Atelier Minyon designer discusses new collections

Growing up in Turkey, Alp Sagnak realized that his personal tastes didn’t always coincide with his strict Muslim upbringing. With an appreciation for rock ‘n’ roll and tattoos, Sagnak doesn’t necessarily sound like a shoe-in for the traditional family business, Atelier Minyon, an ornate, Turkish jewelry company.

However, Sagnak, the owner, designer and a direct descendant of the Minyon family, was able to revitalize the family’s Classic collection, which has been passed down since the inception of their business in 1970. He did so by adding a touch of his taste with the addition of another collection, Edgy, that reflects his own aesthetic through diamond-studded skulls and bullet pendants.

“I was always into rock ‘n’ roll, but there was no audience for that in Turkey,” Sagnak said.

Not only did he freshen up the new Fall 2010 collection in terms of design, but he’s also refocusing the brand on the American market. Calling New York “the capital of the world,” Sagnak opened the company’s first U.S. location in 2008 in SoHo.

Sagnak admits that his personal collection, Edgy, didn’t take off immediately.

“For the first four years, I tried it in Turkey because I didn’t have a U.S. operation back then. The first four years I didn’t sell one piece … but then I came to the United States,” he said. “Literally, I only had like six pieces of skull jewelry when I came here, and they went so fast. I had found a new audience for my pieces. I loved it.”

Growing up in a culture that doesn’t allow tattoos and inheriting a traditional family trade is an interesting juxtaposition for Sagnak, who manages to skillfully embrace his offbeat interests with his admiration for his Turkish heritage.

“We are Muslims, and in Muslim religion, you are not allowed to have tattoos on yourself. When you grow up in Turkey, it’s not like the U.S. … It’s a conservative area,” he said. “I wanted a tattoo so bad and wasn’t able to have it.”

He then realized he had a way to refocus his love for tattoos, and, instead of permanently painting his body with art, he sculpted it.

Now Edgy will celebrate its second successful year in the United States market. Its most recent collection features rustic, chunky, stacked rings for simplistic shoppers, plus guns, bullets and his signature skulls on rings and necklaces. The Classic pieces stay true to the Minyon family origins, with overt architectural influences in every delicately etched arch or hand-laid jewels in the oversized gold pieces.

Stationed in SoHo for the past two years, Sagnak finds daily inspiration from his Spring Street shoppers.

“I have a place in front of the window where I can sit. I spend two to three hours of my day smoking there,” he said. “People passing by … It’s like a museum for me. SoHo is a very cosmopolitan place.”

Atelier Minyon’s Fall 2010 collection was released in August and is currently being sold at its SoHo boutique at 155 Spring St. in New York City. It will be available on MaxAndChloe.com at the end of September. Check its website at AtelierMinyon.com for more information.

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