Through a distinctive collection of eyewear, Melbourne-based Şener Besim has created a new luxury eyewear concept where stylistic freedom is paired with form and technical excellence. Born in Australia to Albanian and Turkish parents, Şener Besim expresses the importance of merging cultural, spiritual and intellectual ideologies. Worn by Tilda Swinton, Christine Centenera, Yasmin Sewell and Eva Chen, each pair of titanium optical’s is made by hand by craftsmen. This is a brand you simply need to know.
Tell us about your professional and cultural background.
My ethnic background is Albanian/Turkish. My parents are from Ohrid, now in the in the former Yugoslavia though once part of the Ottoman Empire, best described by its multiple layers of rich cultural intersections. The exploration of my ethic identity which clearly has a story and is diverse, has advised the design sensibility of my brand. The Ottoman occupation of the Balkan region for 500 years coupled the Byzantine Architecture became the catalyst for the aesthetic of the Şener Besim brand. On a professional level, I studied Fashion Design then completed a Bachelor of Commerce all the while working in Fashion retail. I worked for Prada and Armani in retail before working as assistant buyer for a department store. From there I worked for an Australian Fashion brand as a General Manager for over 17 years before embarking on my own brand.
Is it true you did not set out to establish an eyewear line? How did this evolve?
I did not set out to establish an eyewear line, exactly. For some time, I had been practicing various creative investigations, never with a sole focus in terms of their outcomes. I did not want to undertake a process whereby I immediately identified the form, so I just focused on the process. I began to be interested in exploring my ethnicity from a design perspective as this was something that I felt I had not celebrated, until now. I have fond memories of my childhood; my parents were modern and tolerant people to point that our house was basically the UN!
My family celebrated ethnic diversity and enjoyed learning about different cultures, this resonated with my sister and I, I feel this is an important part of my story so I incorporated it into my creative practices. I had this idea of ‘framing space’ and of harnessing the power of Ottoman and Byzantine aesthetics in architecture, in particular, and it’s these twin goals which led me to eyewear.
These ancient methods of Ottoman architecture mastered the technique of building vast inner spaces confined by seemingly weightless yet large scale domes, and achieving perfect harmony between inner and outer spaces, as well as articulated light and shadow.
I’m absorbed both by what I see in the tangible result and what I feel of its spiritual dimension. The world of the metaphysical and stillness has become an important part of my life and it is my ambition for it to become an integral part of my work, not just in process but within the DNA of every product that I design – the use of the Onyx and Turquoise is the beginning of this narrative. This I wanted to explore re-contextualized to a degree with I innovation, technical excellence and my love of minimalist design with a purposeful look towards the future.
What is unique to your design process?
I think my design process is collaborative especially with respect to technical elements of jewellery and eyewear but what is unique would be the continuous attempt in ensuring within each design exists the pillars of my brand:
A celebration of Ethnicity
An element of stillness and the metaphysical
Minimalist and design excellence
You talk of the importance of provenance and tradespeople. Tell us more.
Within Japanese culture is one of engineering and manufacturing excellence and the development and production in Eyewear is a good example. Within the Japanese factory that I work with there are master craftsman that have dedicated as much as 50 years to perfecting their craft, many as second and third generation craftsman in Japan. Similar to the Jewellery master jewelers display a passion for their work beyond merely a job, it’s a mindset that I want to reflect within my brand. These people are who I want to surround myself with – people who aspire to excellence and mastery in their field.
How would you describe the woman or man wearing Şener Besim?
The woman or man I design for is intelligent, confident, independent, design aware, curious and is looking for objects of lasting quality and design integrity. She or he is wanting luxury with a high level of creativity, exclusivity, but most importantly to carry a level of awareness and consciousness.
Define your point of difference.
My points of difference I think are firstly that I am establishing an independent luxury brand. Furthermore, my brand not only has personal narrative, but it also attempts to bring attention to stillness, meditative process within the luxury segment. There is no doubt that high levels of emotion exist within luxury, but my intent is for the brand to go beyond emotion or desirability, merge high levels of creativity with consciousness.
Do you have more of an intuitive or analytical approach to creation?
The entire initiative with my brand has been driven by my intuition and I feel what I propose reflects where we are as a society.
Has there been a favourite moment in your career to date?
More than one! Receiving personal notes from Tilda Swinton and Cate Blanchett with congratulations and being interviewed by Suzy Menkes.
What is the most valuable and fundamental lesson you’ve learnt.
If you are true to yourself on a creative or commercial level even against popular thought, the right things happen for you even though it may not look like it at certain times – the JOURNEY becomes everything and fundamental to the person you become.
What is next for the brand?
You can now shop Şener Besim on parlourx.com.