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Right product, right time, right price
Abdullah Kiğılı, the founder of one of Turkey’s leading menswear brands, tells Vanessa H. Larson about a lifetime spent dressing Turkish men and shares the secrets of his success
Tuesday, 5 April, 2011 by Vanessa H. Larson
Abdullah Kiğılı knows that the name of his eponymous menswear brand, Kiğılı, is extremely difficult to pronounce, even for Turks – its particular combination of letters is not normally found in Turkish. Yet he believes that is part of the reason for his success. ‘When you look at the brand name, you must take a moment; if you don’t, you will always end up misreading it,’ he says. ‘In 45 years, we have brought this brand, which has a name so difficult to pronounce, to a place I could never have even dreamed of.’
Kiğılı must be onto something, because his brand is one of Turkey’s most successful and established names in menswear. He opened his first store in 1969. The brand has expanded to some 180 stores located throughout Turkey, with a presence in 57 of the country’s 81 provinces. There are also 10 Kiğılı stores in surrounding countries, including Egypt, Georgia, Azerbaijan and several of the Central Asian republics. In 2008, Kiğılı launched an upper-tier label, Abdullah Kiğılı.
The Kiğılı brand’s well-made suits, jackets, shirts, trousers, sweaters and other men’s clothing have a classic style that appeals to men across Turkey and the region. The label’s success is largely due to selling these menswear essentials at reasonable prices, without compromising quality; the company’s long-time motto is ‘The right product, the right time, the right price.’ The company is also known for its attention to customer satisfaction, offering a level of service rare in other mid-market brands. Every Kiğılı store employs its own in-house tailor and any necessary alterations are made on site, within 10 minutes and at no additional charge. ‘We do things that no one else in Turkey does,’ Kiğılı says. ‘Whatever can be done in the name of customer satisfaction, we do it.’
These strategies have paid off, resulting in a steadfast customer base. Kiğılı’s key target audience is graduates aged around 25 who have just started work; once hooked, they remain with the label. ‘Our customers are very loyal,’ says Kiğılı.
Kiğılı launched the high-end Abdullah Kiğılı label in response to customer demand. ‘Patrons started to say, “I want to wear something that not everyone else has,” something more special,’ Kiğılı explains. Catering to the stylish, modern man, Abdullah Kiğılı collections use fabrics made from all-natural fibres, which are imported from Italy in limited quantities. The label’s limited-edition designs have a wide range of colours and cuts. Bespoke garments can also be ordered; these are hand-sewn and are ready for the client in 21 days. Within just two years, the company has opened eight Abdullah Kiğılı boutiques in five Turkish cities.
The main force behind the brands’ extraordinary success is clearly Kiğılı himself. His legendary get-things-done attitude, passion for his work and meticulous attention to detail are evident even in a short encounter. These, combined with his avuncular persona, have made him a well-respected figure in Turkey’s textile sector; he is known to be friends even with some of his competitors. Kiğılı launched his career in textiles thanks to his father, who had started a fabric business under his surname in the eastern Anatolian city of Malatya in 1938. The younger Kiğılı took over the business in 1965 and, four years later, at the age of 26, opened a store on İstiklal Caddesi, then and now Istanbul’s most popular shopping thoroughfare. After Kiğılı established his brand and built his own factory in 1980, the company steadily took hold.
Kiğılı is a strategic businessman who knows his market well. In the last couple of years, no doubt taking into consideration Turkey’s overwhelmingly youthful population, the Kiğılı brand has begun producing clothes aimed at a younger age range. Recent Kiğılı collections have incorporated more sporty and casual clothing, in a bid to draw customers as young as 15. Kiğılı believes the brand’s younger image is catching on. He aims to have 300 stores in Turkey within the next five years and to further expand the brand’s reach outside Turkey. But he has no intention to conquer Europe. ‘We can expand to the north, south and east of Turkey. But on principle we will not head west,’ he says. ‘The market in the West is already established.’
Kiğılı is also certain that, unlike some of his competitors, he will never branch out into womenswear. ‘Ours is a men’s clothing brand. The Kiğılı name is synonymous with menswear.’
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