Elegance, naivety, determination, success, modesty, consistency… All these characteristics a creative soul would be lucky to have, are humbly present in Liana Kesenci. The designer who channels her loving relationship with leather on timeless designs, is transforming the Balatt name from being one of the most cultural areas in Istanbul, to a successful brand in the world…
We live in a fashion era where a lot of people choose to be designers, but can’t survive in the industry, but you created a permanent place with Balatt, carrying leather based designs since the day you started. Can you tell us a little bit about your story?
I studied graphical design and photography in Central Saint Martins, London. After graduation I began to freelance there. When I came to Istanbul for vacation, I made a radical decision and started to work with Tamer Yılmaz. At first I was an assistant, later on, I started doing graphics and production. In that period, somewhere in my mind I had an idea of establishing a leather brand. While working on other things, I used to design pieces for myself, which gave me a lot of joy.
Of course you must have gone through difficulties during this process. How did the challanges present themselves when forming your own brand?
Just like my rash decision of coming back to Istanbul, suddenly quitting my job, and establishing Balatt, it had caused a big change in my life. For me, it meant that I had to leave everything on one side and start all over again. I was on my own, I had to do it myself. I was flying abroad for meetings with showrooms with luggages in my hands. It was a stressful process but I was doing everything with love and joy.
Your designs reflect the simplicity of your style. You create original pieces by using leather with classic cuts. Where does your passion for leather come from?
I grew up amongst the smell of leather, we’be been in the leatherman business since my grandfather’s generation. As a child, I used to make clothes for my toys from the leat- her pieces my father brought home. Later on I continued to make them for myself, and then for Balatt.
You handling leather must be the same as a violinist taking his/her violin in their hands. What kind of feeling does this texture awaken in you?
I love both the texture and the smell of leather. Leather has always been in my life and I feel like it’s always going to be. But calling it indispensible would be an overstatement, I guess I can give up on everything other than my family, my beloved ones, and my dogs.
Leather is a fabric that gets more beautiful as it gets older. How does this affect your designs?
I still wear the leather jacket I made for myself 13 years ago; as it gets older, leather’s characteristics come out more, it becomes more beautiful. I make timeless products, I design pieces that I’d like to wear comfortably 10 years in the future.
Balatt is a clear-cut and modern brand, it does not tire with details. Simple but strong.
“As a child, I used to make clothes for my toys from the leather pieces my father brought home. Later on I continued to make them for myself, and then for Balatt.”
Tamer Yılmaz is someone who probably played a major role concerning your career and your life. How did he affect your life’s path, the establishment of Balatt?
Not only my career, but he plays a great role in my life. My second life began with Tamer and Ayten. After I suddenly came to Istanbul, they first became my work, then my family.
One of the dreams of fashion designers is to show during fashion week, to be featured in a magazine, or to have someone significant wear their clothing. What are some of your dreams?
To be honest, I never dreamt of things like that. I always pictured strong, confident women wearing my clothes in my mind. I used to imagine women from the age of 7 to 70, who associate the pieces I designed with themselves. Right now, it makes me happier to see people who wear Balatt out on the street rather than seeing them on a model in a magazine.
How did living in Paris, Istanbul and London influence your design style? Maybe it ensured me to create without being steady in one country.
I don’t know. It might have made me think globally without separating Italian, English, or French women. I always had the urge to make pieces for confident and strong women.
In your new collection, there are different textiles that you use other than leather. How is your brand developing?
Yes, now I use cashmere and silk along with leather. I make silk blouses, cashmere sweaters. I think leather is very suitable with these textiles.
What do you pay attention to during this period that you’re developing in?
It’s best to be able to protect the balance of powers.