by Julia Cardi
There’s an appeal in fine jewelry that’s not from a boyfriend – a visible manifestation of an independent spirit. So it’s a strong-willed woman that wears designer Selin Kent’s jewelry – relishing of a ring that’s the fine-jewelry antithesis of a sugary engagement band, this is a woman who can take care of herself.
And so begins my fixation with Selin’s gold-and-diamond finger baubles. It takes a powerful je-ne-sais-quoi to make a girl fall hook, line and sinker for designs so spare, but the psychology eludes me.
I came across the Nico ring – a vertical bar of white diamonds set against a double band of black gold – right before Christmas last year. I don’t remember whether I saw it first in the editorial photographs on Goldyn’s website and then chased it down in the store, or the other way around. I just recall precariously lifting the bell jar under which the ring resided and then snatching it to slide onto my right hand, a move that brings to mind Emily’s vivid accusation to Andy Sachs in The Devil Wears Prada: “You sold your soul to the devil when you put on your first pair of Jimmy Choos, I saw it.” I’m sure there was an obvious lustful gleam in my eyes. But heartbreakingly, albeit luckily for my limited bank account, the ring was too big, slipping off even my middle fingers. I perched it back under its heavy glass shelter, with a promise to the ring I’d be back for it. Knowing me, I probably said that last part out loud.
A move to New York City and six months buried the fit of desire for the Nico ring in the back of my memory. But then in July I visited Selin’s NoHo apartment for this story, and our chat brought back the longing nearly full-force. I half-heartedly told myself I would hold out; wait for a new job as a reason to pass off the splurge as a reward. But by now I know better than to believe my own weak vows about swearing off.
So during a recent trip home to Denver, I stopped by Goldyn to say hello and try on the Nico ring again; a dangerous endeavor, with the temptations I know lie within the boutique’s walls. For one more day, I forced myself to leave the store empty-fingered, but by then the indulgence was no longer a question of if but when. The siren song of Selin’s collection was too strong. I would return within the week; my jewelry collection was gasping for air and disposable costume jewelry was not the resuscitation it needed.
In those few days during which I steeled myself to hand over my credit card, Selin’s rose gold Koko ring imprinted itself in my mind – decidedly less edgy than than the Nico’s black gold, but in a way even more architectural with its clean use of negative space. I’ll admit that a price tag half that of the Nico had something to do with it, but the Koko ring’s quiet but impactful statement made it my perfect “starter” piece. Paired with a gold mid-finger band, it stands out as a wearable piece of Instagram-worthy modern art. It has me reaching for things with an oh-so-casual sweep of my right hand and planning outfits around it. I’m not even a little bit sorry for the splurge.
The Koko ring is the first satiation of my hunger. I sense the Nico ring, in all its black glory, is next; they say you never totally get over your first love. To quote Stella Tennant, I fear the obsession is with me forever.
Minimalist but statement-making, delicate yet badass – Turkish designer Selin Kent has mastered these types of juxtapositions in her fledgling fine-jewelry line of architectural rings, earrings, bracelets and necklaces made from every color of gold and diamonds – perfectly described in Selin’s own words as “minimalist pieces that are a little bit thoughtful.” Launched in late 2013 after a year of development, the line brought a few fluid adaptions along the way. “Initially I envisioned having more silver and a little less gold, but once I started designing, I found that the designs were more conducive to gold.”
Speaking on her influences, she says, “I feel like I would have been an architect in another lifetime. I take a lot of inspiration from [modern] forms. On a visual level, the clean lines of Scandinavian design. And then certain 20th-century modern artists from the Bauhaus movement; the interplay of the shapes they use.”
On a less tangible level, Selin infuses the pieces with life through the names she gives them – her first collection draws influence from blues, rock and jazz musicians, with the jewelry having cool-chick monikers like Françoise and Ella. “How many double-bar rings can you have? I felt like I needed to give the pieces a personality,” she explains. “Music has always been a constant source of inspiration, so I thought I’d pare that in.”
Selin’s two big influences, music and architecture, have me curious why she chose jewelry design. The craft was not the field she started in, and Selin’s path in the newfound trade evolved organically. “I fell into it in a really random way. My first job out of college was at a market research firm in New York – a high-powered, corporate job. And I sort of had a reaction against sitting in front of a computer all day, and I wanted to learn how to make something with my hands.
“I’ve always been curious about how metal was worked with; I had no idea how something so hard could be malleable and bend. So I just signed up for a class pretty randomly and took classes after work and on the weekends for about two years while I was at my old job, and then ended up going back to school and enrolling in a two-year program.”
Though she misses working with her hands, Selin’s built-in business smarts guided her to the decision to let go of making the pieces in her line herself. “I can’t run a business and and scale it and make the pieces all at the same time. I have more production-oriented pieces…I made a decision – did I want to run a business, or did I want to sit behind a bench all day?”
Despite the minimalistic nature of the jewelry, Selin appreciates that it doesn’t necessarily resonate with every woman. “I wouldn’t really want to create jewelry that would work with every woman because that wouldn’t be very interesting [jewelry]. When I was initially designing, I wasn’t really sure who it was for…someone who appreciates luxury and high-quality items, but doesn’t necessarily want to scream it. Maybe [the girl] who would go more for the Alexander Wang bag rather than the Louis Vuitton bag with the logo.”
This consciousness of style identity makes cohesiveness a key theme of the line. When I ask what she sees as the jewelry’s signature stamps, Selin elaborates, “I like giving people the option of creating their own story…I created the first collection as quite a stackable collection. I think oftentimes the pieces look better paired with other pieces that you may already own, or pieces from my collection. The strongest ones even fit in together, sort of like puzzle pieces. So I’m working on a few designs that have that sort of signature.”
The growth in the line’s distribution has been respectable – Selin has gained footholds in New York, California, Istanbul, Tokyo, Paris and London. She’s in about ten stores by her own count. But Goldyn holds a special place in her heart as the first boutique to pick up her collection. And though she has one eye on the possibility of a few major department stores for the future, right now Selin is happy sticking with the more personal experience of dealing in small shops. She also stays conscious of spreading herself too thin. “I’d rather be represented by 15 stores that do really well than 50 that aren’t selling so well.”
Every entrepreneur has their own nugget of advice for running a business, so I ask Selin for hers. “I guess knowing what to outsource is one of the most difficult but the most important [aspects]…It’s difficult to let go of certain things when you’re used to doing them. But then there are people who will do them so much better than you, who can really help you. For example, outsourcing the sales to my showroom was a turning point in my business in the last year…A lot of it is just trial and error. You gotta go with your gut, see what works, and if something’s not working, you adjust.”