If you’re perusing the internet’s best luxury e-commerce sites for wardrobe staples like leather blazers, knit dresses, and tailored separates these days, chances are you’ve already come across Zeynep Arçay. The eponymous Turkish designer launched her brand in 2016 to fashion insider fan fare and her name has been doing the rounds on the lips of style stars like Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner ever since. Now, the brand has tapped one of its day-one fans, Elsa Hosk, to feature in its first large-scale brand campaign. We caught up with Arçay to get the low down on the Resort ’23 collection and to hear what’s in the pipeline.
You have a background in business, what did your early career look like? And how did this foundation help get your brand off the ground?
I studied computer engineering and worked in the corporate world as a top executive for many years. Knowing how to manage a business in all aspects helped me tremendously when I decided to pursue my lifelong dream of setting up my own fashion brand.
Tell us about the backstory to launching!
In 2016 I launched my brand in New York City. My desire was to apply my strength, passion, and business savvy to a new endeavor—one that would reflect my style and sensibilities while representing my roots. The foundation of the Zeynep Arçay collection is rooted in tailoring through leather, silk, and wool. My vision was to give tailoring a new identity—one achieved through creating beautiful blazers, trousers, dresses, and outerwear, blending the masculine and feminine. From day one my goal was to create a luxury international brand that could touch every corner of the world with my designs.
As an Istanbul-based brand, what marks you apart?
Istanbul has the advantage of being just in-between Europe and Asia and is the connector of many different cultures. This has given me the unique opportunity to analyze and incorporate them into various aspects of my collections.
In what way does the city influence the aesthetics of the brand?
Yes, definitely. Istanbul is one of the most amazing cities in the world and I find it to be very inspiring. I feel very lucky as every small detail throughout the city gives me fresh and new creative energy and I try to reflect these details in my collections.
You’re known for your leather—what do people need to know about your approach to leather separates?
I am in love with leather! We work with paper-thin leathers that feel butter soft, all in amazing colors produced exclusively for us. The leathers are hand-selected by me at tanneries certified by the Leather Working Group, which promotes sustainable and appropriate environmental business practices within the leather industry.
The brand is named for your grandmother—how does her personality influence the direction?
My roots go back to Crete Island, where I spent my childhood on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. My parents had my sister and I many years after being married, 13 to be exact. It was important to them that we were a very close family. By default, this also made me the last grandchild of the family and my parents chose to name me after my grandmother. She had never accepted to give her legacy name to any of her grandchildren until I was born. She died when I was one but I was raised listening to stories about how strong and creative she was. All of my family says I took not only her name, but her personality. When it came time to name my brand, I wanted it to reflect my roots as well as myself. It felt right to name the collection after my grandmother, Zeynep Arçay.
View this post on Instagram
What has the reception to the brand been like in the US?
When we had the first launch in NYC I remember that most of the people who first saw us were taken by the aesthetic and the story of the brand. Since then we have continued to add new and exciting customers each season.
Have any celebrity fans helped put your name on the map?
We are lucky to have many notable celebrity fans including Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Kylie Jenner, Kristen Stewart, Jessica Biel, Katie Holmes, Elsa Hosk, Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, and many more that have been wearing the collection since day one. This is something we are very thankful for!
What was it like working with Elsa, and why was she the right fit for your first big name face?
I love her style and have always been a big fan. She loves our brand and she carries all of the collections in the most beautiful way. She also has an amazing personality which made us work very easily with her for this campaign.
Images: Yulia Gorbachenko
Tell us about the campaign and collection. What can we expect?
I love the ’90s and sparkle and have been inspired by this trend for the last few seasons. You will see the same party vibe throughout this collection, and I have added more colors including strawberry red, which is my favorite. Popular items of the season include the knit catsuits in both black and red—they have been a big hit.
What do you want women to feel when they wear your clothing?
Strong and feminine in the most elegant way. I want them to feel like they can conquer the world.
What do you like to do when you visit NYC for work and fashion week?
I ended up not coming to NYC for NYFW at the very last minute and instead flew to LA for the campaign shooting, but normally I love to stay in Soho, shop in my favorite neighborhood locations, try to catch nice art exhibitions, visit the flea markets, and dine at some of my favorite restaurants including Cipriani Downtown, Bond St, and Sant Ambroeus.
Tell us more about the Spring Summer ’23 pieces your team showed during NYFW, and about the shoot, in Nemrut Dagi.
We showed the SS ’23 collection in both NYC and Paris this season. The ’90s sparkle continues, this time with hues of silver and green. Sheer plays a major role in giving an elegant sensuality to pieces of the collection. Our lookbook photoshoot took place in Nemrut Dağı which is one of the highest mountains in Southeast Turkey with amazing sunrise and sunset views. Nemrut Dagı is one of the most inspiring locations in Turkey and is regarded as the House of The Gods, built by the late Hellenistic King Antiochus I (69-34 B.C.) as a monument to himself. While there, a beautiful spiritual harmony was created with the collection—the pop colors of the season blended perfectly into the DNA of the location.
View this post on Instagram
What are you working on for the rest of 2023?
We already started to work on new collaborations and surprises for 2023. It will be an amazing year for Zeynep Arçay lovers!
What’s your biggest dream for the brand?
My biggest dream is to become a heritage lifestyle brand worldwide.