At the crossroads of Europe and Asia, a traditional platform for commercial exchanges between the two continents, a historic center of luxury and refinement, and today, one of the leading textile producers in the world, Turkey holds a clear place in the world of fashion. If Istanbul is not part of the “Big Four”, Paris, London, Milan and New York, the style capitals owe it a lot. It must be recognized, however, that for various reasons, Turkish fashion has been slow to emerge and still remains, in some ways, closed off to the outside. A late bloomer, the creative Turkish scene that started to develop in the 1990s has experienced an extraordinary flowering in recent years.

Following on from Colombia, Turkey will be in the spotlight as Guest Country in the 2022 edition of the Fashion Trust Arabia Prize.

The Colombian experience

Last October, in Doha, on the eve of the 2021 FTA Prize ceremony, the four Colombian finalists spoke to Pulse about their hopes and ambitions. “I have a dream of making Colombian women believe in the power of their hands to touch souls,” said Juanita García, the founder of Priah. “We have so much to say, and more than that, we want to show our Colombian roots, artisanal crafts, and the talent people have,” said Alejandro González and Andrés Restrepo of the Alado label. “I’ll keep working to continue empowering the minority groups I work with, I’ll re-invest in the company to continue expanding in a conscious, circular and transparent way,” Laura Laurens promised herself. “If I win, I would try to keep on inspiring new generations of artisans in Colombia. I’ve noticed that almost 90% of practicing artisans are elderly or of an advanced age” underlined the winner Agustín Nicolás Rivero, the founder of A New Cross, highlighting the need to ensure that skills are passed on.

Dreams shared by made in Turkey”

Lucid and ethical dreams, creating ambitious projects, being open to marginalized communities, being concerned about the preservation of know-how, showing an awareness of climate issues and the challenges posed by the depletion of resources: This increasingly universal vision undoubtedly intersects with that of young designers on the Turkish scene, who are also aware of the need to contribute, through fashion, to a more inclusive world, to support heritage and manual trades, and, above all, to slow down industrial production by using, and innovating with, existing materials.

Pulse has taken a look at the “made in Turkey” labels of which Turks are most proud and which have dedicated fans all over the world.

The most rebellious: Dilara Findikoglu

Dilara Findikoglu is known for having, straight after graduating from Central Saint Martins, created corsets for Rihanna and Lady Gaga. In 2016, she gave her first show in a London strip club in broad daylight. It was for her no attempt at provocation, but a way to draw attention to the right of women to show or veil their bodies as they wish. And speaking of Central Saint Martins, Findikoglu entered the legend of the school in reverse, since, not having been formally authorized to show her collection in front of the media, she co-organized an “off”  fashion show with the hashtag #encoreCMS, which attracted as much press and buyers as the official show. The young designer, who advocates audacity and flamboyance, and deplores uniformity, is mostly based in London.

The most universal: Les Benjamins

This is not very common in the world of fashion where egos are known to be huge, but Les Benjamins are a couple. Bunyamin and Lamia Aydin launched their brand in 2011 with an avant-garde vision, dedicated to discovering others, to travel, sport, diversity and the richness of human heritage. Very quickly, beyond high-end ready-to-wear collections that rapidly made their way from Istanbul to Paris via Milan, Les Benjamins opened up to collaborations, customizing shoes and creating capsules for Nike and Puma, and creating, among others, a collection with Bloomingdale’s Dubai. Their concept store in Istanbul also hosts art exhibitions.

The story-teller”: Gunes Mutlu for Mehry Mu

Originally, Gunes Mutlu had a background in psychology, which, logically or not, led her to design bags. In 2010, she founded her brand, Mehry Mu, with the ambition of creating “bags with a soul”. The connection of the soul and the hand no longer has to be proven, and Mutlu entrusts her vision, loaded with poetry, literature and elements of anthropology, to craftsmen from all fields, but also to artists, designers and illustrators, to make accessories that look like nothing we’ve seen before. She counts Jennifer Lawrence and Olivia Palermo among her fans.

The most arty: Misela

Serra Türker wanted to be a painter, but ended up graduating in textile design from Rhode Island School of Design. During her studies, this lover of colors and their combinations developed a passion for creating accessories. Türker did not wait to return to Turkey to create her brand, with which she associates her two sisters, and so “Misela” was born: for Mina, Serra and Lara. Its logo, inspired by the Ottoman imperial cintamani – a circle containing three others – announces the program. This motif, which symbolizes “the eye of reason, the eye of the heart and the eye of the tiger”, represents for the designer the power of women and marks all of Misela’s

The most vegan: Dogo

Founded in 2006, this shoe brand has been a pioneer since day one: it was the first to create printed shoes and it was the first to reject the use of animal leather. A spearhead in the fight against animal suffering, Dogo verifies its sources and undertakes to work only with production sites where environment and animal rights are respected. Dogo has built its popularity on thousands of products, shoes, bags, clothes and design objects that speak to everyone’s emotions through patterns and colors made by a creative team passionate about life.

The most “Madonna”: Milka Karaagacli for Kismet by Milka

Milka Karaagacli, a jewelry designer who began her career in advertising, promised herself from the start that Madonna would one day wear her creations. When Karaagacli designed her famous M ring for Kismet, one of Turkey’s biggest jewelry brands, she first thought of her newborn daughter, Mayra. It is a large ring paved with brilliants on white gold in which the broken lines of the letter “M” stand out from an imposing ring. “I created it shortly after my daughter was born, and I posted the photo of my baby’s hand adorned with several rings, including this one,” says the designer. The ring was spotted by Madonna’s stylist who immediately sent an email to place an order for the Pop star. Today, Karaagacli counts among her fans all of Pop’s elite, including Beyoncé, Katy Perry, and Taylor Swift.

The most esoteric: Gülşah Sürel Erdem, for House of DIV

“Architect by training, jewelry designer by passion, historian by default”, Gülşah Sürel Erdem reflects in her high jewelry label House of DIV her own quest for meaning, infused with philosophy, archeology and symbolism. Since 2014, she has been committed to creating timeless jewelry with a bias towards “silent luxury”. “DIV has many stories to tell; stories that will take you on a journey of discovery and end in the statement ‘I am The Jewel’”, says her manifesto.