Turkey has always been an important junction in trade between east and west, and now it’s becoming a junction for fashion too – bringing the best of international fashion to its own streets, and exporting its home-grown fashion to the world.
Turkish brands are an increasingly common sight on shopping streets around the world, as they take on fast-fashion giants such as Zara, H&M, Mango and Topshop with their combination of international trends and Turkey’s own multicultural style. High-profile designer names Erdem Moralioğlu, Bora Aksu and Hussein Chalayan have led the charge in bringing Turkey’s fashion talent to the world’s attention and now, brands including Koton, Sarar, Roman, Que, Machka and Tween are showcasing affordable Turkish design too.
Leading Turkish brands can now be seen in chic malls and shopping streets across the world, from Las Vegas and Dubai to Berlin, Tokyo and Moscow. LC Waikiki, arguably Turkey’s biggest fast-fashion brand, with over 16% market share, had 407 stores across the country and a further 106 across the globe in 2013, bringing its motto ‘everyone deserves to dress well’ to life. Sarar recently opened its 15th US store in Washington DC, and has announced its aim to have 100 US stores within the next 10 years. Sarar also recently opened its first store in Pakistan, while brands such as Mudo and İpekyol are making inroads into the Middle East.
Turkey is already well known as one of the world’s leading nations for manufacturing high-street fashion and denim, but until recently, its design prowess has been underestimated. Much of the growing global profile of Turkish fashion is thanks to initiatives such as Turquality. The campaign, launched by the country’s economy ministry, is now in its 10th year, and promotes the designs of key brands, including Sarar, Colin’s, Damat Tween, İpekyol, Koton, Machka and Mavi – around the world. Further programmes from the Istanbul Textile and Apparel Exporter Associations (ITKIB) and the high-profile Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Istanbul are also demonstrating Turkey’s burgeoning style credentials.
Indeed, Turkey is now being seen as a serious style centre by the fashion industry at large. In July 2014, leading Paris fashion trade show Who’s Next showcased Turkey as its ‘guest nation’, while trendsetting materials show Première Vision launches a new biannual event in Istanbul in October 2014.
‘Turkish brands have tremendous know-how on the production side and they are now developing collaborations with Turkish designers in order to build their brands,’ says Feride Tansuğ, director of leading Istanbul PR agency L’Appart. Popular denim brand Mavi recently collaborated with Turkish fashion innovator Hussein Chalayan, while Koton regularly works with Turkish designers for limited edition collections. Mudo works with Argande, which promotes empowerment for women in south-east Anatolia, on seasonal collections by designers such as Aslı Filinta, Deniz Yeğin, Nihan Peker and Hatice Gökçe.
The dynamic new spirit among Turkey’s fashion brands is creating style that is cosmopolitan yet truly Turkish. İpekyol has become a favourite with Istanbul fashion bloggers for its combination of clean, modern lines with bold prints and glamorous embellishments, while Twist is gaining attention for its colourful, youthful edge and Sarar is winning fans for its chic urban style.
Turkey’s young, stylish, urban population is demanding higher-quality designs from the country’s fashion brands, while the growing number of working women want stylish, affordable clothes that fit with their busy lives. ‘Turkish women live for fashion and follow it very closely,’ says Feride Tansuğ. ‘Today’s young generation is adopting more of their own style, and customising fashion for themselves.’
Growing numbers of fashion bloggers across the country are helping to show women how to dress stylishly and affordably, and to develop their own style. Istanbul-based blogger Aysun Karaalioğlu, who details her individual style on the AysStyle blog, likes to mix the rock-chick style of Twist with designer names such as Michael Kors and Chanel, as well as international brands including Primark, Mango and Zara. Meanwhile, street-style star Meriç Küçük, who blogs at Maritsa.co, shows fashion fans how to mix local brands İpekyol and Hotiç with vintage, designer and global pieces. And it’s this mix of global trends and individual style, as well as high fashion at high-street prices, that is making Turkey a thoroughly 21st-century trendsetter.