Designing your Culture Featured

Luxos talks to Ebru Çerezci, the co-founder and head of design at Hiref

by 03 May 2010

Ebru Çerezci is the name behind Hiref’s sophisticated designs that blend the historical with the contemporary. Along with her brother Güvenç Kılıç, she brought together artists, craftsmen, and local experts from around Turkey, to construct a design brand synonymous with culture and elegance. Honored with the top prize in 2009 as the Woman Entrepreneur of the Year by KAGÄ°DER (Women Entrepreneurs Association), Çerezci shares the Hiref success story with Luxos readers.

How was the brand conceived? And what does Hiref mean?
My brother Güvenç used to work in finance and I trained as an industrial designer. We both worked for international companies, which brought with it the dire need to find exclusive presents for foreign guests and clients. And that’s where the entrepreneur spirit kicked in – when we realized that there was a gap in the market for high-quality, design-conscious souvenirs with great packaging.

Hiref basically means fine arts. It’s a Farsi word, which we came across during our research phase in the quest to create a design brand that reflects the rich culture of Anatolia. In the 15th century, during the time of Bayezid II, artists and craftsmen all around Anatolia formed an organization that in a way became a trendsetter in architecture and crafts throughout the Ottoman Empire. This was called Ehl-i Hiref – the masters of fine art. We felt very close to this name as it reflects our philosophy to build and support a similar network of designers and craftspeople that would set a trend in design.

What kind of materials do you use in your collections?
We use glass from Denizli, copper and silver from Antep, wood from Kastamonu and meerschaum from EskiÅŸehir, marble from Erzincan and Konya. Agate is a semi-precious gem that is believed to have a soothing effect on its surroundings, and we have a huge collection based on agate. We are also preparing a brand new exclusive collection for our Qatar store in which we make use of Qatar’s famous pearls.

Hiref has a huge following in Istanbul. How would you describe your customer profile?
I would say that most of our customers are travellers – either foreigners who come to Istanbul or locals who travel abroad frequently. It also makes us really happy to know we have a sophisticated younger following who uphold the values of their own culture.

Could you tell us about the design process and your design team?
Our design team is made up of five industrial designers including myself, and what we do most of the time is research on Anatolian culture. We’re looking into Seljuks and Ottomans, and we are going back even further to look for clues on how we can incorporate them into our modern designs. Now we have an ongoing collection called Spirituals of Anatolia in which we feature items such as golden horseshoes, an ear of grain, glass pigeons, pomegranates, and four leaf clovers, which all come from those incredibly influential cultures.

Hiref has also become a design brand associated with interior design.
We are very excited about that. We work with architects to put the final touch on a hotel’s visual identity, to create those alluring objects such as a fountain, a vase or a wooden panel on the wall, amongst the first things that you notice when you enter a hotel lobby. So far we have worked with the Four Seasons Istanbul at the Bosphorus, Ottoman Palace by Rixos in Dubai, Swissotel The Bosphorus Istanbul, and Hilton Istanbul.

Is there any other luxury item you would like to design?
I actually would love to work more with textiles and especially with silk. I envisage the creation of a unique line of silk clothing in cooperation with a fashion designer as part of the Hiref brand.

What lies ahead for Hiref in the near future?
We have just opened our fourth store in Ottoman Palace by Rixos in Dubai. We also have a corner at Bloomingdale’s first international store in Dubai Mall. Next will be another store at The Pearl-Qatar, an ambitious development project on an island off the Arabian Peninsula. Throughout 2010, we will be branching out to Abu Dhabi, Beirut and Kuwait in the Gulf Area. At home, we are opening our Ankara store as well.