The great French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “If the Earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital”.
If you ever go to Istanbul, you may hear this quote used quite often by the locals, who believe that in order to understand the magnificence of Istanbul, one doesn’t need many words, but only needs to breathe the city. Resting as a bridge between Europe and Asia, Istanbul stands as the crown jewel of Turkey, a place where the continents collide, history clashes with modernity and it feels like a chaos at times. With 16 million residents, Istanbul is a complete melting pot for cultures and fashion.
Twice a year, the city holds the much-anticipated event Fashion Week Istanbul, inviting dozens of designers across the country to present their creations. Despite being around since 2008, the event enjoys a quieter attraction compared to its European neighbours. But the country’s ambition to support and illuminate its designers remains strong and persistent. With a thriving textile industry and rich history in craftsmanship, many successful designers like Hussein Chalayan, Rifat Ozbek, Cemil Ipekci, Cem Cinar, Bora Aksu, Dilara Findikoglu have established themselves in the international fashion scene and Turkey hopes to attract even more attention towards its new and upcoming designers.
I had the pleasure to interview Aysun Kaba, a well-known fashion consultant and columnist in Turkey, to get an insider’s view on the evolving fashion scene in the country.
– How did your path in fashion begin? Could you give some information about your work in this sector?
It will be a classic answer, for as long as I can remember myself I have always been interested in dressing correctly, finding something special in different touches, colors and fabrics. Everyone around me felt and saw the difference with my touches. I knew that this interest of mine would one day be my job and passion professionally, and I supported it by taking trainings accordingly. I was also writing fashion articles, and one day, when my articles attracted attention, I started writing in local newspapers, and over time, collected my pieces for a book. My first book “Discover Your Style with Aysun Kaba” (Aysun Kaba ile Stilini Keşfet) was published in 2012. Afterwards, I started working as a style consultant and as I became aware that my work was not only helping people’s way of dressing but also their lives, I started holding on to my work even more tightly.
For many years, in the capital of Turkey, I held conversations about styling, on the streets and in shopping malls. By travelling with a city bus, I gave free styling advice to women and men. I realised a project where I would take different women from the front of the bus, transform them and get them off the back door looking well-groomed and stylish. The interior of the bus was even designed accordingly, including different sections for skin care, hair, make-up, clothes… touching the lives of women always made me very happy. Then I started holding conversations in colleges on style and my journey led me to my second book “Who is Afraid of the Treacherous 40” (Kim Korkar Hain 40’tan) and my third book “Fashion is a Renegade Goddess” (Moda Dönek Bir Tanrıçadır). Currently, I continue working as a fashion columnist in the Turkish newspaper Milliyet Cadde, writing twice a week.
– You have been a fashion consultant and writer in Turkey’s fashion industry for many years. How would you describe the fashion scene in Turkey? What do you think are the main sources of inspiration in Turkish fashion?
Turkey is a very beautiful and rich country. Women give great importance to education and appearance. There is an open mindfulness towards the world and that comes with a search for elegance and an acceptance towards the universal codes of dressing, with a particular interest in European fashion. While an attention to simplicity is present, you can always come across people with unique tastes.
– What do you think about Istanbul’s street fashion? How is it different from the other fashion capitals?
I can say that Istanbul is a world city, depending on where you go, every part of it is filled with different variations of beauty and style. The city lives 24 hours a day, similar to New York, always alive and dynamic. To keep up with the vibrance of the city, the women prefer to be natural and authentic, always evolving themselves.
– In Turkey, we have very successful world-renowned designers such as Hussein Chalayan, Bora Aksu, Dilara Findikoglu, Cem Cinar, Erdem… but although we are a very large textile country, unfortunately our number of designers is not very many. What are your views on this?
These names you mentioned are the pride of Turkey, but there are many more successful designers. Of course, those who evolve themselves and modernize their aesthetic, are the ones who draw more attention and interest from the crowds.
– Based on the previous question, what do you think are the main challenges Turkish designers face in the fashion world?
There have been serious difficulties that both designers and the fashion industry faced as a result of the pandemic. It has become very difficult to import textiles, materials… to bring things from abroad, to place an order, to receive it. The pandemic slowed down the process not just in terms of production but also in terms of logistics, making it hard for creatives to supply their needs.
– Most Turkish designers prepare collections in which evening dresses make up the majority, not giving much attention to designs with more daywear pieces. What are your thoughts on this approach?
Now all designers include very stylish pieces in their collections that you can wear during the day. The world is building fashion to be genderless, ageless, timeless and bodiless. Designers are now adapting an outfit that you can wear at night, styling it with a blazer to make it fit for the day. I think Turkish fashion always modernises itself to fit the times.
– Were there any designers/collections that caught your attention at the last Istanbul Fashion Week held in March?
People should definitely pay attention to designers Ozlem Suer, Hakan Caglayan and Yildirim Mayruk.
– We are going through a period where the world is changing rapidly due to the pandemic, what do you think has changed in the fashion industry?
Now we have slowed down and sustainability has become an even more important factor in our lives. Sustainability means to take action by thinking not only of the present, but also of the future generations, to realize long-terms plans and to put them in order. It plays a crucial role in the development of societies and countries. With the protection of the environment and reassessment of the use of resources, I believe it will be possible to leave a more liveable world for the future generations.