Serdar-i Ekrem, Istanbul
Written by Vanessa H Larson, Illustration by Marion Vitus
Turkish jewellery designer Bihter Ayda Pekin talks about her adopted neighbourhood of Galata, a historic area that has become one of the city’s trendiest spots.
At one end of Serdar-i Ekrem – Galata’s most popular street – lies the imposing 14th-century Galata Tower, offering splendid panoramic views of the city. Just a stone’s throw away, at the street’s other end, is Pekin’s tiny jewellery boutique, Aida Pekin.
“I was the first designer to open a shop here, in 2009,” she says. “At that time there were no other shops, though some artists were starting to live in the old buildings. Originally, Galata was full of craftsmen – carpenters, ironsmiths, and glassmakers had workshops here – which makes it amazingly inspiring for someone like me.” In just the few years since, the narrow, picturesque lane has literally sprung to life with buzzing cafés, fashion boutiques, and quirky shops.
“Mavra was the first cool café on the street. It’s a place where I like to get a drink after work and catch up with friends from the neighbourhood at the end of the day,” the designer says. Filled at all hours with a hip mix of locals and expats, the café also has eclectic decorative items for sale. Another café she frequents is Anjel; formerly
“For shopping, I recommend the boutiques of famous local fashion designers Bahar Korçan and Arzu Kaprol. Lunapark offers Turkish-themed design objects that are very popular,” she adds.
Art galleries have also begun to open; Pekin’s favourite is Poligon, located diagonally opposite her store. The intimate venue is an experimental exhibition space which focuses on contemporary art.
Pekin recently also became a resident of Serdar-i Ekrem, moving into a newly-renovated historical edifice that was originally built for a prestigious Ottoman banking family. “What I like most of all are these very old buildings where you can feel the spirit of all the different people who lived here,” she comments.
Istanbul may be a sprawling metropolis, but visitors to this neighbourhood are sure to feel at home. “Galata is a small place where you can feel the soul of Old Istanbul, be inspired every second, and be among people who enjoy the same lifestyle.”
Bihter Ayda Pekin established her jewellery label Aida Pekin in 2006, after studying jewellery techniques and design in Istanbul and Florence. Sold in several countries, including at New York’s prestigious MoMA Store, her work includes whimsical pieces inspired by Istanbul life. “The first collection I created for my own brand was my Istanbul collection, which paid tribute to the real owners of the city: the street cats, historical buildings, ferries, seagulls, and so on. It was like a summary of my 15 years in this great city.