Bespoke Cufflinks Raise The Bar For Shanghai Menswear, One Sleeve At A Time
Turkish-born and Shanghai-based designer Begüm Kiroglu set up her luxury cufflinks label, Begüm Khan, in 2011, and has since become one of the most interesting designers to watch in Shanghai’s ever-growing creative scene.
Conceived in Shanghai and crafted in an old atelier near Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, her unusual and intricate designs are heavily inspired by her family’s background in antique collecting.
As the young creative recently debuted her latest line of eclectic accessories in both Shanghai and Hong Kong, we caught up with her to talk Shanghai, inspiration, and what entices affluent Chinese men when it comes to fashion.
What were the first steps you took in launching the Begüm Khan cufflinks brand?
I love the style of elegant and distinguished men, but I have always felt that something often misses from their outfits—a refined something to accessorize their bespoke looks. This inspired me to come up with the idea of sophisticated and funky cufflinks, which could be worn as the objets du désir by the modern dandy.
Why did you decide to start in Shanghai?
I am based in Shanghai, where I moved to do a master’s degree in Chinese Culture at Fudan University. I have been living in Shanghai for almost five years now. For me, this is the new mecca of fashion. It’s not about cities like Paris, London, and New York anymore. The eyes of the world are on Asia. Shanghai is an up-and-coming, dynamic and vibrant metropolis brimming with creatives, entrepreneurs, and young talents. It’s inspirational. It was only natural to start my brand here first.
You live and work between Shanghai and Istanbul—how do the two cities compare and differ?
I find the styles of both Istanbul and Shanghai to be timelessly sophisticated and very edgy, vibrant and ever-changing at the same time. These are the cities of our time. Both capitals are very open to new ideas, new people, new artists and designs which makes them the new centers of world, design and fashion for me. Walking on the streets of Istanbul and Shanghai, it’s easy to feel a certain powerful energy.
Where is Begüm Khan currently stocked?
Begüm Khan collections are stocked at The Villa in Shanghai, as well as Harvey Nichols stores in Ankara, Dubai, and Istanbul, Galerie Huit in Hong Kong, Dukkanii in Kuwait, and Midnight Express in Istanbul.
What was your first break?
I was recently featured as one of Vogue Italia’s New Talents—which has been extremely exciting as I’m the first Turkish designer ever to be mentioned on the list! That has certainly helped the brand.
How is the Asian market responding to your brand?
Since launching two years ago, we have had a very good response from both Chinese men and women. Asian clients are increasingly seeking unique designs that reflect a strong brand character and story. People are getting bored of mainstream fashion, they want to express themselves with items and labels that are more personal to them. Each pair of my cufflinks has a story behind it. Each piece is hand-crafted in Istanbul by Turkish artisans. The Asian market has proved to be extremely appreciative of this kind of heritage legacy and design.
Who are your typical customers?
They are distinguished gentlemen and connoisseurs of refined things in life. They are modern dandies who love arts, culture, and beauty, and are always in search of bespoke creations.
Are Chinese men into buying cufflinks?
Well-heeled Chinese men seem to highly enjoy elegant, original pieces with a luxurious touch of eccentricity. It’s more about uniqueness and special items that might allow them to inject personality to their looks while having a bit of fun. Our typical customer has to go to the office every day wearing a suit, and he wants to add some spice and modishness to his day.
The brand has grown really fast since it first launched. What made this possible?
Since the beginning, I have developed the label based on what I feel is right rather than on the commercial demands of the market. I want to continue doing so. People’s appreciation of our philosophy to stay true to the brand has been the main reason for such a fast growth.
You recently debuted in Hong Kong. How did that go?
We got a very good response in Hong Kong and now plan to be more and more present on that market.
It was very exciting for us since it was Begüm Khan’s first showcase in the city. I always find it very inspiring and fun to go to new markets, develop the label and directly interact with our customers, anywhere. Hong Kong men are very elegant, very dandy, and very well-dressed. It was thrilling to see them adding Begüm Khan cufflinks to their perfect outfits.
Where do you see your brand in one year’s time?
I have had the chance to turn my dream of creating something that inspires people into reality, and I am now living the dream. I’m very lucky and excited to be sold in so many different countries and to have had people believing in what the label stands for since the beginning. In one year’s time, I want to keep staying true to my aesthetic and expanding the label to an even more international ground.
What’s your take on Shanghai fashion scene—any local brands on your radar?
Shanghai ‘s fashion scene has been budding and I believe its importance will just keep growing. What I like about this city is that it’s very cosmopolitan. Designers and entrepreneurs have the courage to experiment, which is incredibly inspiring and bold. It’s very rare to find such energy and openness nowadays.
As for local brands, I’ve had my eyes on Xi Su and Qiu Hao recently.
How do you go about creating bespoke designs for your clients?
I come up with my designs much ahead of production. The process of inspiration, production, and product control takes me at least six months. It is not so easy to create bespoke pieces, but we want to stay open to our clients’ ideas and do our best to create custom-made items for them.
What do you think of Shanghai as creative hub?
In Shanghai, one cannot help but be influenced by the clash of different cultures, new ideas and styles. This city is the perfect combination of Old World sophistication and modern chaos.