Petek Saraciye

1855

petek
Leather has been used to fashion articles of clothing for thousands of years, and among the Ottomans, the leather craft began to be systematized during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II, known as the Conqueror. While northern countries had mostly dealt in raw hides throughout the centuries, Ottoman commerce involving processed leather flourished until the nineteenth. However, the industrialization of the process made it very difficult for traditional crafts to survive.

Around the same time, Ottoman holdings in the Balkans began to be threatened by nationalist movements. Muslims who had been settled in the Balkans by the Ottoman authorities, or who had converted to Islam during Ottoman rule, found it difficult to maintain their way of life, and mass migrations continued through the last days of the Empire and beyond.

One of the Balkan Muslims who faced these hardships was İsmail Efendi, a saddler from Skopje in Macedonia. He operated a small shop in Köprülü, otherwise known as Veles, and no doubt faced all the insecurities and economic difficulties caused by the troubles in the region. İsmail Efendi’s profession was known as sarraciye, and judging from the fact that one of the Muslim neighborhoods in Skopje was named “Sarrac Tursun” (Tursun the Saddler), the leather craft must have had something of a history in the city. In all likelihood, İsmail Efendi’s little workshop and store worked with processed hides, as there is no record to indicate that he was in the tanning business, and in any event tanning would have required a larger facility and workforce.

İsmail Efendi’s descendants, who today follow in his footsteps, indicate that the name “Petek Saraciye” was first used in the year 1855. This date has been accepted as valid by a number of countries and international authorities, such as the Macedonia which has granted the firm license to do business within its borders. Indications are that İsmail Efendi’s shop was located in the little marketplace on the shores of the Vardar River, where he produced sandals, horse harnesses, and whips. His son Hüseyin had also learned the trade from his father. He traveled to Austria —then an important center for leather goods— in 1882 in order to increase his technical knowledge and broaden his horizons. Upon his return, he went back to working with his father.

The leather craft was not the sole occupation of İsmail Efendi and his family, who apparently also had an appreciable involvement in viticulture. A document dated 1906 and now preserved in the Ottoman Archives contains some interesting hints on the subject. It is a petition in which İsmail Efendi indicated that he owed a tithe for the previous year, and that if the debt was not covered by the recently announced tax amnesty, then he requested that it be added to his balance for the current year. Given that the tithe (âşar) was a one-tenth tax levied on crops, it is clear that İsmail Efendi was also involved in agriculture. Furthermore, his signature at the end of the document, “İsmail the Saddler of Skopje, Köprülü,” shows that his main profession, and the occupation by which he was known in the community, was that of a saddler.

The family moved to İstanbul in 1954, and many of the documents that would have shed light upon its history are therefore unavailable. As a result, information on the earliest years of the business is unfortunately scarce. One of the few documents that have survived is a certificate of mastery in leather craftmanship awarded to Hamdi Hüseyin İsmailov, the son of Hüseyin Efendi. The document shows that he was examined in 1946 before a commission appointed by the Yugoslav Federation, who deemed him successful and presented him with the certificate. The document bears his name and a portrait photograph, and states that he was born in 1912 and lived in Titov/Veles/Köprülü.

Hüseyin Efendi decided that Hamdi, who had been seriously sick as a child, should avoid strenuous occupations and instead work in the leather craft. This latter enjoyed the profession and became his family’s latest representative in the trade. By the time he took the business over from his father, the family’s reputation as saddlers had spread far and wide. His heart, however, was set on immigrating to Turkey, as had several of his relatives. A great admirer of Atatürk, he had named his two sons Mustafa and Kemal, and in 1954, he suddenly decided that the time had come to move to Turkey. He sold all his possessions, some below their value, and set out for İstanbul. The grandson of İsmail the Saddler thus arrived in Turkey on the centennial of the family’s leather business. Even though his family originally hailed from Turkey, they found it difficult to settle in and adapt to their new surroundings. For a while, they sold the milk of the cows they had brought from Skopje, and then they sold water for some time. Hamdi Bey died in 1956, and his brother Şevki returned to Yugoslavia in view of the hardships the family had encountered in Turkey. Another brother, Şükrü, was employed for a while in leather worshops along with his nephews, Hamdi Bey’s sons. After a while, he established a shop in the arcade known as Mercan Pasajı in İstanbul’s district of Bayezid. This partnership lasted until the 1970s.

Hamdi Bey had taken the surname “Saraçkardeşler” (the saddler brothers) upon his immigration to Turkey, and his sons Kemal, Mustafa, and İzzet, the fourth generation in the business, are now continuing the family tradition. The brand Petek-1855 emphasizes the historical roots of their organization, and the fifth generation of leather crafters and managers are now in training. Petek-1855 is a genuine family enterprise, and their products are the leatherwear of choice for many well-respected firms the world over.

Contact

Petek: Maltepe Mah. Litros Yolu Sokak, No 3/2 34010 Topkapi, Istanbul, Turkey
P: +90 212 613 24 50
www.petek.com
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