Yaprak Aras says she ‘never had a store in mind’ when she started Souq Dükkan, the concept store that she runs with Alican Tezer. ‘I was the features editor of Vogue Türkiye when we had the idea to sell our clothes at the warehouse owned by Alican’s music group in Karaköy,’ Aras explains. ‘We started doing themed bazaars every month. We got to know many start-ups, designers and artists in the meantime, and at some point it just made sense to have the space open during weekdays. That’s how we became a store.’
Souq Dükkan is just one of several outstanding multi-brand boutiques in Istanbul that are returning credibility to the term ‘concept store’. While the description has been questionably applied to various multi-brands in recent years, Aras and others like her are showing that, when done well, it can still entice and delight visitors.
‘Since both my partner and I come from the creative sector, we care more about the mood, the aesthetic, the music and the feel-good factor of the store than its commercial side,’ says Aras. ‘We pay a lot of attention to detail and to who we work with. We like to grow with the designers and the brands we support.’
Souq Dükkan’s chic industrial space stocks largely Turkish brands and designers, ranging from men’s and women’s ready-to-wear clothing to home accessories, books, prints, handmade bicycles, and even locally made dulce de leche.
‘We don’t sell anything that we wouldn’t use, eat or wear,’ says Aras. ‘We care about the story of the brand and love working with people who are passionate about what they do. Rather than choosing something that is having a moment, we love introducing new tastes, new dimensions, new points of view.’ In that spirit, look out for colourful headphones handcrafted in Istanbul by Happy-Nes, and vintage-inspired jewellery handmade locally by Gözde Atlı.
As well as its eclectic product range, Souq Dükkan prides itself on good music and atmosphere, and original visual merchandising. ‘We hold mini in-store events,’ says Aras, ‘and our tea corner with Basilur Tea just opened, where we will have tea tastings.’ It’s little wonder she and Tezer have developed a loyal following.
Souq Dükkan evolved organically, but the team behind Bey Karaköy knew exactly what they wanted to create. ‘There were no men’s-only fashion stores in Istanbul, so we decided to give it a try,’ says Ozan Ertürk, who founded the boutique with two friends, Nil Ertürk and Bulut Dur. After only a month, their concept was already reaping rewards, thanks to its refreshing approach to fashion. ‘Our objective is to make people understand that style is not something you have to spend a lot of time building,’ says Ozan Ertürk. ‘It’s something easily done, if you know what to do, or you get a little help.’
Ertürk believes this simple concept, and a frequently changing product range, makes Bey Karaköy stand out. The range mixes Scandinavian and other European labels with local designers, and the team also produces some of its own pieces – Bey Jeans, for example, says Ertürk, have been bestsellers from the moment they were introduced. The staff is another major attraction. Every team member is friendly, approachable and, crucially, highly knowledgeable about the collection, as well as men’s style in general. For fashion-forward gentlemen, this is the place to go.
At Mae Zae, owner Münire Alabaz says she has a simple central objective: ‘We don’t want anyone to come into the store and get bored.’ To ensure this, Alabaz and her team scour the world and the internet for the best vintage pieces, independent brands and products. Their discoveries are displayed in a beautifully curated boutique that offers a wide range from furniture and clothing to watches and books. ‘I love to travel and collect things that have been made passionately,’ says Alabaz. ‘Mae Zae customers love to discover different but cool items, and to support small businesses and designers rather than big. Design is important to them – they want to be unique.’
Mae Zae feels as much like a home as a boutique. This makes it delightfully simple for customers to imagine how Alabaz’s chosen pieces will slot into their own homes. A charming mix of classic and contemporary sees reclaimed chairs sitting next to jewellery from Mae Zae’s bestselling in-house line. Products change frequently, and there’s always something going on, such as the introduction of a new local designer, or an in-store event or workshop. Whatever’s scheduled when you visit, you can be sure it will fit in with Alabaz’s aim ‘to stay unique and to find the best designs’.