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Luca Luca: The Moment That A Star Shone PDF Print E-mail
2007-03-15 02:15:04
Austrian writer Stefan Zweig's book "Moments When the Star Shone" focuses on twelve names in world history and how certain moments affected the generally important roles they played in the past, no matter how short their times on "center stage" were. Zweig, who looks at such figures as Fatih Sultan Mehmet, Handel, Dostoyevski, Tolstoy, and Lenin, examines the moments which were decisive in making these names great.
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Blackstone believes that Turkish customer service culture has played a big role in her success. (By Ayhan Kay)

Zweig asserts that one such moment for Sultan Mehmet II, who conquered Istanbul, was when the Kerkaporta gates were left open by mistake, allowing the Ottoman soldiers to climb the ramparts into the city. Everyone has a moment in their life when their star must shine. Just like in Yildiz Yuksek Blackstone's life.
 
Yildiz Yuksek Blackstone (Blackstone being her married name) was born in Alsancak, outside of Izmir, and graduated from Izmir's Dokuz Eylul University. She had always dreamed of living in America, and this dream came true when she went to the US, after graduating from university, to do master's work. She attended the New York Fashion Institute of Technology, taking classes in fashion. After graduating, she began to look for a job, but when she couldn't find anything like what she had hoped for, she made plans to return to Turkey, where she would work with her family, who represented the famous Italian brand Benetton in Izmir.

So, Blackstone packed up, sold her things, and even bought a plane ticket. But on the day her plane was meant to take off, she received a call from the Leslie Fey company, where she had earlier sent her resume. At the meeting, Blackstone said, "I have a flight to catch today, can you let me know your decision within the next two hours?" She got the job, and postponed her return to Turkey.
 
The decision not to use her return ticket was the moment that "Luca Luca"'s star began to shine. For it was that moment that the future road was paved for the brand name of Luca Luca, which would go on to become a high end women's clothing and accessory line, with eight stores in four different states across the US.
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Yildiz Y. Blackstone in Luca Luca store. (By Ayhan Kay)

YILDIZ MEETS ORLANDI
Yildiz Yuksek began her real career in the fashion world as a stylist at Leslie Fey. Her mother had warned her, as she left for the US, "Don't return to Turkey without learning how to draw fashion designs." Says Luca Luca's owner now, "I came to see the advantages of listening to my mother."
 
After a trial period of around three months, Blackstone transferred to Madison Avenue's Eli Tahari store as a sales person. Her performance there attracted the attention of Eli Tahari's neighbor on Madison Avenue, Versace. She received an offer from Versace, and moved over to the Italian fashion store, where she made sales to film and music stars; in short, her customer profile had become even more exclusive.

After working at Versace for around three years, Blackstone realized that her career there wouldn't go as far as she wanted it to. Meanwhile, around this time, her family's business in Izmir was getting bigger, as they took on Izmir representation for the famous Turkish label "Beymen." Since many of her friends had decided to return to Turkey, Blackstone also started to make plans to return after a few months to make a place for herself helping out her family's business. Just as she was confirming her plans, though, she met the Italian fashion designer Luca Orlandi through a friend.
 
The Orlandi family is a long-standing name in Italy's textile business, and the Orlandi brand has achieved fame for the textiles it has produced. Luca Orlandi, a third generation member of the Orlandi textile empire, came to the US in the early 1990s to enter the US market for textiles with the Orlandi brand. Orlandi told Blackstone when he met her, "I want to become the Chanel of the 2000s."
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Yildiz Yuksek Blackstone front of the Luca Luca on Madison Avenue and 62nd Street. (By Ayhan Kay)

He offered Blackstone the opportunity to take the helm of a new women’s clothing line to be based in America. This is when Blackstone left Versace, and took her place at the head of Luca Luca. The first Luca Luca store opened up on Madison Avenue and 78th Street in 1992. While Luca Orlandi dealt with the designing of everything sold in the store, he left the sales, marketing, and all other work to Blackstone.

Blackstone embraced her job, and broke sales records with the opening of this new store. She was the manager, the sales director, in short, everything for the new Luca Luca. In just one year, Luca Luca, based in a store only 100 square meters in size, managed to make sales of more than one million dollars.
 
THE LUCA LUCA CHAIN EXPANDS
Outside of New York, Luca Luca opened on Chicago's Oak Street in 1993. In 1996, a second Luca Luca store opened on Madison Avenue and 62nd Street. Luca Luca, which was aiming for high end sales, then turned its eyes to Florida, where three Luca Luca stores, in Bal Harbour, Palm Beach, and Coral Gables, were then opened by Blackstone.

