“Ehl-i hiref” translates as “master artisans” and it was originally the name given to an organization founded by the Ottoman Sultan Beyazit II at the end of the 15th century to help shape an era that encouraged and supported artists centuries ago. In 1992 the brand name Hiref was adopted by a lavish Turkish crafts and accessories store, which in their own way now supports and encourages local artists by preserving the craft of original art in handmade products by artisans. Recently opened on The Pearl-Qatar, the store has become a welcome addition among an array of designer retailers.
A high-end luxury brand, Hiref boasts a selection of fine handmade pieces in a range of materials. During the opening of the store, CEO and co-founder of Hiref Guvenc Kilic accurately sums up Hiref’s mission statement. “We believe that the rich heritage of the world needs to be blended with a modern design philosophy while remaining faithful to the original. We are reviving the Hiref.”
Tatiana Alekseeva is the manager of the store on The Pearl-Qatar and is animated as she discusses the brand. “It is a brand that captures all realms of sophistication from the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire was an influence in many countries, including the Arab countries. Hiref took the concept of heritage and they combined it with modernity. You can see this in all of the collections we have in the store.” Indeed as you peruse this well designed circular store, you begin to understand the passion Alekseeva has for these beautiful pieces. Each one is handcrafted with spectacular workmanship in so many varying materials that it would be difficult not to find a piece to embellish any home.
Gracing the center of the store is an exclusive and breathtaking piece, a handmade limited edition gold plated Kaftan encrusted with Swarovski crystals. The piece sparkles from every angle and is one of only 11 produced. Particularly striking is the glass collection which sports perfectly blown spheres in an array of colors; a collection seeped in historical significance as Anatolian glassmaking techniques were used to produce these incredible pieces that are a fusion of Middle Eastern culture and 3000 year old Mediterranean glassmaking art.
Alekseeva guides us around the store past the glittering gold and silver-plated collections to the less opulent, but no less exquisite, pieces fashioned from copper. “This is one of our most popular collections because of its resistance to the humidity and because its everlasting material has been used through the ages.” She also points out the historical reason for its popularity. “This is like the old heritage of the palaces, as in ancient times only wealthy people could afford copper because it was such an expensive material.”
Large circular mirrors with intricately engraved patterns in their copper also adorn the walls, showcasing the now familiar cut out crescent moon design, which is a consistent theme through much of Hiref’s collections.
Sales Specialist Duaa Salem points out that items can be personalized. “Sometimes a customer wants to do something special and we can do it. Recently a customer wanted to add the name of a family on a Kubbe (domed platter), we asked them in Turkey and it was done there and then sent here.”As there is such an extensive collection available, not all the stock can be stored at the Pearl-Qatar but Alekseeva explains that you can order from the store catalogue and it will only take around one month to deliver.
Hiref has a sense of exclusivity that exudes luxury yet retains a simplicity in each perfect design. Every piece is individually handmade to the highest standards with materials being sourced from Turkey. Many of the collections are named after the villages, as Salem explains. “From each village they have taken the history and the culture and made it in a modern and luxurious way. For each collection there is a history and a story.” Alekseeva expands on this as she explains just what makes the Hiref brand stand out from the rest. “Most other brands use the newest concepts to design and the newest technology to produce, but with Hiref it’s unique, handmade by masters. There are actually very few that still have this skill and there are also not many that want to study it, as it’s not very modern and it takes a lot of dedication.”
In conjunction with the wealth of history attached to these fascinating pieces, many also have symbolic meanings. A delicate glass butterfly symbolizes a happy marriage and protects a home; a small blue fish, also fashioned from glass, promotes wealth. Alekseeva’s favorite piece is a gold pomegranate filled with sparkling red seeds. It is from the “spiritual collection” and is a symbol of blessing, fertility and wealth. “It’s a symbol of wealth as the tree requires so much care; only wealthy people could afford to have this tree in their garden and employ people to take care of the tree,”she explains.
Brand Hiref has enjoyed success on The Pearl-Qatar since its opening in March and Alekseeva is confident that this will continue. “Everyone that comes to Qatar visits the Pearl because it’s one of the best places to come and everyone wants to take a piece of Hiref back.We have something to satisfy every customer and they can always find a piece that they really love.”