The lapels are neat, the tailoring sharp, the colours are understated warm greys, and the stretch-cotton shirts have a silky, luxurious finish. It could be any sophisticated designer brand from one of the fashion capitals, and the clothes have been seen on Jay-Z and Thierry Henry. Yet Tween is a mid-market label, designed and manufactured in Turkey.
Tween relaunched in 2007, after taking advice from leading fashion industry consultants in France, Italy and the UK. David Bradshaw, former creative director for Prada, helped style the refreshed collection. The menswear line has been a success in Europe, leading Tween to launch a womenswear collection. The line for women will be available in Turkey and surrounding countries this season, and is expected in European markets in 2011.
‘Leather and leather trims are a tell-tale sign of our origin, since leather is such a traditionally Turkish product,’ says Güneş Güner Işık, creative director of Tween. ‘We wanted to keep a sense of the brand’s Turkish roots, because a strong identity has been important in terms of standing up against huge European brands. But it’s not about looking ethnic.’ Güner Işık is proving something of a pioneer and is opening the doors of established retailers to Turkish fashion brands. Turkey has a long-standing reputation for textile manufacturing: items for the likes of Burberry, Paul Smith and Hugo Boss are made in Turkey, and the country exports €8bn-worth of clothing each year. However, the creation of purely Turkish brands is a new idea.
In part, the reluctance to launch any international clothing lines is because Turkey is a culturally closed society, says Güner Işık. Furthermore, she adds that, because the country has been so successful in manufacturing high-quality items for other international companies, there has been little need for the country to develop its own brands and get to grips with the challenges of tackling the international marketplace.
But that is changing: there is a growing sense at home of Turkey’s textile heritage and manufacturers in the country are becoming aware that their dealings with global brands have given them an insider understanding of fashion market dynamics. Turkish men’s clothing giant Orka, which owns Tween, is well set to lead the way as two of its brands, Damat and ADV, are already available in over 40 countries. Tween is squarely pitched at the middle market, where there is a gap for well-designed, high-quality, accessible clothing. And, importantly, new lines can be produced with short lead times. Tween, along with other Turkish names such as Desa, Ipekyol and Machka, may do for the mid market what the likes of H&M and Zara have done for the lower end.
‘The mid market was so hard to get right for so long, but it has huge potential for the brands that do get it right,’ says Güner Işık. ‘For too long there has been at one end high design, from which some people might buy a few pieces, and at the other end, very cheap, mass-market fashion. Yet more people want something in between – easy-to-wear garments you can rely on but that you can style in your own way.’
Following its success in Europe, the brand is set to face its biggest challenge: this year, it will attempt to break into Japan and the US. Aside from the logistical issue of resizing Tween garments so that they fit these two very differently proportioned groups of consumers, the brand is aware of the intense competition it will face.
‘I think it will work for the same reasons we have been successful in Europe. The Turkish manufacturing base means we’re highly skilled at providing design and quality at the right price,’ says Güner Işık. ‘I think we can expect to see more Turkish fashion brands and designers, such as Erdem and Bora Aksu, launching outside Turkey in the coming years.’