Crush Of The Week

Meet Milka Karaağaçlı İnce of Kismet by Milka, the jewelry brand that celebrates life

By  | 

Jewelry brand Kismet by Milka creates bold and refined pieces to empower women and defies gender norms through creativity and expression. Inspired by nature and the environment, their collections capture the energy and power of the earth’s elements in its jewels and piercings. With its new collection MILKA’S PARTY, Milka takes us on celebration of life, a gatsbyesque party with pieces to sparkle and shine all night.
We met its founder,  Milka Karaağaçlı İnce, to talk about nature, freedom and empowerment, from Istanbul to the world.

By Emma Breidi

You created Kismet by Milka in 2009, can you tell us about the genesis of the brand?

After working for many years in global agencies in the field of communication and advertising, I realized that I wanted to do something different. The desire to create something within me, to realize my dreams, and bring myself into existence began to outweigh the path I was in. At that time, I was traveling to London frequently for work, and I always carried small gifts with me whenever I went. Although it’s a figure at the center of our culture, the evil eye wasn’t really well known overseas. I thought I’d take a necklace with evil eye beads on one of my trips, and I’m glad I did so! This necklace, which represented an ancient Turkish tradition was admired and appreciated by my friend and her friends.

All of a sudden, everyone who saw the necklace started to order bracelets, earrings, and necklaces with evil eyes. This also inspired me. Super shocked at the demand, I crafted 70 different designs with evil eyes in just 3 weeks and sent them over to London. All of them sold out, which laid the foundations for Protect Me, known as Kismet by Milka’s first collection featuring the evil eye with eyelashes. As people liked and wanted to buy my designs, I decided to fulfill my childhood dream. I had found a space where I could express my perspective on life and my values.

As I began to learn the foundations of the art of jewelry design, I started to feel more satisfied, left my corporate job, and embarked on this new adventure. This is how the story of Kismet by Milka began.

Your designs are largely inspired by the earth’s elements, how does nature and the environment impact your creative process?

There’s something really powerful about nature. The way it is both perfect and imperfect inspires me a lot. Nature has an endless palette to call on for inspiration, it is a library of textures, patterns, and motifs. Us humans are part of nature and I believe it is absurd to think of nature and humankind as separate entities. I look at the natural world with a sense of awe, wonder, and curiosity and then connect those ideas to new designs.

As you’ve said most off my collections are inspired by mother nature not only in terms of form but also in terms of texture. I incorporate textures that I find in nature to break the classic clean-cut look we mostly get in jewelry design. I love seeing the way gold can transform through different textures. Collections like Innerland, Open Sea, and Victory all feature natural elements which I absolutely love..

Your collections celebrate the power of women, their struggles, their battles and victories. What about yours? Was it difficult to impose yourself as a female entrepreneur and business woman?

As a brand who has always supported female empowerment, we’ve always been inspired by women of all kinds. In a patriarchal society, women definitely are disadvantaged compared to men. Us women build a career for ourselves while caring for a child at home. Our work is never over. Regardless of a woman’s experience, education or abilities, the patriarchal nature of society holds the perception that women are less qualified and less competent than men. What patriarchy has done is convince people that a strong and intelligent woman represents a problem; a disruption to the social order rather than an integral part of it.

The world we live in at the moment is changing tremendously. Even though people are much more socially aware, the lack of women in leadership roles is still real. The sooner we understand that this lack holds back not only women, but all people, the sooner we’ll be able to advance society as a whole. It’s unbelievable that we’re still talking about such outdated point of views. It is not only women who are being “othered” by society and therefore I don’t want to label my collections as solely female inspired. There are so many people who are struggling to fit into society. The LGBTQ community, ethnic minorities, environmentalists, and so many more communities to name… These people are at the margins of society, and are in a never-ending battle to claim their victory. Their battle has both inspired me and fascinated me which led me to create the collection Victory.

“As a brand who has always supported female empowerment, we’ve always been inspired by women of all kinds.”

How do your jewels empower women and allow them to express their multiple identities?

I design my jewelry so that they empower both men and women while helping them express themselves. All of my designs carry deep meaning behind them. Each have a story. I want people to connect with these stories as well, besides the design itself. Accessories change everything about an outfit. They’re the secret ingredient that define your style. You might be wearing a simple pair of jeans and a t-shirt but the jewelry you wear will show your true style to the outside world. With so many options to play with while reflecting your style, personality, and mood, there’s a piece by Kismet by Milka for everyone out there.

You designed unisex collections, where did the will of defying gender norms stem from?

