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c.2013 New York Times News Service
PARIS — It's fitting that Yaz Bukey lives in the shadow of the Centre Pompidou, its myriad primary-colored tubes and shafts clashing against the ancient gray buildings of the Marais.
The colorful cartoon burst of Bukey's namesake line of accessories is just as jarring when paired with ... well, anything. Imagine the "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" dichotomy between real world and animation, and that's a start. The main material for her jewelry is Plexiglas, and her palette is Crayola rich and bright. Subjects vary from stylized lipsticks, legs and hair dryers to a profile of Karl Lagerfeld's head. But maybe you shouldn't call her an accessories designer.
''I hate this word 'accessories,'" Bukey said in a sensuous French accent, wearing a brooch of her own design that looked like the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" mouth. "I used to say 'complement d'objet.' 'Accessories' makes them sound secondary."
It was a cold midwinter day in Paris and Bukey, 39, was drinking jasmine tea in the cozy apartment she shares with her girlfriend of two years, Marie Marot, who also works in the fashion industry. Next to her on the bookshelf were a stuffed puffin and a golden pineapple. Bukey wore a black Cos dress, purple cardigan and Celine heels (she never wears flats). Her blond hair was put up, the front styled into a wavy pompadour.
Her dog, Victor, a female Chihuahua-miniature pinscher mix and prone to biting, trotted over and growled. Bukey had an immaculate manicure, the tips of her nails painted with deep red OPI Vodka and Caviar lacquer, a shade the dog was also wearing. Victor's claw manicure always mirrors her own.
During Paris Fashion Week, Bukey will present her newest collection, Murder She Wrote, based on the TV detective show from the 1980s and '90s.
''I'm a superfan," she said. "I was also inspired by Agatha Christie and the book 'Le Mystere de la Chambre Jaune.'"
Bukey fetched some items for a sneak preview, including an enormous scarf decorated with a print of magnifying glasses and word bubbles that read as ad hoc detective-show phrases like "These Are Serious Accusations!" A Yazbukey candle made with Cire Trudon (the lid is a pair of luscious Plexiglas lips) was introduced this month. The scent is complex.
''Imagine a man on his motorbike in the 1950s," Bukey said, "and you have red lipstick, hair spray and your boyfriend's leather jacket." It has been at Colette in Paris during February and will come to Barneys New York in March. (Her jewelry is at Kirna Zabete in New York and the Webster in Miami.)
Later this year, Bukey will also introduce her line of peculiar home decor: witty conversation pieces like a fake piano top to turn your table into a party and a one-dimensional fireplace to hang on the wall if your apartment lacks one.
''People know me for Plexiglas and bright colors," she said. "If I do a dark collection, it doesn't work. I tried with Cult. It was all black and silver and gold. Buyers were like: 'Are you out of your mind? What you do is pop.' I understand. Yazbukey is colorful stories. I call it sophisti-pop. Now I bring in things like scarves and handbags, and then the Plexi can become the brooch you attach on your scarf, the charm or mirrors in your bag."
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Bukey's artistry is broader than is evident in her line. She designed all the shoes and bags for the introduction of Cos, and has pinch-hit at labels like Rue du Mail and has done runway work for Diane von Furstenberg. (Remember those Dali-esque clock clutches?) For three years, she has designed the accessories for Zac Posen's Z Spoke line and now at the newly created ZAC Zac Posen.
''I rarely use the word genius, but Yaz is a genius in what she does," Posen said. "It's been beyond my expectations the work she's done for me, it's so different.
''She is such a ladylike force," he said. "She can incorporate the utmost chic with a dash of humor in anything she does."
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Bukey was born in Istanbul. Yazbukey was actually her first name, and she separated it. (She refused to let her real name be printed because she thinks it is cursed.) Her father, Husnu, was a Turkish ambassador but born in Egypt. He was descended from Muhammad Ali Pasha, who gifted the Luxor Obelisk to Paris.
Her mother, Muruvvet, was equally exotic. "Her family is a mix of Tartar from Mongolia and a kind of tribe in the ex-USSR," Bukey said. "Supposedly they had the girls with the smallest waists."
The family lived in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Netherlands and Algeria, among other countries. Bukey and her sister, Emel, attended French-language schools.
''My parents were language freaks," she said. "We had someone to teach us Turkish, Spanish, Italian, French and English."
In 1987, her father died from a heart attack at age 40. "That's the day our lives changed," Bukey said. "We were trained to become wives of ambassadors or be in politics. Then we found ourselves in Istanbul without knowing anyone. I was shocked we had to walk in the street. We had been in golden cages."
She worked her way through school and moved to Paris to study industrial and graphic design. Graduating in 1995, she interned at McQueen-era Givenchy and Maison Martin Margiela before assisting Jeremy Scott. In 1999, she left to start Yazbukey with her sister.
Bukey's odd choice of material for her jewelry actually comes from a personal place. As children, the sisters would visit their uncle's Plexiglas factory. ("We used play with the machines," she said.)
Shortly before the debut, their mother died, which led to a deep depression. "I became a zombie and stayed in for two years," Bukey said. But the darkness prompted the inverse in the work.
''We used to put in movies and stop them and draw from the screen," she said.
The line caused an immediate stir. "People wanted to see what Jeremy Scott's assistant would do," Bukey said. Bjork saw the first collection at Kokon To Zai in London and bought the entire run.
''The first season we had three stores, then seven, then 10," she said.
Her sister left the team in 2010 to return to Turkey to be an artist. "It's twice the work," Bukey said. "The design part is really cool, but production, dealing with stores, factories — it's a real nightmare."
The sisters are still close. Her sister's dog is the brother to Victor. "When I go to Istanbul," Bukey said, "I stay in a hotel because her dog wants to bite me all the time."