“I care more.” This is what 34-year old Burç Akyol, FTA Prize 2022 winner in the Guest Country category, said when he was asked what sets him apart from everyone else. And indeed, he does care more: About his family, who taught him his values he holds to, about learning every day, about his double roots (Turkish and French), and first and foremost, about his art, that he already masters, as if a magician. It’s no surprise that his motto in life is inspired by the phoenix: “It means that you have to learn to be reborn from your ashes,” he says.
Burç Akyol knew at the age of 10 that designing clothes was what he would do for the rest of his life, after watching a documentary on the making of an Haute Couture show by Ungaro. “I knew right there and then this was going to be my life. I don’t remember the pieces, but I remember the passion each step required,” he says. Ungaro ignited his passion, but so did Heidi Slimane. “The first garment that wowed me as a kid was a pair of Dior by Hedi Slimane, skinny denim. I know it was the first time I truly felt desire. I had to work three for months at a local café to buy them and I still have them. The power of clothes is very similar to infatuation, it starts with the simplest of feelings and it can quickly turn into an obsession,” he admits.
Is that the purpose of fashion, do we give it purpose by needing it so much? “We don’t need it; that’s what’s beautiful about it, it is luxury, it is a plus. This is also why it must be more responsible. We are creating desire out of nowhere, pieces that carry added soul, our message, our comments on society, our feelings and ideas as designers. Fashion is the soul behind pieces of fabrics put together by one singular mind,” he answers, insisting on the fact that the only way to make people dream is by “dreaming yourself”. “To get inspired, you need space in you, otherwise there is no room to receive inspiration. You have to make, observe and engage; you need to get your hands dirty, and learn when to listen and know when to speak, this is how I learn every day,” he adds. That’s probably why the place he goes to when he needs peace and serenity is internal, in his head: ‘I don’t like to depend on a place or on someone for this kind of need,” he says.
“There is nothing to balance”
When asked what art and culture mean to him, Akyol has a surprising answer: “Kindness”. He immediately admits that yes, “it may sound weird”, but the man who “cares more” than the others has a very logical explanation: “Kindness opens you up to the world, makes you more receptive, more sensitive. All those traits are essential to art and culture. Art is generous,” says the fashion designer who names William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell as his favorite book and Jim Jarmush’s Only Lovers Left Alive as his favorite movie.
It’s when asked how he balances between his roots (Türkiye) and his adopted country (France) that Burç Akyol becomes unstoppably talkative. “France is not my adopted country; I was born there. I didn’t learn to be French, I am. But I am also Turkish. There is nothing to balance, it’s not like I can choose between the two. I can only fully accept myself without considering the projections of others, the judgment that goes with it. I am as French and Turkish as it gets, and some things make me react Turkish while others bring out the French in me. It is not a process, it’s pure and impulsive. It took many years and a lot of understanding to acknowledge this and stop apologizing for not being one or the other. I don’t want to be a traitor to myself by pleasing someone else’s fantasy of my double heritage,” says the designer, who describes his victory at the FTA 2022 Prize as a “magnificent” push. “It’s up to me now to work even harder to make the very important people who heard my name in Doha understand that I am here to stay, and that they can count me in,” he says. Duly noted!