Serra Turker

LONDON — Accessories label Misela Istanbul is ready to expand beyond its native Turkey and is doing so with a bold move — opening its first stand-alone European store on London’s Mount Street, next to the likes of Balenciaga, Gianvito Rossi, Celine and Moynat.

For the company’s founder and designer Serra Turker, the aim was to be positioned on a street that had a historic, local feel but at the same time would help the brand gain the visibility it’s looking for.

“Fewer people know the brand in London. If you want to get your name out there, you need to be positioned in a way that makes your message clear when people see the store,” said the designer. “If I were to open somewhere else, it would be much harder. This location speaks for the brand. Being next to bigger brands does scare me, but at the same time those are bigger teams; no other designer or owner is in the store, while I plan to be around. It adds a very personal touch.”

Expanding in the U.K. will also offer a new growth avenue for the company, so that it no longer has to depend entirely on its Turkish business, given the volatile Turkish lira. Unlike other labels that produce in Europe, it will also remain unaffected by changes in import and export taxes, post-Brexit.

Misela, which remains an insider’s secret in London circles and offers a variety of price points from contemporary to premium luxury, will bring a new dynamic on the Mayfair street, which has so far been populated by widely known, luxury names or local stars, including Christopher Kane, Roksanda and Nicholas Kirkwood.

A Misela Istanbul lookbook image

A Misela Istanbul lookbook image.  Courtesy Photo

The brand’s collections range from travel accessories, which are priced between 180 and 220 pounds and offer an easy entry point into the brand, to classic handbag styles such as totes, clutches and bucket shapes featuring playful pops of color and textures. Prices for handbags can range from 400 pounds to 2,000 pounds for exotics or leather styles.

“That’s what I learned in retail — you have to have a wide range of product, because you don’t want to miss a sale and you have to keep the business running,” Turker said. “Buying a bag is hard, you have to know and trust the brand. The travel collection, which is more accessible, offers the customers a way to get to know us.”

The new store is reflective of the brand’s Istanbul flagship, which is located in the less commercial Beyoglu area, next to Soho House. It features modernist decor, such as gray concrete floors and sleek, gold rails, as well as some more Turkish references with antique pieces scattered around.

It will feature a series of exclusives, starting with a new collaboration with British influencer Alice Naylor-Leyland. A fan of the brand, the influencer created her first capsule of rainbow-hued leather totes and travel accessories for the label last year, helping spread awareness in the London market and she will now debut a summer bag to mark the store opening.

A collaboration and London event with Istanbul-based label Tohum, whose shell necklaces stirred a retail storm last summer, is also in the works for later this year.

A Misela Istanbul lookbook image

A Misela Istanbul lookbook image.  Courtesy Photo

The opening is in line with the brand’s direct-to-consumer strategy, which is what allowed Turker to build up her business in Turkey.

“I wanted to create a world with my product, where people can come in and enjoy an experience — it’s one thing if you tell them your story and another if they can come and experience it firsthand. I didn’t know how to do that with wholesale, the story got lost somewhere in between,” said Turker, who launched her label over 11 years ago and then shifted her focus to retail six years ago, with the opening of her first space in Istanbul.

“That’s when things started changing because I was connecting with customers directly. What was a small collection started growing, because I had a clear idea of what they wanted.”

Turker added that part of her success has also been the offer of a wide range of personalization services, with customers able to customize the colors of their bags or add embroidered monograms on the brand’s popular travel pouches and other small leather goods. Turker has built a vertical operation, with all products manufactured in-house in Turkey, to facilitate a more bespoke service.

Serra Turker

Serra Turker  Courtesy Photo

She plans to bring the same values of intimacy and personalization to her new London location, where she will be spending time with customers and creating new designs based on their feedback.

“With each customer that I meet, there’s the opportunity to design something new for them. That’s the challenge,” added the designer.