Kismet by Milka seeks inspiration out of change and grows through transformation. As a brand that started out as the voice of the powerful female who’s never afraid of showing her true colors, we have now adapted genderless approach which is evident in our new collections. Within the age we live in there are no rules, no boundaries. Societal norms and thoughts are much more fluid. In light of this idea that we passionately support, Kismet by Milka has aimed to shed an image of identifying and linking itself to a certain gender, culture or way of design. Our designs defy gender norms and transcend borders and limits!

Your new collection MILKA’S PARTY is a hymn to freedom, celebration and party. Can you tell us more about this collection and the need to escape reality?

The world has been through so many ups and downs in the past couple of years. We felt hopeless, lonely, and detached at times. As the world transformed so did we. We came into realization that we are human and we need time to rest, unwind, and feel alive. With Milka’s Party we’re focusing on the idea of celebrating our success. Because if we don’t, it won’t celebrate us. We wanted to create and offer a world where we broke free from our responsibilities and anxieties. A universe where enjoy having fun and taking a break. We’ve imagined a space where we leave judgment and negativity behind. A portal where we escape the reality of everything.

The collection features designs that range from concrete, party related imagery to abstract ornamentations crafted with 14k roslow gold, diamonds, and colored precious gems and I absolutely love it!

You build a successful brand with jewels worn by many celebrities: Britney Spears, Rihanna, Beyonce, Meghan Markle, Madonna with your famous M ring… How was the journey from Istanbul to international success and stores all around the world?

It honestly is a blessing to see the celebrities that I’ve dreamt of wearing designs from Kismet by Milka. It is an incredible feeling to see my pieces come to life on such famous names. As for this success… I believed in myself and never allowed myself to become discouraged beginning from day 1. I had confidence in my ideas but I would also like to thank my amazing team. Our mutual efforts got us to where we are right now as a brand. I believe that the road to success is based on a great idea. If you have one, make sure to bring it to life. Finding the smallest idea and adding on to it, perfecting it, differentiating it paves the way to success, I mean this can be applied to life in general, not only design. You have to work very hard and develop yourself constantly.

When you combine your ideas with touches from your personality, the outcome always is extremely special. Once you have that sincere outcome, I think people react really well. I have always set my goals high and have dreamt of the best for my brand while always remaining positive. I’m really grateful for where I am now, and I’m actually incredibly motivated to be even more productive rather than being content with my current success.

What is the impact of Turkish culture on your creative process and your designs?

Turkish culture has tremendously inspired my creative process, especially in the beginning. I started my brand with the evil-eye, a figure that has manifested itself throughout the lives of absolutely every single Turk. Interestingly, a figure rooted so deeply in our culture wasn’t actually quite well known by the West. I believe that the desire to be possibly protected by a certain force is a universal human experience/feeling — it’s something that touches us all. This notion of connecting people from across the globe with an element from my own culture had motivated me so passionately that I found myself beginning my jewelry-making journey with the iconic eyelash evil-eye. I felt like revisiting the eye would make me transcend my own borders while both literally and figuratively making me see through a wider, more global perspective.

“Turkish culture has tremendously inspired my creative process, especially in the beginning. I started my brand with the evil-eye, a figure that has manifested itself throughout the lives of absolutely every single Turk.”

You designed 17 collections in 13 years … What evolution have you observed in the brand’s identity?

I really do believe in the idea that one cannot grow without leaving their comfort zone. This year has been a year of taking risks and refusing tradition for the brand. The piercing collection is by far the most concrete reflection of our rebellion. This exact idea of leaving familiar territory provoked us to take a huge leap of faith in refurbishing our image. In order to move forward at all times, I believe that one must consider the necessities of the age it lives and breathes in. In an age where anything and everything is basically possible, sticking to a traditional, non-risqué look is the exact opposite of the core of Kismet. Within the past 13 years so much has changed. The textures, materials and colors have undergone a massive change mirroring our new identity.

I believe that as a brand we’re more powerful than ever before. Besides changes in design and product range, we’ve also completely altered our brand identity, logo, and store design. Our current look is a true representation of where we stand as a brand nowadays.

Kismet is a Turkish word to define destiny, fortune, fate … Do you believe in your own destiny?

We reject the idea of waiting for a destiny that has been constructed according to our faith. We hold the power to build our own future, to move forward. Kismet by Milka always tries to get a glimpse of the future. It never looks back. We are extremely inspired by that idea. You are in charge of life. Not anyone else. So I believe that we shouldn’t think that destiny is something immovable and still. Instead I believe that we should never settle for what we have and always look forward.

There is enough strength within us to deny a destiny that we don’t like. The core of Kismet by Milka is to fight against your surroundings without giving in. We have a huge platform right now and it is in our power to try to do something good and forward thinking with the tools at our disposal.

Dive further into Milka’s universe and shop the pieces right here!