This is the story of how Onique was created, the trial and error, and all the hard work it took to establish the foundations to start a handmade enterprise.
The story below is told by Orcun Malkoclar’s, (the founder of Onique) sister, Elif. It explains how she paved the way for him and the rest of the Onique team to start the brand.
“My name is Elif Malkoclar. I was born and raised in Turkey and now live and work in Florence.
25 years ago I came to study architecture and remained here ever since.
I am an entrepreneur. I run three successful companies Ebi, Craafts, and our newest brand, founded by my brother Orcun Malkoclar: Onique.
I would like to explain each and every detail, but first, I would like to state what element they all have in common: ‘handmade’
I built Ebi in 2004.
After graduating from architecture school, my dream was to become an architect, however; after a series of coincidences in life, I was instead led to do what I do today, which is handmade creations utilising every technique imaginable.
As a student, I had to find a way to support myself, so I started making handmade products, utilising various techniques from macrame to crochet to knitting. I would then sell my creations to various stores around Florence.
I learnt many of these techniques at an early age. As a child, I desperately wanted to create with my hands. I studied various techniques such as stained glass, pottery and weaving just to name a few… My mother who is a pharmacist, supported an aid foundation called Contemporary Living.
Its goal was to empower women across Turkey. I helped my mother with all her projects in this wonderful endeavour. During this project, we realised that women of all ages and walks of life had one thing in common: women in our country know how to crochet.
We wanted to find a way for these women to generate income, become independent and contribute to their families, so we thought that the best idea would be to open a store in Istanbul and sell their handmade creations.
I immediately started to plan what to sell and how to produce it, while keeping the highest quality. A major inspiration for us was the traditional ‘dowery chest’ found in each of these women’s homes. A dowry chest is a tradition that is fading away in our modern lives. The tradition is to support the daughters in the family by creating every item by hand for the wedding from birth up until adolescence. This endeavour became an incredible discovery in handmade techniques, imagination, and of the creativity of the human mind.
Eventually we moved on from the foundation, but we continued to find new ways to generate business and support these amazing women. We kept on creating more and more work without a business plan just to support the women and the traditions that were sacred to our culture.
Finally, we decided to join a fair ‘Artigianato’ meaning ‘handicraft’.
For 6 years we joined the fair. We didn’t really have a solid business plan, but we had passion, and this is what brought us our first client. This was our turning point, we received an order to create 5000 bags in just 4 months. We finally had an opportunity!
I began weaving continuously. First I mastered the technique, and then thought 300 Turkish women. These women were from all walks of life; high school teachers, professors, bank tellers, retired women, wives of fisherman etc…
The start was difficult, especially as our deadline was approaching. Some women delivered as promised, some others lagged behind, and some others couldn’t create the quality and didn’t understand the intensity of the product that we were trying to produce.
Finally we managed to deliver as promised. This experience was an incomparable life lesson to say the least…
I finally returned to Florence, my home away from home, and decided to create our first company: EBI. I continued to research day and night about new and old handicraft techniques from all over the world. I started to create samples to build an archive. The challenge was how to present and convince the leaders of the fashion world for an appointment so I could present my samples. I tried and tried relentlessly, and over and over again I was turned down.
After using up all my resources; financially, mentally and emotionally. I reached a point of dismay and decided to give up. On that same day, I received two phone calls, one from Gucci and Cavalli, and that magical day of where I experienced both heartbreak and joy was the start of my career. Since that day, I have been working with the most successful fashion brands, to the point that now I’m too busy for many phone calls.Unfortunately, some of the projects we have to turn down, not because we want to, but because we always want to deliver the highest quality possible!
Today we have accumulated an archive of over 4000 handmade samples. Every piece created as if for a dowry chest. In collaboration with designers, we pick a sample and create a theme for an entire collection. After that, we go into production, which becomes endless hours of figuring out the patterns, techniques and materials.
And finally comes our own fashion brand, founded by Orcun Malkoclar (my brother), comes ONIQUE.
Onique is the product of both my technique and skill and Orcun’s personality and creativity. We are so excited to present it to the world because each piece is truly unique, and crafted with dedication and passion passed down from generations. ”