In order for a Sanayi 313 slipper to make it to an actual customer, it must travel three continents, spend up to 100 hours being hand embroidered, and pass by hundreds of eyes for inspection. With such a rigorous production schedule, it may come as a surprise that Sanayi 313 has become one of the most popular shoe labels on the market today, especially in such a turbulent time for retailers. However, as we recently reported in our story on the growth of the shoe market, Sanayi has discovered a niche—comfortable yet idiosyncratic footwear at a contemporary price point. “Our customers come to us for our innovative edit and we look to engage them with newness and help them discover new labels,” said MatchesFashion Footwear Buying Manager, Cassie Smart. “In particular, our customers are drawn to lesser known brands as part of our vacation edit with a focus on artisanal craftsmanship. Spanish sandal brand Goya, handwoven espadrilles from Ball Pages, and Turkish woven flats from Sanayi 313 are all proving popular this season.” The key to Sanayi’s success lies in the brand’s undiluted attention to detail and craftsmanship. According to designer Serena Uziyel, each shoe is unique in its design and embellishment, and no two pairs will ever be exactly the same. It is almost impossible to repeat the same pattern or texture.
Uziyel, who got her start at Parsons School of Design in 2002, was drawn to accessories from a young age. “When I was little my mum used to travel to Paris a lot,” she says via phone from her atelier in Istanbul. “On one of her trips I asked her to find me a suede ankle bootie with a zipper pull in the front. Of course she couldn’t find it, so she had a pair custom made according to my description.” Whilst studying, Uziyel worked at a range of luxury brands, including Alberta Ferretti, Moschino, and the handbag divisions at Calvin Klein and Donna Karan. She honed her shoe-making techniques in Milan and Florence, and after completing her studies in 2006, worked with Devi Kroell in New York and on numerous design projects for Judith Leiber and Escada. In 2011, she opted for experience with a much bigger company, heading to Spain to work with Zara International for two years before launching Sanayi 313 Atelier in 2014. “Zara was one of the best experiences I’ve had. It’s where I started to experiment with a lot of different textures and materials,” she says. “I had lots of freedom to create in a very organized and fast structure—the system at Zara is amazing and I had access to a great supply chain. I still see people wearing my designs wherever I travel. It’s the best feeling; I’m surprised to see that after years, some shoes still last.”
The story of Sanayi 313’s origin is a unique one. Two brothers based in Istanbul, interior architect Enis Karavil and entrepreneur Amir Karavil, dreamt of launching a destination for design, art and food to inspire and connect with people who had the same passions. The brothers converted an abandoned car repair shop, naming it ‘Sanayi 313,’ and the concept store was born. Uziyel was brought in as a creative consultant, but eventually her passion for designing shoes and bags came to the surface and the trio decided to go ahead with their own shoe brand to sell within the store. Three years later, and Sanayi 313 shoes and bags have become popular on a global scale. The @sanayi313 Instagram has over 50K followers. Slippers continue to be the most popular style season after season, and for Fall 2017 there is already a wait list for the Stelle (Star) Slippers, Stelle Booties and Multi Ragno (Spider) Booties. “The best-sellers are typically styles that show a lot of intricate workmanship and handcrafted details,” says Uziyel. The detail is a manual process that can take months to execute and there are several stages involved in making one pair of shoes. First, Uziyel develops shoe and handbag concepts and designs and from there, fabrics are sourced in Italy and Spain. Fabrics are then delivered to an atelier in India to be hand embroidered. Each artwork is executed in rigorous precision with the most meticulous attention to detail, using a wealth of traditional skills in the artisanal workshop. The unique weaving method used on the slippers was inspired by the delicate metallic weaving on the caftans of the Ottoman Empire. Unfortunately, in Turkey, this tradition of weaving is starting to disappear. It is almost impossible to repeat the same pattern or texture, and often takes 36 to 60 hours to weave each thread and complete a single one embellishment. It can take three days to decorate a clutch. Once the handcrafted artwork is completed in the atelier, the piece will travel to Italy to be assembled. While sandals, slides, clutches, and small top handle bags make up the collection, Sanayi 313’s signature silhouette is the slipper. “I strongly believe in 'classics'’ rather than trends,” says Uziyel. “Slippers will stay as one of the key elements of our wardrobes. Comfort, function and esthetic are the most important elements of my design process.”
With a roster including MatchesFashion, Bergdorf Goodman, Net-a-Porter, MyTheresa, Moda Operandi, and more, Sanayi 313 has come leaps and bounds from their humble beginnings. “The challenges,” says Uziyel, “lie in combining creativity with a solid production schedule and strong organizational skills.” A mean feat, indeed, but one she has executed to perfection.