Not many countries manufacture as much fashion as Turkey, even if few of its designers are internationally known. That may be about to change, since local fashion leaders are in the process of creating a Turkish Fashion Council to nurture local talent and accelerate the growth of transcontinental brands.
Like every nation, Turkey has grappled with Covid-19; the country ranks seventh worldwide for coronavirus cases with 3.7 million. Nonetheless, this week, Istanbul Fashion Week will take place with some 30 shows, albeit all of them online, even as the country goes back into a strict new lockdown starting on Tuesday, just as the four-day season opens.
To gauge the atmosphere in the Turkish fashion scene, we Zoomed with Seda Domaniç, who was the editor-in-chief of Turkish Vogue for over a decade, and now manages a consultancy in Istanbul, advising the season on key goals like global brand strategy and digitalization.
The actual season is organized by the Istanbul Ready-to-Wear and Apparel Exporters Association (IHKIB); under the leadership of Republic of Turkey Ministry of Trade. It is supported by Turkey Promotion Group (TTG), the Fashion Designers’ Association of Turkey (MTD) and Istanbul Fashion Academy (IMA).
FashionNetwork.com: What sets Istanbul Fashion Week apart from other weeks in Europe, or elsewhere?
Seda Domaniç: Turkey is the sixth largest supplier of clothing in the world. It’s a really huge manufacturing hub, and there is a lot of skilled traditional craftmanship here; along with rich layers of our historic culture. So our goal is to bring all three together. Plus we have a giant textile industry, yet our designers are relatively small. We want to change that.
This is our second season where everything will be digital. Plus, this season is seasonless. In our view, seasons have lost their meaning – as designers have the flexibility to produce what they want anytime. And this is a gender-neutral event – for men and women. We have staged it twice a year for the past 12 years; and hopefully next October it will have live shows again, though of course with a digital mix. Traditionally, we stage the season in central hubs, or historical locations, like the Zorlu Performing Arts Centre, even if designers hold shows in many districts.
Dice Kayek Spring/Summer 2021 – Photo: Dice Kayek
FNW: How many shows or events are planned?
SD: We have 30 designers, including a few prominent names like Dice Kayek, or Hakaan Yildirim, who won ANDAM in 2010, and some great emerging designers. Plus, we open the season with New Gen with six fashion graduates; and also have Karma, a joint show for three emerging designers under one umbrella. There is a philanthropic part, since each designer gets financial support to make videos.
FNW: What innovations are you most excited about in next week’s season?
SD: We are in charge of producing the season but we let the designers choose and create their own formats. It’s a very independent season. Plus we have developed a digital showroom, where Joor is our partner. That allows our designers to tap into new markets. Reaching buyers who could never make it to Istanbul, like getting a Korean buyer for a Turkish designer. Our season is always in competition with other fashion weeks to attract buyers and journalists, so by doing more digital partnerships we help to overcome that burden.
FNW: Who are some of your favorite local designers?
SD: I’d rather not just pick out a few favorites, there are so many I admire.
FNW: Is the designer Zeynep Erdogan any relation to Mehmet Erdogan, Turkey’s president?
SD: Just a coincidence. Erdogan is a very popular last name in Turkey – like saying Smith.
FNW: What’s the next step for Istanbul fashion?
SD: Establishing our Turkish Fashion Council. We had our first meeting, and hope to set it up later this year. It will guide and help develop the industry and our designers. And changing the mix to include brands that achieved global recognition in recent years. In accessories: Misela, Manu Atelier, Begum Khan and Mehry Mu; or in ready-to-wear: Les Benjamins, In the Mood for Love, Gül Hürgel, Nackiye and Siedres.
And, next season, along with adding new brands, we are also planning to organize a Turkish design exhibition in Paris during Paris fashion week.