Melih Çelet, the founder of Desa, introduced Turkish women to shoulder bags in the 70s. Burak Çelet, the company’s young and talented second-generation general manager, has dedicated many years to the brand’s success. Burak Çelet says he sees Desa as his older brother. ‘Desa is 38 years old and I am 34. We grew up together; we know each other very well.’
The company started as a family business and has become a staple in the wardrobes of Turkish women. Today its success comes from the advances it has made in effective branding and becoming a recognised institution. Since becoming a publicly traded company in 2004, Desa has maintained its leadership in the retail sector. Although it is a local and regional company, its vision is that of a global brand. When it launched 38 years ago, Desa simply manufactured and exported bags; it has since proven itself a major retail giant, with 58 stores and five franchises in 19 provinces in Turkey and a total of 2,000 employees.
Using a system that is not found in Europe, Desa purchases raw leather, processes it in its tannery and then turns it into leather garments and bags, again in its own facilities. This system has led to major partnerships and collaborations that have contributed to the company’s success. ‘We have not completely abandoned our industrial identity,’ explains Çelet. ‘We work shoulder to shoulder with many world brands. Nearly half of our turnover comes from making products for brands such as Prada, Miu Miu and Mulberry.’ The young general manager, who says he learns something new every day, applies each piece of new information to the dynamics of his own brand. ‘In 2011, we hope to open 25 new stores for the three brands we manage: Samsonite, Aerosoles and Desa. We are working very hard to position our brand correctly abroad. At the end of 2010, we opened a store in Covent Garden.’
Çelet’s faith in the success of Desa is evident when he says: ‘To become a world brand, you must prove yourself in the fashion capital. We chose London because of the infrastructure we already had there and because we believe that if we can be successful there, we can succeed anywhere.’
Çelet describes his efforts to make Desa a brand sought after in the international arena and in all seasons. ‘We realised we needed to combine textiles with leather and design collections that could be worn in the summer but that would still keep leather as the spirit of the brand,’ he says. Names who have recently joined the team include Davide Gatto, an accessory designer who has worked with Versace and Ferré, and Gianfranco Schifano as Desa’s visual planner.
Desa may have become the number one in the leather industry, but it is moving cautiously in producing textiles. The feedback received from loyal customers is very important. Çelet says that, having for years enjoyed the advantages of being the leading brand in shoes and bags, Desa is now hoping to achieve the same for skirts, jackets, dresses and blouses with its new collections. Although it is well-known that it is hard for an established brand to appeal to a younger audience, the brand aims to achieve this by bringing together technology and the brand’s marketing power. Desa stands out in particular for the way it manipulates leather as if it were fabric; for example, the company makes jackets weighing just 230 grams, made of leather as light as fabric.
While leather can be rebellious and youthful in spirit, it is a valuable product. That each Desa piece is made by hand makes buyers respect the product and the labour that went into it even more. Çelet’s enthusiasm for creating original, high-value, well-designed products will make the next stage of Desa’s love for leather an interesting affair.