‘If the earth was a single state, Istanbul would be its capital,’ so said Napoleon Bonaparte of this stunning jewel in the Turkish homeland. One of the largest cities in the world, Istanbul is the economic and cultural heart of Turkey and of the region. As with most aspects of this vibrant city, there is a booming trade in the new and the exciting. Concept stores in particular are now a great way to shop here, with local retailers carefully selecting products and embracing the very best in fashion, art and design that Istanbul has to offer.
An obvious place to start is Armaggan, a luxury, Harrods-sized store just a stone’s throw from the Grand Bazaar in the traditional Nurosmaniye neighbourhood in Sultanahmet. Over an impressive seven floors, visitors will find traditional crafts, limited-edition furniture, objets d’art and locally sourced, handmade textiles alongside jewellery and perfume. As well as stocking beautiful items the store is also keen to promote local art and cuisine; there is an art gallery inside the store giving a platform to local artists, while the YESAM culinary arts centre – which includes a restaurant and a food shop – is dedicated to preserving the rich culinary heritage of Istanbul.
Those looking to assert their youth and general urban edginess should head over to Galata in Beyoğlu, known as the Soho of Istanbul. Over the last decade, Galata has been undergoing a steady gentrification and with it the introduction of fashionable stores. Its latest addition, Sinek Store, is a small concept boutique with everything from vintage lampshades and retro counting beads to statement clutches and T-shirts with slogans. The owner is keen to support local talent and among the imported fashion from the likes of Asos and Cuckoo’s Nest are great pieces by Turkish fashion designers such as İrem Yıldırım, whose pretty, youthful T-shirts have recently appeared in UK Vogue.
While in Beyoğlu, make sure to check out Bilstore, a super-cool, museum-like store selling items including Superga trainers and the latest coffee-table books. Once a maker of shirts, Bilstore is now a hub for those on the pulse of fashion; there’s also an exhibition space showing the works of local young artists looking to get their break.
Run by fashion designer Banu Bora, Midnight Express is a particularly stylish destination and a concept shopper’s dream, with fashion-forward, ready-to-wear pieces such as quirky, coloured knitwear from 2 Ters 1 Düz, vibrant Mehry Mu handbags and opulent handmade furniture by local designer Tayfun Mumcu. Labels are very mixed and are changed regularly as the owners have their fingers on fashion’s pulse, and you will find a great selection of classic brands such as American Vintage alongside local designers. Look out for tailored, minimalist dresses by Burçe Bekrek and playful, poster art-inspired accessories by Yazbukey.
Of course, the aim of a good concept store is to put you at the centre of a highly stylish lifestyle and they can often feel more like the home of a very cool friend than a shop. A perfect example is Atelier 55, located at the end of Serdar-I Ekrem, the popular shopping area in Galata. Here, A-list favourites David Koma and Vivienne Westwood sit happily among local designers such as Bora Aksu, while other items range from Holly Fulton’s printed tops to Sylvia Toledano’s statement bags. And if you need a pick-me-up, simply head to the in-house espresso bar.
While Istanbul’s traditional shopping centres will always be important, its new shopping landscape is proving that the city has plenty of cool spaces to discover too.