WHAT WE LOVE: Akin to an ethnic dream that comes to life through natural forms inspired by the cosmos, Der Liebling is like a tiny jewel box from its patterned tiled floor to the giant gold leaves suspended from the ceiling.
WHERE: In the Galata neighborhood, on Serdar-ı Ekrem, one of the coolest cobblestone streets inIstanbul.
WHO: Banu Kent opened her shop and atelier in 2012 after apprenticing with a master jeweler in the Grand Bazaar. She designs and makes all her pieces herself.
What year was Der Liebling established? 2012.
How would you describe Der Liebling? Bohemian but unadorned. I find beauty in details.
Why was the name Der Liebling chosen? Because of my German roots.
Who designed the shop? I designed the shop myself.
What are your most popular pieces? Our bar chain necklace with malachite pendant, deco ring and hand engraved wedding bands.
What is der Liebling famous for? Our new 14k and 18k gold ‘fine’ collection and bespoke services.
Where and how is Der Liebling jewelry sourced and made? All der Liebling pieces are made by myself in the atelier, they are then finished by skilled stone setters and polishers in the Grand Bazaar. The semi-precious stones that I use are sourced from all over the world (Brazil, Afghanistan, India and Africa). I try to go at least once a year to India to hand pick my favourite tourmalines and raw diamonds. I only work with fair trade and conflict free diamond dealers.
What makes der Liebling unique? I am a true collector of things, I get inspired and add a lot of local details from the countries I have visited throughout the years. On the other hand, der Liebling is the first jewelry brand in Istanbul to make alternative solitaire rings and wedding bands. The bespoke design consultation service is in high demand and loved by many as well.
Who are der Liebling’s customers? Everyone and anyone who share the same aesthetics as #derlieblinguniverse.
How has the internet impacted der Liebling’s business? I can’t deny the positive impact of the internet in terms of accessibility & exposure to a bigger audience, especially on the international scale. However, I personally feel everything is being consumed way too quickly and nothing seems to have a limit anymore. The competition in the market is fierce, the mission of trying to be the best is tiring and unsatisfactory. Instead, I tend to go back to basics. I do a bit of social media to stay in the loop but otherwise I don’t like it to interfere with my creativity and own space.
Banu Kent, shopkeeper at Der Liebling
Who inspires you? My mother and all the skilled goldsmiths I work in the little ateliers of the Grand Bazaar.
What inspires you? Daydreaming and courage.
Before I was a shopkeeper, I… was a textile buyer.
What motivated you to open Der Liebling? The need for a place where I can make my ‘own’ and share my craft.
Did you have prior retail experience before opening Der Liebling? Not at all and I was a terrible sales person in the first year I opened the store! But time surely teaches everything.
What was the hardest lesson you’ve learned in starting a business? Don’t rush things, let them fall into place.
What is your favorite thing about owning an independent shop? Being my own boss is my biggest luck and to be able to control my own time.
What is your advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? Owning a shop is more than a full time job because you will carry the work with you even after you close the store in the evenings. Most of your time will be spent in the shop, and the rest of the time thinking about it. You must be ready for it mentally.
If you weren’t a shopkeeper you would be..? A florist.
What is your perfect day off in Istanbul… On a day-off I would get an early ferry to Prinkipo Island (Büyükada) where we have our summer house and where I spent most of my childhood. The island for me is a sacred place where I can relax and go out in the woods for long hikes and swim on its rocky shores. If it’s a weekday, we’ll gather with some friends and family in `Eskibağ` which is my favourite spot for eating fish & meze. The afternoon would pass quickly with much laughter, lots of sunshine and one too many glasses of Rakı.
What are your social media tips? Instead of white background product photography, I love using lifestyle images which give a more personal touch to the brand. Inspirational pictures are good to support the mood as well. Last but not least, don’t spend too much time on it.
I wish I could… have some supernatural powers; like being in two different places at once or the ability to stop time or to fly, etc.
ON THE FUTURE OF RETAIL
“No idea… In my case, jewelry is a very personal subject. When you visit a store, it is a part of the overall experience. I find it difficult to create a bond with customers over the internet, therefore I always invite them to try on the pieces in the atelier. A small chit chat, a cup of tea and personal assistance is much preferred and favored when buying jewelry. I want to believe that small ateliers and stores like mine will always be valued and push aside big chain & department stores. Handmade will save the future!”
Serdar-ı Ekrem sok. 44A Galata
Words by Feride Yalav-Heckeroth.
Feride Yalav-Heckeroth is a Berlin-based freelance writer and the author of The 500 Hidden Secrets of Istanbul. Her favorite shops are Souq Dükkan in Istanbul for the best of local design, Ryoko in Berlin for artisan Japanese goods, and Homemade Aromaterapi in Istanbul for 100% natural beauty products.