House of Sól Creative Director Nazlıcan Yöney talks to BluProjects founder Sinem Çelik about the core values of her brand, its strong bonds with woman empowerment, inspirations, and the sustainability mindset behind the design and production processes.
Nazlıcan, I am really impressed with both the creativity and story behind your new jewelry brand House of Sól. Before we get to know more about the brand, shall we start with you? Tell us about yourself.
Thank you so much! I was born into a Russian and Arabic family, which is descendent of a late-Ottoman grand vizier. My childhood home was full of antiques; old, serious, black and white pictures of political figures and their stories. Therefore studying Political Science at the academy was a kind of family heritage to me. In my professional life, I am passionate about Technology, Political Science, and the outcome of their combination. “Techplomacy” is a new era that both public and private sectors need to explore. As a political scientist with an MBA degree, I have been working in the tech industry for 10 years to become a pioneer Turkish techplomat. So, this is my “Linkedin type of background”, in other words, Nazlı’s face during the regular workday.
During nights and weekends, I wear my designer hat. I worked for organizations that introduced me to the world of Contemporary Art, such as the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts and the Istanbul Biennial. Over the years, I took courses about industrial design, design theory, art history, drawing, traditional ceramic and porcelain shaping which led me to opening my ceramic studio. I designed and experimented with everyday objects from tailored tiles and table sets to ceramic sinks. Later on, Grand Bazaar came into my life and the rest is history. I fell in love with its centuries-old artisanal traditions, culture, and its unique way of working. For years I went to the Grand Bazaar every weekend to learn the lost methods of wax casting, as well as other precious metal shaping and stone cutting techniques.
As a political scientist-cum-designer, I think what we choose to wear tells a distinctive story about us: where we are, where and how we want to be, how we want to be seen, what we want to express, and how we feel about our place in society amid a massive set of social interactions. This is actually how House of Sól pieces are born, negotiated in territories of feminism, politics, contemporary art, and Turquerie. Each piece is named ”Untitled” followed by a description in parenthesis in a reference to meaning constantly shifting in time and space with the reference of contemporary art.
House of Sól has some inspiration from the Ottoman legacy, and besides, I observe some postmodern and feminist tones around it. So, how do you define HoS?
The motto of House of Sól is an old Latin phrase, “Ex Oriente Lux”, which literally means “the Sun rises from the East”. However, it also alludes to the unique culture and creativity coming from this ancient civilization, Asia Minor.
This is the very same perspective that House of Sól established its foundation, ode to the Orient; its time-honored artisanal power, precious stones, metals, and brave contemporary Middle Eastern art. The House of Sól is a post-modern Turquerie. Turquerie was the Orientalist fashion in Western Europe from the 16th to 18th centuries for imitating aspects of Ottoman art and culture. Western European countries were fascinated by the exotic and relatively unknown culture of the Ottoman ruling class, which was at the center of the Ottoman Empire. This fashionable phenomenon became more popular through trading routes and increased diplomatic relationships between the Ottomans and the European nations, exemplified by the Franco-Ottoman alliance in the 18th century. Ambassadors and traders often returned home with tales of exotic places and souvenirs of their adventures, as the portrayal of the Ottomans’ life with bright colors and sharp contrasts, capturing their interesting peculiarity and unique nature.
Moreover, its feminist stand is the root of the brand as House of Sól pieces aim to inspire women to buy jewelry for themselves instead of getting them gifted by men. They aim to serve as a suit of armor in the everyday battles of women. It celebrates our strength, our pride, our womanhood. They are created by the women, for the women.
I also want to link this mindset with sustainability; while the social pillar is unfortunately highly undervalued, globally. You focus exactly on this and reminding us of the value of hand craftsmanship, respect, and humanity. How do you define sustainability, and how does HoS engage with it?
In the current conjuncture, not only the fashion industry, but all sectors no longer have any flexibility of progressing without taking sustainability as their starting point. I believe that this responsibility should be expected not only from manufacturers but also from customers. While the vast majority of brands are shockingly still pumped with the objective of “fast-fashion” a.k.a. ‘’fast-profit’’, newcomers deserve to take the stage if they have anything better to say. That’s what House of Sól is all about.
So, with principles to work with indigenous artisans and natural materials, while also keeping the time-honored culture alive by sharing stories and paving paths to sustainability, House of Sól is and will be a limited-edition brand. Each model is designed by passion, each material is ethically crafted, and each piece is made by the hands of a dozen masters.
Each and every design and development of House of Sól needed for their execution took years to achieve and all are protected by copyrights and patents where applicable. Each piece of jewelry is numbered and will be limited especially due to how nature lets us. If we find our exquisite gemstones only ten necklaces long, there won’t be an eleventh one. Also, we designed our unique HoS lock mechanism to prevent excessive buying. Once our customers buy one of our necklaces, its lock mechanism will work with every other model. Therefore for their next shopping, they can only buy the precious stones and continue to use their previous lock.
