Like every bustling cosmopolitan centre, Istanbul has a unique creative scene influenced by the idiosyncrasies of the city and its people. From the mix of Eastern and Western cultures to the juxtaposition of tradition and modernity, Istanbul’s creatives have a wide variety of influences and inspirations from which to draw. The impact of this melting pot of ideas can be clearly seen in the city’s fashion sector, which ranges from the sleek and elegant to the boldly avant-garde.
Fashion week star
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Istanbul is one of Turkey’s most important fashion events, and one of its leading lights is Bora Aksu, a London-based Turkish designer who has shown at fashion weeks in Istanbul and London for a number of years. Aksu studied at the prestigious Central St Martins fashion college in London and his graduate collection received wide acclaim. He is known for romantic designs with a darker edge and his autumn/winter 2016/17 collection features pale pinks, deep reds, corals, purples and fuschias with a healthy dose of black: a gothic-inspired vision of romance.
Grand Duchess Olga of Russia was one of the main inspirations for Aksu’s latest collection. Born in 1882, the duchess experienced a life of stark contrasts – from very wealthy beginnings to a far humbler life after the Russian Revolution – and Aksu has taken cues from each extreme of her life. Traditional lace and modest silhouettes speak of a peasant life, while velvets, furs and quilted fabrics add a hint of opulence. The contrast of textures throughout – from lace and embroidery to shearling and layered fabrics – add new depth to a relatively reserved colour scheme.
Aksu’s refined palette and somewhat traditional concept of femininity find their polar opposite in DB Berdan’s collection, proving that Turkish designers are not all cut from the same cloth. A much younger brand, Istanbul-based DB Berdan was founded in 2012 by mother and daughter Deniz and Begum Berdan. Deniz Berdan has worked as a fashion editor and consultant as well as a designer, while Begum Berdan has studied at Central St Martins and the London College of Fashion.
Together, the women present bold and striking women’s apparel inspired by streetwear, underground cultures, contemporary art and historical figures. This season’s collection features acid brights which pop against a heavy use of black – from fishnet sleeves and underlays to chunky lace-up boots. Bold and colourful motifs are splashed across an impressive variety of dress styles, from pinafores and oversized sweatshirts to A-line dresses and bodycons. Bright orange featured throughout the catwalk show, with a motif which appeared to reference Stanley Kubrick’s cult film A Clockwork Orange, and eye-catching make-up completed one of the most memorable events at Istanbul Fashion Week this season.
Mehtap Elaidi, who launched her eponymous label in 2000, brought a very different aesthetic to fashion week. She has become known for her use of experimental cuts and this season she presented an autumnal palette of rich reds and purples, highlighted with the occasional pop of blue and a smattering of classic black. Elaidi’s love of unusual shapes and structures was expressed in oversized ruffles, which adorned otherwise simple pencil skirts, or were layered onto shirts and skirts to create a waterfall effect. Classic colours and understated prints were enhanced by creative use of texture and silhouette: billowing sleeves completed otherwise minimal blouses and dresses; a classic circle skirt was paired with a camisole in deep purple fantasy fur.
While Turkish womenswear has traditionally gained more attention, the nation’s menswear designers are beginning to make their mark. At this season’s Istanbul Fashion Week, Brand Who proved that Turkey has a lot to offer when it comes to on-trend menswear. Streetwear was an obvious influence, with sporty elements throughout – think bomber jackets and high-performance fabrics paired with thick sports socks and Nike sneakers. Knitwear was another strong element, adding pops of colour or print to pared-back separates. With effortlessly on-trend and wearable clothing, the show was a masterclass in how to compile a capsule wardrobe for the modern man: truly well cut, simple pieces, a little more colourful and tongue-in-cheek for the day, and a little darker and more refined for the evening.
Whatever your taste and style, Istanbul’s designers have something to catch your eye. Discover all of these brands and more while in the city and take a little of Istanbul’s creative spirit with you when you head home.