By Janice Llanes Fabry
Benan Cakar had a hunch her Turkish artisan jewelry collection would be a welcome addition in town. When the Alex and Ani jewelry chain moved out of 52 Purchase Street, the Rye resident knew instantly the vacant spot was hers for the taking. Chakarr, after her family name, opened its doors last week to a warm reception.
“It was my dream space, in the middle of town with high ceilings and a skylight,” said Benan, who worked with Saks Fifth Avenue creative director Steven Wilburn to optimize the store’s look. They changed the color, added an accent wall, had storefront glass installing done with the help of a residential glass company, and strategically placed furnishings to create an inviting, spacious area.
Once she filled the cases and shelves, there was no doubt in her mind that shoppers would be drawn to the Chakarr collection. Benan knows the brand intimately. Not only did she have a shop of the same name in Larchmont for five years, but the one-of-a-kind jewelry she sells is designed and manufactured by her mother.
Fezan Cakar, a highly successful jewelry designer in Turkey, supplies boutiques all over Europe with distinctive jewelry that integrates ancient culture with today’s fashion trends. With the exception of the occasional piece she unearths in Istanbul’s famed Grand Bazaar, all the jewelry is handcrafted in her own studio there.
“My mother is a former painter and sculptor who is amazing with colors and textures,” said Benan. “She’s into natural stones, above all, and there’s a lot of history intertwined with her designs.”
Having come to the United States to study, she graduated in 2012 and aspired to “create something that would bridge the U.S. and home.” She asked her mother to send her ten necklaces, began showing them around, and received very positive feedback.
“It was exciting to get such an enthusiastic response when you’re fresh out of college,” said Benan.
“I’m totally grateful to Clutch in Larchmont for being the first to carry our jewelry. They fueled my business.”
After Clutch (which also has a shop on Purchase Street) put her on the map, Benan continued did well at trunk shows at Darien Sport Shop and trade shows at the Jacob Javits Center. “And selling the collection at Junior League Shows throughout Westchester helped me take the business to the next level,” she added.
“I discovered that Americans love options and are more concerned with functionality, which makes sense. I can’t begin to count how many times I heard, ‘Can I double this necklace?’ Whatever I heard, I passed on to my mother.”
As a result, Fezan’s studio made changes — adding clasps and more necklace lengths. With the brand evolving accordingly, Benan felt ready to establish a retail presence of her own.
“My decision to have a storefront set me apart from other small jewelry designers. I get firsthand feedback from customers every day. I see what colors and styles customers prefer,” she noted.
The centerpiece to Chakarr’s exclusive collections are natural stones — turquoise, lapis, amazonite, moonstone, among them — in necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and rings. The collection also relies heavily on Baroque pearls, whose irregular shapes make them “more organic and captivating.”
Sparkling hematite, whose tiny stones are laid one-by-one over clay by hand, is incorporated with a variety of gemstones, tassels, and the very popular feather earrings.
A silver collection combines two-tone silver with evil eye and hands of Hansa charms. Colorful beaded bracelets are great for teens and tweens, as are Chakarr’s whimsical sequin bracelets, carried in stores in the Hamptons.
The shop is right on point with today’s tendency towards Maximalism, from large crosses and layered gold-plaited bronze chunky chains to big hoop earrings hand hammered for texture. Also popular are floral hand-painted enamel or pearl earrings, as well as gold fan earrings with teardrop, and turtles or bee posts that can be worn with just the stud or as a statement piece.
And Benan sells more than jewelry. She also imports Alev Turkben beach caftans, which will get as much attention on Rye beaches as they do on the Mediterranean.
What she loves as much as the water is “the fact you can eat, shop, work out at the Y, and do your nails, all on this strip in this vibrant town.”
<Chakarr is open Monday through Saturday from 10-6 and Sunday from 12-5.
For more information, visit chakarr.com or become an Instagram follower @chakarrjewelry.>
Natural stone necklaces at Chakarr