We meet Begüm Khan’s designs in a time when we were looking for what makes something original. After spending a childhood in a family of Ottoman art collectors surrounded by antiques, flea markets and memories, Begüm blends her deep interest in the Far Eastern culture with her passion for jewellery. Her production process between Shanghai and Istanbul embodies the richness of Ottoman and Chinese cultures. She surprisingly modernizes her orientalist spirit and relationship with history. Meet Begüm to learn about her spectacular designs, self-confidence, and colorful personality.
Kendi tasarımlarımda trendleri ve modayı takip etmesem ve bu benim tasarım tarzım
olmasa da tabii ki hepimiz ister istemez trendlerden etkileniyoruz. Sokakta yürüyen insanlar, sosyal medyada karşımıza çıkan içerikler, sinema filminin
kostümleri… Hepsi popüler kültürün ve trendlerin unsurlarını taşıyor.”
How did your upbringing affect your professional life?
I grew up in a family of Ottoman art collectors, chasing after beauties with them at flea markets, antique stores and auction houses. I
learned to embed these beauties into my daily life, to use them and to know their value. When I was growing up, my sense of aesthetics was positively influenced by Ottoman culture and Islamic arts. In the following years, my deep interest in Asia, especially Chinese culture, took me to Shanghai to receive a master’s degree on Chinese culture. I lived in Shanghai for six years. I was very impressed by the Chinese culture and arts which I lived in and studied. I think the orientalist movement is very interesting. I am very inspired by the Ottoman “turquerie” and Chinese “chinoiserie” effect in the Western Culture. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Europeans who never had the chance to see the Ottoman lands and China interpreted these cultures to be richer and more fantastical than they actually were. I think the orientalist movements are very creative, fictional and inspiring. In fact, Turquerjie is one of the name of our collections this year.
You define design as a “hunt for aesthetics.” How would you describe your signature touch in design?
Everything I see and hear during the day, the people I meet, the houses I visit, the cities I travel to, the friends I talk to… I’m inspired by every one of them and it’s actually a hunt for finding aesthetics. This quest blends interesting and creative beauties in my mind to give birth to new designs. To me, the most important elements in creating a new design is to make something brand-new and peerless, and for people to say, “This is Begüm Khan” even if they don’t see a logo or a tag. This is what’s important. Everyone has their own unique language and I want mine to be heard.
You have a very eclectic language in the way you use animals on your designs. What drove you to this approach?
I think my understanding of beauty is very different from the traditional sense. What most people find ugly, weird and scary is very attractive and interesting to me. When you add my belief that there is a great beauty in the ugliest thing in nature to this mix, it was inevitable for me to use bugs and flies. Beauty is all about perception. When I first used bugs and flies in 2012, people found it ridiculous. Now, they became the most imitated and popular products.
It’s two different things for a designer to create his/her language and range of products with the in uence of his/her background and to take “fashion” elements into consideration. While we know you follow the rst path, how do you feel about the second one’s in uence on your perspective?
Although I don’t particularly follow trends or fashion in my design process, we are naturally affected by the surrounding trends whether we want it or not. People walking on the street, content we see on social media, the costumes of a movie… They all bear elements of popular culture and trends.
Cufflinks are very classic but assertive start for a jewelry brand. Why did you choose this piece?
When I came from Shanghai to Istanbul for a vacation in 2011, the brand Begüm Khan just came to be when we designed the first cuff links with a craftsman. I was then working as a professional in Shanghai and had no intention of starting a brand. Over time, the collection got richer and, when the demand became too high, I decided to start the brand in 2012. We launched the brand in Shanghai, where the brand grew organically and started to be sold at prestigious places such as Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Moda Operandi, Bergdorf Goodman, Joyce, Assouline, and Beymen in cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, Milan, Zurich, and Palm Beach.
You started to design jewelry for men and then included women into your collection. How would you describe this process?
Over time, because I was able to work at the workshop, I started designing jewelry for myself. I couldn’t find interesting, high-quality, sophisticated and fun accessories that made me look beautiful at the shops. As I started to attend events abroad, people wanted to buy these designs. There have been many times I had to take off my earrings and sell them or give them as a gift. Finally, I decided to start a collection for women as well.
What is the root of your interest in the Far Eastern culture?
I find the Far Eastern culture very rich, exotic, deep, inspiring, humanistic and romantic. I’ve always been curious about it since my childhood. Something about its buildings, paintings, music pulled me towards that. I’m very lucky to had the chance to receive a master’s degree on Chinese culture and to live in Shanghai for six years.
Do you think the Ottoman culture is expressed the way it deserves?
I don’t think it’s creative to be inspired by a painting from 100 years ago and to recreate it the same way as 200 years ago. Ottoman archives are so rich and the art is so colourful that it offers an endless source of inspiration for designers, artists and architects. But I think people should start interpreting the art of the part with today’s language and his/her own unique style.
You’vehadthechancetoexperiencemanycultures.Whatimpressedyouthe most about the use of accessories?
IthinktheIndiansarethemostimpressiveonesinthatcontext.Theyareverybravein their choice of accessories, have a very colourful sense of fashion,and of course,they have great antique stones. The “pink city of Jaipur” is especially a dream in that sense.
A false fact about the use of accessories?
That less is more.
The best advice you’ve ever heard?
Be brave in designs that you believe to be true and want to realize. When you have a new idea, it will always be met with some reaction because it is different from the older ones. Don’t listen to that. Do what you think is right.
A person who has influenced you with an iconic style?
Marchesa Luisa Casati, Maria Callas, Peggy Guggenheim… They lived their own choices both in their lives and styles. They are all pioneering and influential women of their own time.
The thing you’ve found the most exciting in the fashion industry recently?
That brands drift away from each other and each brands and buyers find their own styles.
Can we define Begüm Khan as a global brand?
For something to be world brand, it has to inspire other designers, to become a trendsetter in world fashion, to create never-before- designed products, to give birth to new ideas, to bring innovation, and unfortunately, to be imitated the most.
What’s next for you?
We’re creating a collection with one of the world’s leading shoe brands. Wait for surprises!