House Of Moda
An interview and editorial with jewellery designer Ozlem Manness
Here & There met with Ozlem Manness, House of Moda’s owner and designer, to talk about life in Canada and all things jewellery. From sparkly statement pieces to her more subtle Sterling Silver collection, the House of Moda boutique located in downtown Halifax offers handmade jewellery fit for any stylish woman.
Born in Turkey, Ozlem studied in London and ended up in Halifax as a result of her mother applying for her, behind her back, at Saint Mary’s University. “I wanted to study abroad, it was either the US or Canada. My mom didn’t want to get my hopes up, but she went to a Canada study fair. She applied without me knowing and I got in with a Scholarship, so it was a sign!” Surprisingly, Ozlem didn’t go to SMU to study fashion. She ended up completing three majors in political science, German studies and “towards the end, when I started setting up my jewellery around the campus, I thought, I know nothing about business so I decided to take a minor in business for my final year.”
When asked about what inspires her to create these unique pieces, Ozlem laughs at the fact that this question often comes up in interviews. Indeed, for her “it’s more visual.” Taking in visuals from all the places she visits, her inspirations come mainly from travelling. “I love travelling and I think everywhere I go, when I come back I always have this huge motivation, fire and inspiration. I want to do more, create more – it’s the energy I get from travelling. The people I encounter and the places I see, everywhere from the airport to the city streets. I love that urban energy.”
From her booth at the market years ago to her Spring Garden Road shop , Ozlem made a name for herself with pieces using vibrant colours and different textures including feathers and crystals. She would define her jewellery as “happy” because - for obvious reasons - with her collection, she hopes to spread this “brightness” around her. Meeting Ozlem, you can easily understand that notion of brightness she talks about as she radiates light - and not only because of her statement earrings and pearl hair clips. “When the winter season comes and the sun sets so much earlier, it can be a bit depressing and I find colour always makes me happy.” Ozlem also admits that she is limiting herself more and more with colours “I would go even louder and bigger if it would allow but I am not doing it all for me, I am doing it for my market.”
“For her market”, keywords when it comes to understanding where Ozlem comes from and her transition from having a market booth to her storefront. She explains, “It wasn’t overnight at all. I went to the market for maybe 5 or 6 years. I was still in school when I started but the biggest, and most important decision I made with my business was to take my time and build my clientele. I was ready when I opened my store and also started to work with a silversmith studio, so now I have my statement jewellery and my sterling silver jewellery.” By doing that collaboration, Ozlem wanted to offer another experience with her collection, for clients who don’t always want to wear large pieces. Today, House of Moda offers both statement pieces and more subtle jewellery. She now confidently admits that the sterling silver collection is more popular and surpasses the statement pieces. “I still do my statement, one-of-a-kind pieces which are very different and not something for everyday wear, whereas these smaller pieces from my sterling silver collection, you can wear all the time.”
The sterling silver line is available wholesale across Canada, along with several boutiques that carry House of Moda’s statement pieces. On top of that, Ozlem attends shows in Toronto twice a year for the Sterling Silver collection. She also features some scarves and accessories from a Montreal brand in her shop, “I used to just go buy a couple of pieces from them for myself and I would be in my store wearing their designs and people would ask me where they could get it as well, so I would give it to them so I called the company to inquire about carrying their pieces in my shop – and now I carry a few other brands as well. As long as they fit my style and brand, it works! Currently, I am looking to find the perfect kimono to add to my shop, but I am still looking!” Although you can find House of Moda in certain shops in the Middle East, Ozlem has made it possible to receive her pieces anywhere as she ships worldwide. Beyond expanding her pieces on the four continents, she would like to get into collaborating and bring her unique designs to embellish other pieces, and get into textiles as well, “but I have to be very selective about it as I don’t want to expend too much. If I do, it will be more accessory textiles.” she explains.
Like all women, she laughs that her style depends on the day of the week. “I am definitely not as modern, I am a bit old school, I like classic things. These days, I am liking more of the sporty sneakers but I am known for blue jeans and a blazer. Classic, chic for sure!” From her little booth at the Halifax Market to her storefront, Ozlem Manness has always been House of Moda’s heart and soul, rooting her design into her travels, looking for inspiration in the little things and creating unique pieces of jewellery for her clients. ■