Souvenir is the story of a bag noticed in a shop window and the various different design bags that are the result of a teacher-student relationship. We gather in Istanbul with Aleyna Takmaz, a psychologist and designer who collects longing for the past, memories and what cities leave behind. One of the oldest colognes of Istanbul is poured into our hands; lemon and an unpredictable floral scent begins the conversation.
Can you briefly tell us about yourself, your productions and the story of Souvenir Istanbul, which developed after you started designing bags?
Hi there! I am Aleyna. You can see me in every aspect of Souvenir such as the production, distribution and design of their bags. Although my professional profession is not producing designer bags, creativity is a big part of my career.
Souvenir, which means "memory" in French, is a handcrafted accessories brand founded in 2020 based on moments, memory places and the people of the city. When we look at old postcards, in the lower right corner, there is usually the name of the place where it was taken with an expression such as "Souvenir de Constantinople"; In fact, it is meant to mean love, memory, memory from Constantinople. Following the trail left by those postcards, I accept the memory stops of the city as a souvenir and heritage and design my collections accordingly. While adopting slow living as a principle, I ensure that bags accompany these pleasant moments.
I always found bead bags very interesting and would watch them from afar, wondering how they could have been made. During the pandemic, when exploring the city was limited, I was just wandering along, not aiming to go anywhere, when I saw a shiny bag in a shop. I ran inside to examine it closely, and the first day of Souvenir's story began there. Thanks to the owner of that shop, I had the opportunity to learn how to make the bag I liked, and I still buy all my materials from him to this day. When I look back now, I never thought that I would walk out of that shop with the responsibility of designing and making countless bags, when I had only intended to buy a bag for myself. I am glad we have such life-shaping encounters.
How do your design and production stages shape? What are the points you pay attention to in the process? Where do you get your inspiration from, what do you do and where do you go when you need inspiration?
I base all these processes on my own experiences. I have a top collection called "Heritage" in mind. I do a deep research about the places I plan to travel to before I go there. When I arrive, I wander around the city, many parts of which I am already familiar with from the photographs, but this time without following any route. There is always something there. Either I meet someone or I am drawn to a location where I will definitely find something from me. I wake up early in the morning to observe how the day dawns on people in that city and focus on collecting memories. When I return, I put my little things in my "Souvenir Box" and forget about them.
The design process starts from here. For example, when I return from Bozcaada, if I remember the ice-cold water, I would definitely want to see bright and cold-toned beads somewhere. I complete the process by blending the feelings and images that remain with me in all these parts with whatever bead or other material is represented. And as a capsule, I process and materialize a memory space that will cover a maximum of five or six bags. Not every creative process feels the same and sometimes nothing comes out of the process. In these moments, I think that the mind accumulates and I don't necessarily push for a product.
I believe in the sentimental value of slow production and manual labor. Handmade details and exquisite craftsmanship are at the heart of every product. I believe that accessories create a link between people, places and memories and are a way of showing our love.
You mentioned that while producing, thinking and researching, you go back to the past, look for meaning in memories and prioritize carrying those moments into your designs. So what other values does a person who owns a Souvenir Istanbul design also own? What do you think you have in common with the people you share your bags with?
The main thing we have in common with the people we meet in the world of Souvenir is having a passion for design and this process. Almost everyone carries a trace of design and art, they come already knowing the details and the story.
People who are after unique products also choose their accessories carefully. Those who are looking for the reflections of the world inside them, have a problem with telling and being understood, collect original products, are their own stylists, and do not have rules such as "this cannot be worn here" are generally the audience that reaches Souvenir. It is not the person in the crowd who repeats the familiar rules, but the person who is asked "Where did you find this?".
When we take a glance at your products in OMM Shop, there is a modern, simple yet assertive approach. How would you describe the style or aesthetics of your productions? What makes a product unique for you and what are the key elements that determine your design approach?
Souvenir has a concept that allows you to go out with a few simple things without needing a lot of stuff and feel very stylish in the most effortless way. As a small and independent brand, achieving true sustainability in all areas is always a work in progress. But it also gives me flexibility in customization and allows me to check that the production is of the same quality.
In my own shopping experience, "where I can use it" is the last thing I think about when I buy a product. I usually look at how it makes me feel the first time I wear it. What makes designer products unique is that I can see the designer of the product in the product they produce. I believe that when buying, we are included in their common dream world and when wearing, I carry the same values on me. Essentially, it's your way of saying, "Yes, that's what I think." To me, that's the piece you choose.
So what can you tell us about your future productions? Are there any projects that have not been realized yet, a product you want to produce or a method you want to try? We are also curious about your future expectations, plans and dreams.
Increasing the variety of materials is always my priority plan. I would like to reduce the format of the bags to a single style and focus more on bright and eye-catching designs. However, since my job is to play with beads, colors, stones and all kinds of shiny things, I try to educate and train my observers in the selection and use of jewelry.
I also want Souvenir to be a friendly and energetic brand that always draws on the wisdom of different brands. Collaborations and special collections excite me a lot. Also, the majority of Souvenir is based on the old neighborhoods of Istanbul. There are a few locations I would like to visit abroad as I think it would be a nice promotion with meaning cards and content. I hope that the promotion of Istanbul and other memory places from a more spiritual place will provide a two-way progress. Another plan for the future is to reinforce the feeling of "community" with users who have found something from the spirit of Souvenir and shared their memories.