Another sustainability pillar that we gave extreme importance to is our packing strategy. The online shopping cargo boxes that entered our homes during the pandemic have reached ridiculous levels. Instead of ugly, brownish cargo boxes that come home and go to the trash immediately, House of Sól has a unique perspective to make everything an objet’d’art in itself. Therefore every season, we will work with an up-and-coming female artist from the East to summarize our collection and its muse. This season, we work with Gökçe İrten to draw a Post-Modern Feminist Harem, which is conquered by HoS women who sip their cocktail, while reading feminist authors Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir. We designed our jewelry box as a book with the cover design of Gökçe so that you can keep your HoS box as a coffee table book while your masterpiece rests on its warm yellow velvet.
You have an unusual business model, rejecting the rules of consumerism with your design, production, and even packaging. Can you share the process of design production and branding? You have made some interesting discoveries…
Under normal circumstances, a (new) jewelry brand that seeks profit maximization will minimize all costs possible, create a standardized production line and aim to sell globally with high volumes. Well, HoS goes against the grain. We are highly concerned about sustainability in every step of the design and production process. We are aware of the scarcity of resources of this world and act accordingly. Therefore we are transparent and ethical about how we produce our necklaces. We give so much importance to creating a responsible process with favorable working conditions and fair pay for our employees or vendors involved in all steps. We are working in a made-to-order manner, ensuring that we produce only if its customer is ready; so that no HoS footprint will ever be a part of the Seventh Continent.
We are also proud to challenge the status quo with our photo shooting and model choice. Dreaming that HoS photos are meant to be displayed in art galleries, not fashion magazines; we decided not to work with a commercial fashion agency. Instead, we worked directly with an artist whose works with National Geographic and a few other international platforms we admired, having the privilege of contemplating the essence of the brand for hours. To reflect the spirit of our necklaces with their respect to femininity and strength on their own, we wanted to have a real woman as our face. We searched for someone seasoned with life and experience who wears all her lines and scars with pride. Both of these decisions were criticized by the sector’s ‘’thought leaders’’—who also happened to be men. They said a fashion brand should sell the image of a woman that is unreachable. This ‘’Mad Man’’ type of advertising is not only toxic but also very recursive. It shouldn’t only be FMCG brands seeking to leverage feminist movements to their advantage to challenge and change this mindset, but there should be permanent resistance by authentic brands of every kind, by every single one of us.
HoS is an excellent example of my definition of luxury, which is more about values, meaningful investment, and longevity. How do you position and introduce HoS?
The brand found its roots in the stories and precious stones of Asia Minor. Each piece is made by hand with traditional methods as a “wearable contemporary art” in the hidden tunnels of Grand Bazaar. That being said, we are not yet another jewelry brand, instead, we are a lifestyle brand that honors the Orient and its artisanship while echoing feminism in the postmodern era.
House of Sól means the dynasty of Sun, representing the brand’s dedication to the Sun, its ancient civilizations from the East, and its independent women being unapologetic as who they are. Therefore HoS pieces are meant to serve women as a suit of armor. Instead of becoming just another piece for a small clientele, we are aiming to be one of the most precious pieces of a modern woman; which she wears as a shield for a steer-co, dinner, or court when divorcing a boring husband.
Who would you dream of wearing your pieces?
Gosh, this is my favorite question! There are many! Let’s start with Fahrelnissa Zeid, then Mica Ertegün, Semiha Berksoy, Gülriz Sururi, Tilda Swinton, of course Iris Apfel, Leyla Gencer, Marina Abromović and last but definitely not least, Zeki Müren.
As a personality, how do you manage to perform mindful living and connect with nature; in this age of Anthropocene?
I am quite literal about this and so a huge believer of shinrin-yoku. Shinrin in Japanese means forest, and yoku means bath. Shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere, which is kinda divine, especially in the early hours of the morning, right after the sunrise. Having this luxury daily is quite hard for 21st-century people, but I prioritize doing it as much as I can to store my “green cells” for future reference!
I also love your Instagram, both personal and HoS accounts, and find you extremely inspiring. Please share some of your favorite movies, books, and travel tips for some inspiration?
I am terrible at watching and reading fiction. There are a few cult movies that made me watch them until the end: “I Am Love”, “Call Me By Your Name” or “A Single Man”, but not a lot more. I am a SUPER fan of documentaries, art, and political documentaries specifically. I would watch the life of artists, their design processes, the life of politicians or coup d’états of South America for hours. I love to watch the real stuff, not calculated scripts.
The same thing is valid for my book taste. I read a plethora of (auto)biographies of artists and politicians. They have something in common from my perspective: both of them dream first and then make it, while the result could be a masterpiece or trash!
My all-time favorite destination is (not surprisingly!) the Middle East. I love the hardcore reality of the streets of Casablanca, Tel Aviv, or Cairo where there is no sugar coating of life for the people and everything is real with monumental history and traditions.
With that said, I love modern times. Thanks to the gifts of technology, I can effortlessly follow all international magazines—which I would die for to find when I was young. I read the Economist and the New York Times to satisfy the political animal in me while wandering around the international editions of Architectural Digest and Vogue to satisfy the aesthetical one!