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Exclusive interview: Olcay Gulsen

Olcay Gulsen – founder of SuperTrash, of an eponymous eveningwear line and now of ST Studio – has an uncanny ability to make clothing that women covet. She explains her business philosophy to Hannah Lewis

Hannah Lewis / © Katie Wilson-Ells
Hannah Lewis,

‘As a brand, we aren’t static but dynamic. We evolve to the changing world around us,’ says Olcay Gulsen. Truer words could hardly be spoken about the Amsterdam-based designer and her fashion business. Having founded successful womenswear brand SuperTrash in 2001, and in 2011 presented a second, eponymous line of luxe eveningwear, Gulsen and her team are now celebrating the launch of a third label: ST Studio. The new line will cater to a different audience ‘without losing our brand identity’. Not a new audience, as such, but those Gulsen has been clothing for 15 years, whose tastes and habits have developed. Gulsen has a real ability to anticipate women’s needs, and it’s this instinct that gives her the edge in a competitive market.

Creating SuperTrash
‘I wanted to create a fashion brand that linked design with the high street and was affordable to every girl,’ says Gulsen of the inspiration behind SuperTrash. ‘SuperTrash is young and on trend with fashionable hits and bold pieces with an outspoken character. Each collection contains that perfect quote tee, eclectic prints, denim … Affordable pieces that fit the season.’

Expanding her offerings
Catering to a young, fashion-conscious market, SuperTrash grew quickly, opening stores and securing retailers in more than 16 countries worldwide. Bolstered by this success, Gulsen made her first foray into the world of high-end apparel, launching her eponymous eveningwear line in 2011. ‘Olcay Gulsen is an uber-feminine collection with a classic twist,’ says the designer. ‘Each season a small capsule collection of 50 exclusive and unique pieces is made in a specialised atelier in New York and launched with a strong focus on the exclusive international market.’ The results have been worn by a number of A-list stars, and Gulsen creates her stunning pieces with the red carpet in mind.

The woman in mind
SuperTrash and Olcay Gulsen may be directed at different audiences, but for Gulsen the common traits that link her clients are clear. ‘We cater to women with real character,’ she explains simply. And it is this characterful woman who was also the inspiration behind her new venture, ST Studio. Launched earlier this year, it is the new figurehead for Gulsen’s fashion empire, born from the changing desires Gulsen perceived in her clients, who increasingly look for excellent cuts and materials, along with classic, lasting design, as opposed to the fast fashion that had become so prevalent over the last decade. More sophisticated than SuperTrash, and more accessible than Olcay Gulsen, it looks set to appeal not only to both sets of existing customers, but also to a new audience.

Presenting ST Studio
‘ST Studio creates contemporary womenswear with head-to-toe looks for authentic women,’ explains Gulsen. ‘Feminine, classic essentials that last a lifetime, perfect layering pieces and directional looks that complement the collection season after season.’ Her favourite piece from the debut collection is a grey suit: ‘It’s very versatile and easily takes you from day to night. I think every woman should own a power suit.’ But she is also very proud of her range of versatile maxi dresses and all-in-ones. In fact, Gulsen seems truly enthusiastic about every aspect of her business, a trait that no doubt has carried her forward.

New beginnings
This year seea an overhaul of the brand’s existing store concept, as SuperTrash boutiques become ST Studio spaces (with SuperTrash being available only through other retailers). The new concept will represent the juxtaposition of strength and vulnerability that Gulsen addresses in her apparel, mixing oak with mother-of-pearl, and velvet with glass. Gulsen has always striven for ‘open service in every aspect of the customer journey’, so the in-store counters will be round, not square, allowing for easier interaction between client and stylist. Staff are friendly and knowledgeable, and look to match visitors with the pieces that are perfect for them as individuals. ‘I think you look stylish when you wear clothes that make you feel good,’ says Gulsen.

Endless inspiration
With so many projects at once, it’s intriguing to know where Gulsen finds her seemingly endless inspiration. Are her clothes distinctly Dutch, for example? ‘Well, they are born and designed here, so they must have something Dutch, but in a way we are borderless – as fashion is everywhere. I think our collection is very international.’ At ST Studio, Gulsen combines the ‘comfy styles most Dutch women crave’ with a sense of high fashion, and perhaps it’s this that gives the label its distinct aesthetic. As for the inspiration that keeps her going forward, she believes she finds this everywhere. ‘You don’t always need to travel far to be inspired ... I know it sounds clichéd, but you can’t go out and look for inspiration, inspiration finds you.’



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