Gaye Cevikel takes Turkish design to the 21st century, marrying Western flair with Oriental opulence.
Gaye Cevikel, founder of luxury design brand Gaia & Gino reinvents Turkey's rich, cultural past, creating an innovative new design language for the future.
Gaye Cevikel is a major force in Turkey's emerging design scene. The daughter of an architect, Cevikel developed a passion for design at an early age. In the early Nineties, armed with a master's degree in international relations, she began her entrepreneurial ascent with the opening of Turkey's first contemporary design store, Decorum, introducing Italy's top design brands to the Occident.
Foreseeing the country's integration into the European market, resulting in a rapid economic ascent and a flourishing luxury market, Cevikel recognized the need to create a design language for the future, while honoring Turkey's precious, privileged history of decorative arts and in 1999 Gaia & Gino was born.
Named after Gaye and her beloved canine companion Gino, in only four years since the brand's official launch Cevikel has achieved incredible success, both personally, and as a brand. Recently the brand expanded into luxury pet products under the name of Gino the Dog. As a design ambassador, she has brought Turkey to the fore, bringing its illustrious past into the present, courtesy of the world's leading design stars, from Karim Rashid to Andree Putman, while raising an awareness for contemporary Western style.
Gaye Cevikel's definition of luxury:
Luxury is different for everyone. For me it's time, leisure time and not doing anything really.
If luxury were...
Paris – paris is luxury
There certain people that you can associate with luxury, but I have to think about it
The moment you spend with your family. This is definitely luxury.
You are credited with opening Turkey's first contemporary design stores?
Yes. Decorum was actually four design stores. The idea was bringing design products and design companies into turkey. We were the first. This was in 1992, so at this time in turkey design was unknown and foreign to people. We started bringing design objects, design products and design textiles into the Turkish market, and so people got used to the names Alessi, Kosta Boda and others, through us. However, we closed last in 2006 because we wanted to do our own thing, and there is too much to do – all over the world – with Gaia & Gino.
Was the concept initially well-received?
No, our store was like a museum for people, they would just walk around and look at the things. We were Alessi's distributors, now we are the agents. Decorum continues to be the agents for Alessi in Turkey, but we stopped with the others because we wanted to concentrate on Gaia & Gino, which is our baby and the extension of Decorum. It has helped us to bring out a brand and collection of our own
The premier collection was designed by Milan-based Turkish designer Defne Koz, are you still working with Defne or any other Turkish designers?
No, not at the moment. We will do more projects with Defne Koz, definitely, and I'm looking around all the time. If I find someone who's design language is suitable for Gaia & Gino, we will definitely work with them, but I haven't seen any other than Defne.
You take influences from Turkish decorative arts, do you think it's important for young designers to draw from heritage or create a new language?
Yes, I believe that Turkey should find its own design language. The reason why we go to our cultural heritage is because it is very rich and with Gaia and Gino we don't present things as, for an example, a glass from the Turkish decorative arts, we just take a detail from it. If you take it as it is, it already exists in the market or in our history, so why re-introduce it? We just like to take a detail and translate it into something else, so if you look at the products you don't see anything that is a particular Turkish form. In the first collection of Karim Rashid that was the theme, but now it's completely different.
You've worked with an impressive roster of designers.
Yes, we are building a team of key designers, Arik Levy is one of them and Jaime Hayon will be one too, so we will be building up collections with them, but this doesn't mean that we won't be working on projects with other great designers as well. It's like a long-term relationship, if you get along well and it goes well, why don't you collaborate? This person knows your brand and you know them, so at the end of the day it's a collaboration, a creation and a synergy.
You studied political science and marketing – what is the secret of Gaia & Gino's success from a marketing point of view?
I think all of it, and also passion! Of course, it helps that I have a business background, this is important in terms of business, but sometimes some projects are not commercial. Sometimes a project comes in front of me and I say, 'ok, this is not going to be the most successful product', but we say, Ok we're going to do that, even though it's not going to sell, there's always a balance. At the end of the day, you want to be successful and you want to sell products, that's why my business background really helps, but the most important thing is passion.
What are your future plans?
Obviously the biggest project is Gino the Dog, but one of our other aims is to use more Turkish handicrafts, this is my mission. I was in the south east in Anatolia with a friend of mine, we went to all places in south eastern Anatolia looking at Turkish handicrafts, so I want to do that as a theme, but not in an authentic way, not as a pastiche. We want to bring all the contemporary designers to really change them, to convert them into something else. It will be something that we can do for these people because otherwise it will be lost, so this is one of my biggest projects.
We also plan to open our first flagship store in New York in around 2009.
What do you (and Gino) do in your spare time?
We don't really have any time, last year was crazy. I'm travelling for two or three days every week. Spare time is spent resting, playing with Gino and going to the movies. I love skiing but I couldn't go last year. I like just having fun. I also love sailing in the summer on the Turkish coast.