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The changing faces of Istanbul


From hot hotels choosing to open in the city to the most exciting new design talent charming the masses, Istanbul is having a moment. We count the reasons why there’s never been a better time to visit

Beth Druce portrait
Beth Druce ,

Earlier this year, a branch of Soho House, a highly fashionable members’ club, opened in Istanbul. The successful international brand decided to open its 13th venture in the Beyoğlu district, where it has taken over the restored Palazzo Corpi, a 19th-century property that was once the home of influential shipbuilder Ignazio Corpi. Soho House Istanbul comprises a hotel, rooftop cocktail pool, a bar, restaurant and a hammam, with facilities open to non-members.

The interior features Cararra marble floors and Piemonte rosewood doors and window frames. Its beautiful and stylish design and characterful atmosphere slot seamlessly into modern-day Istanbul and the arrival of Soho House is the strongest indicator yet of the city’s rising status among the style set.

Fashion fans
Model and writer Laura Bailey has expressed her love for the city on many occasions and was one of the first through the door of Soho House Istanbul when it opened. The city, she noted in Suitcase magazine, is ‘where all worlds collide in a soulful clash of historic pilgrimage and modern magpie wanderlust.’ Istanbul is being transformed into a centre for modern luxury against a backdrop of a unique heritage and stunning historic architecture.

The seamless fusing of old and new is a winning formula in Istanbul, which is increasingly seen as a desirable and luxurious destination (Turkish Airlines has increased its number of flights from London to Istanbul to almost 60 a week). The fashion industry in Istanbul has been instrumental in this new mood: fashion parties here are documented by the specialist media, while street style photographers arrive at the city’s fashion week to snap the most fashionable attendees.

The next generation
‘Istanbul has such a rich cultural heritage that was waiting to be translated into everyday life, and fashion is the obvious tool to do this,’ says Turkish designer Bora Aksu, who believes that Istanbul’s fashion scene and luxury market have found their feet in the last decade, with people ‘discovering themselves rather than just following trends’. ‘This is, of course, great for individuality and a new generation of designers. I also think that a lot of young Turkish fashion designers are trying to break away from that cliché of referring to the past and the richness of the Ottoman Empire and are trying to establish a new, modern style.’ Among Aksu’s current favourite Turkish designers are Zeynep Tosun, Gülçin Çengel, Hande Yener and Serdar Uzuntaş.

Hot hotels
While it is arguably the most fashionable recent opening in the city, Soho House Istanbul isn’t the only new addition to the city’s style stage. Raffles and St Regis established hotels in Istanbul in 2015 and a Mandarin Oriental is set to open in 2016.

The art of the matter
The art scene is also becoming more vibrant, with large contemporary spaces including Istanbul Modern and galleries such as ArtSumer, Cam Ocagi (the Glass Furnace) and Sanatorium enlivening the city and providing a continuous source of inspiration for artists who are based here.

Visitors to the city are sure to also be inspired by Istanbul’s exciting new direction.

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