Zeynep Hanif's intricate designs carry femininity, sophistication

Safaa Abdoun
4 Min Read

As one of many Arab women fascinated by the invasion of Turkish soap operas, I couldn’t disregard an invitation to a jewelry show by a Turkish designer.

Away from soap operas, Turks are known for their fine jewelry and intricate designs and Zeynep Hanif’s show featured just that: exquisite designs made with a variety of precious stones and quality materials.

The former banker stepped into the professional world of jewelry in 1999. Hanif made her debut into the Turkish market, exhibiting her first jewelry collection at the International Jewelry Show in Istanbul.

She opened her first shop in 2001 also in Istanbul.

Her impressive designs stood out so much that in 2004, the Mayor of Bahcesehir Municipality of Istanbul invited her for a special exhibition of her works. A year later, she showcased her designs at the “Alkent 2000 Yeditepe, considered the Beverly Hills of the capital city.

Just like the Turkish soaps that have enchanted the Arab world, Hanif’s designs are romantic and tell unique stories of their own. She describes the women who don her jewelry as well educated, very feminine, and sophisticated with a strong character.

Born and raised in Istanbul, Hanif has lived in close proximity to old Istanbul, which has primarily influenced the development of her keen sense of sophisticated, oriental style with a modern twist. She moved to and lived in Pakistan for a while before finally settling in Cairo with her husband 14 years ago.

This traveling has influenced her designs, which she says are a mixture of Egyptian, Turkish and Pakistani cultures.

“From Pakistan I’ve learned how to mix the colors because Pakistani people wear very colorful dresses, very colorful jewelry. They’re incredible, said Hanif.

“I like the Pharoanic designs and the big stones they used, and calligraphy. I also love the Ottoman designs from the palaces and the jewelry of royalty, she added.

Hanif’s designs are carefully crafted, modern gold and silver pieces studded with warm precious and semi-precious stones, reflecting the interplay of exquisite colors and shapes in each and every one of them.

“I like to play . I like to play with colors, with materials . with everything, she explains, adding that she prefers working with silver because you can “play with it more than gold.

The idea to open a shop in Cairo first came about in 2008 when the spouse of the Turkish ambassador to Egypt, Safak Gokturk, hosted a fashion show at their residence to introduce Hanif to Cairene society.

“I then thought to myself, I’m living here so why not start in Cairo. We [my husband and I] feel that now we are part of Cairo, said Hanif.

Even with the market growing with a new jewelry designer coming out every month or so, Hanif took the step. Although she says competition is not on her mind, she has a competitive advantage in the local market: an established name in Turkey, which along with Italy is a jewelry designing hub.

“I go to international exhibitions and know what’s going to be in fashion in the coming period so I bring those trends to Egypt, she explained.

Women here in Egypt welcome such trends with open arms. Hanif said she loves how Egyptian women are open-minded when it comes to accessories.

They like to try new things, she added.

Jewelry “gives richness and femininity . just like a perfume, you have to try it once and it brings your femininity and personality out, she said.

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