Interview: Selin Kent
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR TIME AS A STUDENT. WHAT DID YOU STUDY?
“After completing high school in Istanbul, I went to Tufts University in Boston. I embraced the academic environment, and at that point in time I just gravitated towards what I was interested in – which was international relations and history. Studying a topic that is unrelated to jewelry – which I fell into later – has definitely helped keep my horizons broad. While I loved Tufts and Boston, a semester abroad in Paris was one of the highlights of my college years. By that point I had started to really miss Europe, and spending a little time in Paris was like food for my soul!”
WHEN DID YOU FIRST REALIZE YOUR INTEREST IN JEWELRY DESIGN?
“My first job after graduating was at a market research firm in New York. It didn’t take too long for me to figure out that it was not my calling. I don’t regret my time there - working in an office environment has instilled a sense of professionalism and strong work ethic that I’ve carried with me until this day.
It was during this time that I essentially had a reaction against sitting in front of a computer for most of the day, and I developed an urge to learn how to make something with my hands. I signed up for a jewelry fabrication class and fell in love with it. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to become a jewelry designer – it was a slow and gradual process. I took classes for about 2 years while I working in market research before enrolling in a two-year jewelry fabrication and design program at FIT.”
TELL ME ABOUT LAUNCHING YOUR FIRST COLLECTION.
“I launched my first collection in September 2013. I didn’t have a roadmap, throw a big launch party, or have many relevant contacts in the industry, so it unraveled quite organically and took a lot of patience and perseverance.”
WHEN DID YOU MOVE TO NEW YORK?
“I moved to New York after graduating from college in 2007. The energy, architecture, and street fashion of the city continue to be a source of inspiration for me.”
ARE YOU INFLUENCED BY YOUR HOME OF ISTANBUL?
“Home is definitely where the heart is! I spent most of my childhood and formative years in Istanbul, with a brief stint in Vienna, Austria, between the ages of 6-12. Istanbul is a magical place, and the only city that is located on two continents. It’s full of incongruities and contradictions, and defies categorization beyond simple concepts such as ‘East’ and ‘West.’
I visit very often, and actively try to maintain a strong connection with both the city and the people. It has also proved to be valuable in terms of my training. I was able to take advantage of Turkey’s strong tradition of jewelry making by apprenticing alongside master jewelers in the Grand Bazaar. It was an invaluable experience.”
WHO HAVE YOU LEARNED THE MOST FROM IN YOUR CAREER THUS FAR? DO YOU HAVE MENTORS?
“I have a few mentors within the industry who have helped guide me, but no one’s experience and approach was very similar to mine. I have a lot of smart and driven friends in other industries, creative and otherwise, and their input and advice has been invaluable. The important men in my life – my brother, father, and boyfriend – all have incredible business acumen, and have been important sources of advice and guidance for me.”
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THE PRESS.
“I’ve found the press to be very approachable and open to discovering new talent. The press seems more concerned with the overall aesthetic, rather than where you are selling, or how long you’ve been around, which has been refreshing.”
…AND YOUR FIRST RETAIL ACCOUNTS?
“I found my first retail accounts by simply reaching out to stores. It was definitely a long and arduous process, as buyers are hesitant to go with a designer who other stores have not taken a bargain on, which presents a bit of a catch-22. My first retail account was Goldyn in Denver, CO. Goldyn is an awesome boutique, which mostly features ready-to-wear, as well as a carefully curated array of jewelry. Goldyn remains one of my important stockists and will always have a special place for me!”
DO YOU DESIGN CUSTOM JEWELRY FOR CUSTOMERS?
“I love designing custom pieces for customers as I really enjoy working one-on-one with people, and often learn from my customers throughout this process. I’m at the age where a lot of my friends are getting married. Making custom engagement rings and wedding bands for close friends has been so fulfilling on both a personal and professional level.”
TELL ME ABOUT DESIGNING USING 3D PRINTING. HAVE YOU EXPLORED OTHER NEW TECHNOLOGIES IN YOUR WORK?
“When I started designing and producing my first collection, I was hand carving my models in wax. This soon proved to be a difficult approach since my aesthetic is quite geometric, and requires a great deal of precision. I decided to switch tracks and produce the collection by creating my models using 3D modeling software, and then 3D-printing those models. At that time, I had taken one CAD course at school, so I had to go back and hone my skills. I essentially taught myself how to use the program while creating my first collection, so the whole process took a little longer than I anticipated.
I tend to be more of a traditionalist, so I was initially a little conflicted about using such a high-tech approach, but embracing the technology has worked very well for me. It’s worth mentioning that there seems to be a misconception that pieces that are cast or created in 3D are not ‘handmade’. I create my models using CAD and 3D printing, but subsequently the pieces need to be fabricated, the stones need to be set, and the piece needs to be polished by hand. This dual approach works well for me.”
WHO ARE YOUR STYLE ICONS?
“My style icons are generally those who are not trying hard to be style icons. Charlotte Gainsbourg, Françoise Hardy, and Brigitte Bardot are notable examples. They encapsulate a carefree cool and easy sophistication without seeming to try too much.”
WHAT’S THE MOST REWARDING PART OF YOUR BUSINESS? WHAT MOTIVATES YOU?
“The excitement of finalizing and successfully executing a design is initially very powerful, but quickly dissipates. It’s seeing a customer’s enthusiasm with a piece that they will treasure for years to come and even perhaps pass on one day that ultimately fulfills me."
WHAT ARE SOME CHALLENGES YOU FACE? HOW HAVE THEY EVOLVED?
“The challenges I’ve faced have definitely evolved with time. Initial challenges included breaking into an oversaturated market – getting those first retail accounts, and getting my name out there. The next set of challenges included streamlining production methods, staying relevant without designing based on trends, and meeting consumer demand while staying true to my personal design aesthetic.
Right now, I’m in the lucky position to have a presence in some international markets. Jewelry is a cultural phenomenon, in that it means different things to people across the world. Every time you enter a new market, it’s important to be aware of these different perceptions. For example, people in my native Turkey traditionally buy jewelry from their family jeweler. Designer jewelry is a new concept, which is slowly being embraced, so it’s a slightly more difficult market to break into. These are mostly good challenges to have and keep things interesting! There’s never a boring day."
WHAT’S NEXT FOR SELIN KENT?
“As a result of my upbringing and background, I have an international lens and focus which impacts my vision for my brand. While I have a lot of work to do in the US and it will remain my most important market, I want to expand my presence overseas and don’t see why those two things can’t happen simultaneously!”