia creates a welcoming contrast to the sophisticated and feminine look of my shoes and bags. I love the contrast and textures. Metal yarns, raffia, hammered copper, twisting, braiding, wrapping are very ancient techniques, but we sit down at the atelier and spend hours finding different ways to combine this artisanal approach with a chic, modern twist.

Serena Uziyel lifestyle shoes

You’ve partnered with leading e-commerce platforms globally. How has this supported the growth of the brand and what challenges did this bring with it?

Yes, we are very grateful to partner with leading e-commerce platforms globally. Launching online was always a part of my strategy, but it did become even more important when the pandemic put a stop to in-store shopping for a period of time. NET-A-PORTER, Saks 5th Avenue, OUNASS, Level Shoes and many other platforms that we will partner with soon, continue to be a support in the industry. These major online platforms really know their customer inside and out, so we are very much thrilled with the support that we receive from them. From a visibility perspective, all these leading online platforms are incredible points of discovery for brands to tastemakers and creatives in the industry. We have certainly seen an uptick in brand inquiries since our launch with these strong partners. The e-commerce platforms’ cooperation is sometimes challenging to demonstrate our brand’s culture and intricacy of hand craftmanship. We have been working to develop our digital, content and marketing team with various partnerships and projects. We are aware that it is very important to nurture a relationship with our customers whether it’s through content, services or surprises. Keeping this in mind, we as a brand are always looking to create a special bond with the customers and building the Serena Uziyel family around the world.

Which design has driven sales each season?

Our signature ‘Catena’ chain detail becomes our most popular embellishments each season, I especially love it in the high-heel mules. Each chain in the new Serena Uziyel Catena collection is hand-embroidered with four antique golden silk threads, which are woven together to give each accessory’s chain a three-dimensional effect. With the appearance of no beginning and no end, the golden chains of the Serena Uziyel handcrafted Catena clutches and sandals are classically refined, sustainably sourced and designed for timeless elegance while simultaneously protecting the earth’s natural resources

Serena Uziyel lifestyle

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

Love yourself and be nice to her.

This is ‘The Renegade Issue’ – who to you in the industry is a renegade or when have you approached life in this way?

Giuseppe Joseph Amolo was my role model and mentor. Through my trainings with Giuseppe, I was given the opportunity to experiment with every phase of the shoemaking process. Giuseppe always said, “a shoe is to be put on your feet and not under your arm,” meaning that a shoe should be aesthetically appealing, but it must also be comfortable. He taught me the importance of combining aesthetics with comfort. He had a serious personality, but he also knew how to relish in the joyful moments of life as well. One of the most important things that I learned from Giuseppe is that shoe design and shoemaking is much harder than it looks, you need to give the most of yourself to build a unique shoe.

October’s – ‘The Renegade Issue’ – Download Now

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Images: Supplied