Yaz Bukey, Plexiglas Princess

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Published December 3, 2010

“They’re usually more dressed-up,” said Yaz Bukey, the Ottoman princess-cum-jewelry designer, of the taxidermied critters that line the walls of her Marais apartment. To the average onlooker, the weasel draped with gold chains and an adjacent deer crowned with a miniature red top hat may have seemed formal enough for a Tuesday morning.  But as one can tell from her pop-y Plexiglas jewelry line, Yazbukey, Bukey has a very particular approach to accessorizing.

Launched in 2000 with her sister, Emel Kurhan, Yazbukey is a quirky, Technicolor fantasyland that aims to amp up the simplest of ensembles with its witty trompe-l’oeil imagery. Cupcake broaches, Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson pendants, as well as a necklace featuring Karl Lagerfeld’s face (he gave his approval, of course), are fare for the playful line [SEE SLIDESHOW, ABOVE]. “I try to make a joke with it, also,” adds Bukey as she places her cup of tea atop the plastic Barack Obama pendant-turned-coaster on the table. She cites her Spring/Summer 2011 choker made up of five manicured fingers. Middle fingers, to be exact. “For me, it obviously means fuck you!” she laughs. Such tongue-in-cheek rebellion is inherent not only to the brand, but to Bukey herself. The daughter of the former Ambassador to Turkey, Bukey is, perhaps, an unlikely fashion eccentric. Her childhood was spent bouncing from Saudi Arabia to Egypt to Holland and beyond and, like the average princess, she was subjected to a rigid regal upbringing. “My childhood was filled with studies. Each month I had to speak a different language. If I talked during lunch, I wouldn’t eat. And I wasn’t allowed to pierce my ears. But I did it myself at 11,” recalled Bukey, smirking as she pulled up the aubergine knee-high stockings beneath her printed Moroccan robe.

Naturally, one can understand her parents’ dismay when she began styling herself after Culture Club’s Boy George and chose relocate from Istanbul to Paris to pursue a degree in design rather than politics. “When my mom learned I was doing fashion, she said, ‘Well maybe you can come back and hem everyone’s trousers.’ To them, it was just a service, you know?”

Despite familial disapproval, Bukey went on to work for Martin Margiela and later to assist Jeremy Scott. But after losing both of her parents, she and her sister united to create the Yazbukey fairy tale. “We no longer had any family, and we thought, OK. We have to stick together. We’ll work together.” The two shacked up in Paris and began work on their first collection of accessories, which, featuring a white leather cape embroidered with a fox, was bought in its entirety by Björk.

After celebrating their 10th anniversary earlier this year, Kurhan returned to Turkey, leaving Bukey to design solo. “It was a good decision, because we became like one person in the end. And we are actually quite opposite.”

Bukey has embraced her new independence with her Spring collection, Incognito, the first designed without her sister.  “She was still part of it, mentally,” assured Bukey, who admits that Kurhan has been a constant creative muse. Focusing on surrealism and a whimsical uncertainty, the collection offers question mark pins, broaches of pouty lips Bukey calls c’est ahhh, and a saucer-like black hat, atop from which peer two striking blue eyes. “It’s called ‘Eyes without a face,'” explained Bukey. “It’s like a blank canvas.” A blank canvas that she will undoubtedly paint to evolve the Yazbukey identity.

In addition to her jewelry line, Bukey is in the process of launching a line of home accessories that, titled Home Sweet Home, will include a range of knickknacks designed in the same fantastical cartoonish vein as Yazbukey.  She will also launch a line of fine jewelry, the name of which has yet to be revealed, for the couture shows in July and, starting last season, has designed handbags and accessories for Zac Posen’s signature collection, as well as for Z Spoke. “We’re so completely different,” said Bukey of she and Posen’s aesthetics. “But that’s why it works so well. It’s a balance.”

Not only is Bukey a master of balancing opposing looks, but she is skilled in juggling work and play. To unwind from her rapidly growing design work, Bukey throws racy bi-monthly parties at Paris hotspots like Le Baron. “They’re always titled “Let’s Get Blank and they’re always related to sex, and then something else,” explained Bukey, quite matter-of-factly. Most memorable was her “Let’s Get Animal” fête. The party opened with Bukey performing a tableau vivant. She played the starring role of Anne Darrow, opposite her former assistant-turned-porn-star, François Sagat, who was dressed as King Kong. “I was chained up on stage and after the music started, my dress fell off!” recalls the party queen. “Everyone started laughing. And then François and I had a dance battle for 45 minutes, like a sexual dance, and we were so exhausted afterwards that we left our own party.” When asked the purpose of these celebrations, Bukey simply replied, “It’s just to have fun!” What other reason is there?

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YAZ BUKEY, AND TO PURCHASE PIECES FROM HER COLLECTION, VISIT HER WEBSITE.