Later, stores in Dallas and Houston were added to the chain, by which time the brand had started to solidify its reputation across the US. Blackstone, who has seen the number of Luca Luca stores rise to eight, now wants to focus on the West Coast. In the meantime, the collection, which had started as just clothing, has added shoes and handbags in the past three years. Blackstone says that in the summer of 2008, Luca Luca will present its first collection for men.
 
Though she doesn't provide exact sales figures for Luca Luca, Blackstone asserts that its sales are some of the best per square foot for any of the stores on Madison Avenue. Luca Luca, whose sales are currently estimated to be with 3000 per square foot, Luca Luca has one of the highest per square foot sales on Madison Avenue".

In terms of foreign sales points, Luca Luca can be found in Russia, Dubai, and Turkish Beymen stores. It has received an offer to open up a store in Istanbul, though Luca Luca is still studying the market.
 
Blackstone believes that Turkish customer service culture has played a big role in her success. This is why Turkish names can be found at all the key points in Luca Luca. Heading up the label's retail sales department is Blackstone's sister, Aylin Yuksek Brenna. Behire Ozbas is in charge of the 50 or so people running Luca Luca's Florida operations, while Gulsah Haydaroglu and Silvya Baruh manage the New York stores.
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Blackstone with Luca Luca employees. (By Ayhan Kay)

Aylin Yuksek Brenna is one of the names who has worked the longest amount of time with Luca Luca's young director. After working for five years at the prestigous Turkish label store Beymen, Brenna came to New York to help in the opening of Luca Luca's 62nd Avenue store. She never returned to Turkey. Brenna, who graduated with a degree in landscaping from Turkey's Ege University, describes her older sister this way: "A director who has a very professional sense of intelligence, and who makes very calm decisions."
 
She talks about the conjunction of professional and family life with her sister: "It took us four years to work out our relations in the professional world, and as siblings. It may look from the outside like an advantage, but actually, I have to work harder than everyone else at Luca Luca, because my sister heads the company."
 
Behire Ozbas Reid has been working with Luca Luca since 2001, and is responsible for all three of the label's Florida-based stores. She says that the atmosphere at Luca Luca is like that of a family store. Reid's path intersected with Blackstone's in an interesting way that mirrored both family and country: after working for eight years in Istanbul and Izmir at Beymen stores, (where she was Aylin Y. Brenna's boss), she then opened her own store, and worked as a consultant for various labels in Turkey. After this, Reid married and moved to Florida, where she encountered Luca Luca.

Though she started out as an outside consultant for the Luca Luca stores, it wasn't long before she was appointed as store director. The Luca Luca store which does the most business in Florida is the one located in Palm Beach. Reid says of Blackstone, "She knows her subject well, and is so involved in her job that even someone who works here part-time could reach her and talk to her easily."
 
LUCA LUCA DRESSES THE STARS OF THE WORLD
For its items, which are produced entirely in Italy, some of Luca Luca's famous customers include Beyonce, Sharon Stone, Natalie Cole, Paris Hilton, Ester Canadas, and Sara Jessica Parker. Blackstone notes that she had befriended many of her customers over time, and that an important reason for the success of Luca Luca is that customers remain faithful to the label.
 
On the subject of increasing the number of Luca Luca stores, Yildiz Blackstone is careful. She says she doesn't want to open more stores just for prestige, but that in the next three years, there are plans to add three more stores to the chain. "There might be new stores on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles and on Long Island, New York," she says.
 
Yildiz, who married Richard Blackstone, a top level director in the music sector, in 2000, gets a sparkle in her eyes when talking about Luca Luca: "It was like my first love," she says. Right now, the firm is preparing to invite its closest supporters and customers to celebrate its 15th year in business.
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Actress Kerry Washington was wearing a dress by Luca Luca at Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2005.

THE STORY OF LUCA LUCA’S RISE

1992- Luca Luca started on Madison Avenue's 78th Street by Luca Orlandi
1993- The second Luca Luca starts up on Chicago's Oak Street
1996- The chain's flagship store opens up on Madison Avenue and 62nd Street
1997- Florida's first Luca Luca opens up in Bal Harbour
2000- Luca Luca opens a store in Florida's Palm Beach, as well as in Dallas
2003- The second Texas-based Luca Luca opens up, in Houston
2004- The third Luca Luca in Florida opens in Coral Gables
 
WHO IS YILDIZ Y. BLACKSTONE?
Born in 1967 in Izmir. Due to her family's opposition, she postpones her dream to go to university in the US, instead waiting until after graduation from university in Izmir to go to the US to complete a master's in fashion design at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology. Starts her career as a stylist at Leslie Fay. Works for a short while at Eli Tahari, and transfers as a sales manager to Gianni Versace. In 1992, Blackstone meets up with Luca Orlandi, and her career at Luca Luca begins. Yildiz Yuksek Blackstone, who married Richard Blackstone in 1999, has one child.
(March 2007, 24th Issue Cover)
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