ISTANBUL IHT luxury conference – ROBB YOUNG


I must preface this little report by admitting that my souvenirs of Istanbul are more of the parties than of the city itself.  And as for the conference reportage, I’ll leave it to Suzy’s astute observations in the Herald Tribune. I’ll certainly go back for a dose of culture and to catch up on all that i missed soon.  In the meantime… here’s the stately yet wild (my favourite combination) Mme Ender Mermera who, with 3 generations of her extraordinary female-led family, adopted me at the Vakko party.  We all had an unforgettable time out to some exclusive cocktail bar after leaving Cem & Jeff Hakko’s party (owners of the Vakko department store and brand that collaborates with Zac Posen).  Above, I’ve just introduced Ender to Suzy Menkes.


This is as far as I got to Sultanahmet Mosque (or The Blue Mosque as it’s commonly known) unfortunately… from just outside the Baths of Roxelana.  But I do like the greenery from the park in the foreground while the main attraction is covered in mist.  On my last day in Istanbul, I picked up Susan Sabet, my friend who is the chief editor of Pashion magazine in Cairo.  We checked her out of the Four Seasons to seek out the ‘hidden gem’ of gems in Istanbul, jeweller Sevan Bicakci. 



Sevan uses Ottaman and Anatolian influences heavily in his work.  But it’s hardly your average kind of light-hearted ‘inspiration’.  His is an obsession of spiritual fusion – his family is Armenian but has been in the country for "1600 years" as his adorable cousin and sales manager Herman said.  I guess that’s the whole Turkey-Armenia question in a nutshell.  Anyway, crosses, stars of David, signs of Islam are frequent… and opulence abound in every nook and cranny in this gentle giant’s gems…

What you don’t see here are the breathtaking negative sculptures of mosques inside the stones, Sultan’s profiles and other iconography that his atelier of master technicians create… And nothing can do them justice as slipping them on your finger

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Susan Sabet practicing her hand modeling routine with Sevan.


If only the rings came with the coffee when Herman served it. 



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Bottom right photo is of Ender’s clan, the lovely Sema Maliki, her husband, a friend and Tuce Peksayar. 


I had an hour free one afternoon after the second session of the conference and before the parties.  So I tried to suss out Nisantisi, the Bond Street or Madison Avenue of Istanbul.  An ill-fated taxi trip got me a bit lost instead and so I never saw their version of la bonne vie.  But the silver lining was that I had to take the metro since I dared not venture into another taxi without a valet from the hotel to explain where I was going.  And in the metro on the way back to Taksim Square I saw what must be the world’s most cultured underground system.  Massive murals of modern art were throughout the subway, at least on this route. Too bad smelly New York couldn’t take a bit of that air of culture from Istanbul… Here’s another:



Surprise appearance from Elis Kiss of the Kathimerini in Athens – here meeting Susan.


New pals Ruchita Sharma Bhardwaj from Delhi and Mahi Georgakopoulou, from Greece.


Ravishing Maisy, Suzy Menkes’ assistant until Jessica has her baby.


I was lucky to run into Ingie Chalhoub again who I met through Susan in Dubai last year.  We promised to catch up in Abu Dhabi in January.


The futuristic open terraces of Kanyon Mall where Harvey Nichols just opened in town and Christmas in Istanbul right outside – the sun had set by the time we left.


Sarah Binhejaila from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia had some really fascinating things to say about the market for veiled women she’s catering to through her company Niyaah, which means ‘intention’ in Arabic.


Anna Dyulgerova & Nelli Konstantinova from Russian Vogue outside Kanyon.  Diane and I met Anna during fashion week in Moscow last year… she’s just taken a position at Denis Simachev so now we can find her again thankfully.


Diane was sorely missed throughout my stay in Istanbul but especially when I stumbled upon the tombs of the Mahmut Pasa dynasty here on the way to the Grand Bazar.  This would’ve made the perfect backdrop for a glorious photo-op of DP.


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Tea time back at the Ritz Carlton and then off in a cab to the airport, crossing Galata bridge over the Golden Horn with the Bosphorous in sight.    A bientot Istanbul…