This Former Zara Designer Is Launching One of the Best New Sandal Brands for Spring 2020

With a resume that spans the ultra-high fashion, exotic-skins luxury of Devi Kroell to Zara essentials, it could have been difficult for Serena Uziyel to pinpoint the exact aesthetic, ethos and price points for her new namesake footwear and accessories brand.

The 37-year-old Turkish designer looked to the nearly lost handicraft techniques of her native country to design her collection. “It’s my mission. The machines are all similar to each other,” she said. “I love to use my hands, feel the textures. Yes, I am doing small sketches, but what I really love is touching the materials.” Uziyel uses methods such as hammered-metal thread work and twisted and braided raffia, all of which give the designer’s shoes and bags an ultra-tactile feel (one sandal, in braided metal thread work, resembles Rapunzel’s famous locks). She also incorporates stones and hand embroidery from India to finish accents on the shoes.

serena uziyel, spring 2020, sandasl
From left: Serena Uziyel Thory sandal, $490, and Melita sandal with raffia detail, $515.
CREDIT: George Chinsee
Serena Uziyel, sandals, spring 2020
Designer Serena Uziyel
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand.

The collection is a culmination not only of Uziyel’s work experience (prior to launching the brand, she was designer at Sanayi313) but also a very specific education. After studying at the Parsons School of Design in New York and interning at Calvin Klein and Donna Karan, she moved to Italy to study shoes and bags at the Arsutoria School, eventually meeting her mentor Giuseppe Joseph Amolo. He was a grand master shoemaker with decades of experience at Salvatore Ferragamo and Prada. “He really understood me,” Uziyel said. “He introduced me to everyone in Florence and Tuscany, and now that’s where I spend most of my time.”

serena uziyel, spring 2020, sandals
Uziyel works with Turkish artisans to create the handmade details that go into her sandals, which are finished in Italy.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Serena Uziyel
serena uziyel, spring 2020, sandals
Woven sandals from Serena Uziyel’s spring ’20 launch.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Serena Uziyel

The debut spring ’20 collection will launch on Net-a-Porter in March, but Uziyel also just opened a shop in her hometown of Istanbul, where customers can sip hot tea, look out onto the Bosphorus and try on a few pairs of shoes.

The collection will launch with Net-a-Porter in March.

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