Spotlight on the Islamic Fashion Revolution
5 designers to know in Istanbul.
5 designers to know in Istanbul.
Text: Nadja Sayej
In a country which is experiencing turbulent political times, female designers are on the forefront of the Istanbul fashion scene. Granted, Turkey is known for its Islamic fashion revolution, but there is much to be said about its contemporary design for the modern woman. Here are a few to check out before next year’s Istanbul Fashion Week.
Historically, haute couture designer Dilek Hanif (who has dressed everyone from Iggy Azelia to Jane Fonda and Nicole Richie) was the first Turkish designer to premiere at Paris Haute Couture Week in 2004. Known for her dramatic gowns, sleek evening wear and ready-to-wear dresses, she now has boutiques everywhere from Australia to Egypt and France. While she remembers it being difficult to break into the international scene, she claims her design is “an emblem of modern Turkey.”
Arzu Kaprol has also helped establish modern Turkish design in Istanbul. As one of the original founders of the Turkish Fashion Designers Association in 2006, she founded her design studio in the Istanbul’s creative district of Nişantaşi in the 1990s, and has since gone on to show at fashion weeks in Milan and Paris. She has her own concept shops in Bursa and Antalya, and launched a pret-a-porter luxury line with showrooms in Madrid and Hong Kong. She hopes her design conveys Ottoman culture met with a modern edge. Her designs have a geometric feel to her design, has shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and has had her pieces worn by Milla Jovovich, Meg Ryan and Kelly Rowland.
While established designers have defined modern Turkish design, it’s the younger generation of women designers who are far more experimental, sporty and minimal. Take Günseli Türkay, who worked as a designer for Zara before creating her own label. She collaborates with different visual artists each season, recently with landscape photographer Reuben Wu for a line of sportswear couture which is emblazoned with surreal landscape photos. With a young, playful approach, her pieces are shown at boutiques in Thailand, Taiwan and Turkey; she also represented Turkey at London Fashion Week as the winner of the Young Fashion Entrepreneur Award in 2009.
Meanwhile, Burce Bekrek worked as a freelance designer for Porsche, Dolce & Gabbana, and Bentley in Italy for years before starting her own brand in Istanbul in 2011. Known for her clean cuts and minimalist style, her simplistic pieces, she has collaborated with other brands for key products; a line of shirts for Bils, towels for Papia and interior design for Enza. Her vision, she says, is for “clean-cut, immaculate fit and quality,” as well as a focus on “designing individual pieces that create unique styles to form the coolest wardrobes.”
Ece Gozen is a not-to-miss Istanbul designer, for she is at the forefront of post-modern design for the urban millennial. Since 2013, this flashy designer brings a sporty take to geometric designs that bring together reflective fabric for what she calls sportcouture. It’s for “very confident women, open to fresh styles, hiding their femininity among their sportive looks,” she said.
For eco-friendly design, Nej Guvenc is known for her brand NEJ, which she founded in 2002, shortly after working as a designer for Banana Republic and Hugo Boss. By using organic fabrics, like linen, cotton and silk, she has launched collections everywhere from Sweden to Greece and South Korea. She has taken part in social causes and donated funds to local educational associations and schools; she also supports the Memorial Health Group and the Organ Transplant and Support Association, as well as environmental project Tenosa, where old technology is recycled into clothing and accessories.