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Alp Sagnak Wants to Shake Up Your Next Trunk Show

His presentations are uniquely personal.

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IF DESIGNER ALP SAGNAK were a gemstone, he says he’d be a black diamond — opaque and hard to read.

Enigmatic even.

Yet, these days he spends much of his time making sure that people do get to know and understand him. He is on a mission to become transparent.

In fact, he tells his entire life story through his medium of jewelry.

When Sagnak, a goldsmith, first came to New York from Turkey, and opened his Soho retail gallery, Alp Sagnak, in 2008, he said he made the serious mistake of thinking he was “the king” of jewelers. His ego combined with his timing (the recession) nearly drove him out of business in a high-rent spot.

If potential customers didn’t buy his jewelry, he says, he would think something was wrong with them. He also struggled to communicate in English, which was not his native language.

“I was so full of myself,” he says. “But I started observing people, started traveling all around the United States to understand people. I realized that there are genuine people out there, and that their money is valuable. I’m asking a lot of them because I make fine jewelry. I had to deserve that. I had to become a real person. I began to understand the culture and my English got better.”

He began to throw off self-protective disguises and attitudes that in his eyes made him seem cooler, and stopped literally hiding behind trademark sunglasses.

“If you’re lying or acting like someone else, people can sense that. I started thinking about who I am. And I realize that I ask for validation through my jewelry.”

As people got to know him and understand his life stories through his expressive jewelry, they became enthusiastic collectors and his business began to turn around.

“People realized what I do and they became curious about it,” he says. “Everything I go through in my life, they want to collect that, which is so unreal, but which feels so good.”

Sagnak is still designing and making jewelry, still running Alp Sagnak and still traveling the U.S.

His current goal is to shake up the whole idea of the retailer trunk show to make it more personal and to cultivate potential collectors. He is offering a personal presentation about the inspiration for his designs (his life!) and his experiences as a jeweler and retailer.

He asks retailers to invite customers during a certain time period rather than come and go at their leisure, because having customers listen to his presentation together and then buy in a group creates an environment more comfortably conducive for sales.

Fisher Brungardt, a manager for Meierotto Jewelers in Kansas City, MO, agrees.

Brungardt says at first glance Sagnak’s style might not seem to be the ideal fit for the typical Midwest shoppers that frequent Meierotto.

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“We’re a little bit more reserved here,” Brungardt concedes, while Sagnak’s collections have been heavy on skulls, snakes, spiders, bats and dragon tattoos. One of his current collections, Pitchblack is exceptionally dark, with brown diamonds in oxidized settings.

“His styles ARE outrageous and people are not used to seeing things like that. He wears 15 necklaces at once and rings on every finger, but people just gravitate toward him. He’s an artisan of his industry and once he has the opportunity to explain his designs, they’re sucked in; they love it.

“His stories sell them on the whole idea and the jewelry sells itself.

“We do have people who collect it who are very edgy-looking and already wear skulls, but the people who surprise me are people that you would think could be a librarian.”

Susan Robinson of Susan Robinson Fine Jewelry in Tyler, TX, says Sagnak’s trunk show presentation is like no other.

“The experience reminded me of being in the Rothko Chapel in Houston, viewing the modern art of Rothko and all of the participants having their own interpretations after serious meditation into its content. It was like a personal religious experience!”

One of his stories is called “The Word,” and describes a ring he designed recently for a special person in his life with a deceptively simple design that contains the shapes of both the heart and the infinity symbol.

“I believe his Word is love,” Robinson says. “I believe he gives his love for eternity through a ring exemplifying a very personal reason in a story. He is a storyteller, whether the story is about his country, his life, his jewelry, his daily experiences or his perception of others and their life experiences. He’s intense, passionate and serious with a kind edge. His love of jewelry and designing speaks for itself.

“For me, the trunk show was like experiencing whirling Turkish dervishes suspended in midair sending up prayers of love for eternity.”

Robinson was drawn to Sagnak’s work after noticing a piece of his jewelry in a magazine. She bought it sight unseen over the phone and continues to have a working relationship with him, particularly with custom design projects for special clients.

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Jen Rose, store manager for Gallery of Jewels in San Francisco, says the level of anticipation and energy for Sagnak’s event was very different compared to other trunk shows.

“It felt like that fluttery feeling in your stomach when you are meeting your hero for the first time,” Rose says. “The excitement was undeniably palpable.”

The power of his personality overcame the divide that often separates designers from clients; he made friends with everyone who walked in the door and transformed the usual browsing experience into something more magical and fun.

“I’m happy to report that the trunk show was a complete success,” Rose says. “The talk connected Alp to our clients in a very special way, as his story and passion for his work resonated. As we all became friends, the pressure of making sales that normally exists in a trunk show environment had been removed.

“Our clients wanted to be a part of his story and made purchases to items they connected with on more than just a visual level. The excitement was shared by all.”

Weeks later, clients returned to the gallery to talk about how much fun they had had and to show off their new Alp Sagnak jewelry.

For more information, contact [email protected] or (646) 478-7220.

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