The accessories designer with an eye for luxury


What do Tilda Swinton, Cate Blanchett and Nicole Kidman have in common? Well, aside from being acting royalty and fashion supernovas, they’ve all been spotted wearing Sener Besim eyewear. You may have noticed this distinctive brand: the glasses are sculptural, sensual and meticulously made. What you may not know is that they are the output of the Melbourne-based designer, Sener Besim. The fashion industry veteran launched the luxury brand three years ago, and it’s available at some of the world’s leading retailers, including L’Eclaireur in Paris, Just One Eye in L.A. and Parlour X in Sydney. Now, as Besim launches his first jewellery collection, The Memo caught up with this creative force.

TM: What is the attraction of accessories for you?
SB: “I am drawn to luxury products that sit at the edge of fashion. I’m excited by the way in which accessories interact with fashion but also exist in their own independent universe. Fashion tends to be motivated by speed and change. Accessories, on the other hand, operate at a different pace and have a timelessness that intrigues me. I see my designs as artworks that exist outside the seasonality of fashion but enhance a fashionable wardrobe.”

How does your cultural background inform your work?
“My heritage is Albanian-Turkish and I have fond childhood memories of the way my parents celebrated ethnic diversity. From my background, I developed the idea of tapping the power of Ottoman and Byzantine aesthetics, particularly as expressed through architecture. The Ottomans mastered the technique of building vast inner spaces confined by seemingly weightless yet large-scale domes, and achieving perfect harmony between inner and outer spaces, as well as light and shadow.”

How do those ideas play out in your designs?
“It’s about exploring ancient design principles and combining them with technical excellence and my love of minimalist design. I’m fascinated by complex geometries and intricate mosaics. Some of the pieces in my new jewellery collection feature inlaid turquoise. The Ottomans incorporated turquoise in their structures and their mosques for its calming and protective qualities. It’s my way of bringing attention to the metaphysical. In terms of the eyewear, onyx, another revered material, adorns each temple tip.”

What other materials feature in your jewellery collection?
“Each piece is cast from the finest 18-karat gold that is transformed into molten gold and poured into precision shaped moulds. Once the gold solidifies, it forms the foundational structures of architectural symmetry. Each piece is polished with great care by master craftsmen to achieve perfectly sculptured crossover symmetry. I am launching with a choker, a bangle, two cuffs and three rings. I’m also exploring sterling silver as a material. Parlour X in Sydney is carrying the eyewear and the jewellery.”

Who are you designing for? What kind of woman?
“She is intelligent, confident, independent, design aware, curious and is looking for objects of lasting quality and design integrity. She appreciates luxury with a high level of creativity and consciousness.”

How did your career in fashion begin?
“I studied fashion design at RMIT and I also completed a bachelor of commerce, so I was always keen to explore the intersection between the creative and the commercial. After early stints at Country Road and at Prada in Europe, I returned to Melbourne in 1996 to work as an assistant buyer at Georges department store. Later in life, my role as general manager at Scanlan Theodore exposed me to building a fashion brand, product development and marketing.”

In terms of design, who do you find inspiring?
“I’m inspired by Cecil Balmond. He’s a Sri Lankan-British engineer, artist and designer. His work explores and experiments with form and structure. Lately, I’ve been reading Projects for Prada Part 1. It illustrates all of the architectural projects that Rem Koolhaas and his firm OMA have produced for Prada. It’s fascinating.”

What are some of your favourite places, restaurants and galleries in Melbourne?
“I love Baby in Richmond as it’s a consistent with absolutely no pretence about it. Kisumé on Flinders Lane has stellar design and Japanese food. Andrew McConnell’s CBD restaurant, Supernormal, just seems to get better with age. In terms of contemporary art, my favourite galleries include Neon Parc, Tolarno, Murray White Room and Scott Livesey Gallery.”

How would you describe your personal style?
“Utilitarian—I’m always in black! I tend to gravitate towards designers like Boris Bidjan Saberi, Jil Sander and Comme des Garcons. I’m usually wearing Bassike and I love Matthew Williams’ brand, Alyx.”

What’s been a memorable moment for you in your career?
“Being interviewed by International Vogue Editor Suzy Menkes in Florence during Pitti Uomo (men’s fashion week event) was a real thrill. Some other highlights have been Tilda Swinton wearing my sunglasses, and my frames appearing in Italian Vogue.”

Away from fashion, how do you like to relax?
“My wife Kelly and I have a two-year-old daughter, Inés, and three-month-old son, Maddox, so there isn’t a lot of relaxing at the moment! Simple pleasures such as my morning meditation and times with friends are precious.”

Which grooming products are in your bathroom vanity?
“Everything Malin + Goetz, Goldfaden MD Doctors Scrub and Dr. Barbara Sturm face cream for men. I try to look after my skin as best I can given the excessive amount of time I spend on planes.”

Which fragrances do you like and why?
“I have two in rotation: Dries Van Noten by Frederic Malle is the first. For me this is a classic, it’s woody yet lowkey and I never get sick of it. I wear it every day. Then there’s Byredo Pulp. I like that it’s fresh and I wear it to remind me of the Mediterranean.”

Interview by Louisa de Kievit
Photography by Justin Ridler
November 2018


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