When we think of shopping in Istanbul, our mind immediately wanders to dreamy visions of colourful spices, piles of Turkish delight displayed in bustling food markets, and lines of lanterns glowing in a forgotten corner of the Grand Bazaar. But Istanbul is changing; at the crossroads of east and west, straddling two continents, the city is home to an emerging group of conceptual designers and minimalist boutiques. These up-and-coming designers are taking advantage of the city’s reputation as an ancient and cosmopolitan marketplace, and are updating fashion in Istanbul with their own contemporary sensibilities. With Istanbul Fashion Week (otherwise known as Mercedes Benz Fashion Week) now in its eighth year, the city is fast establishing itself as a new global fashion capital.
Istanbul Moda Academy opened in 2007 in collaboration with the London College of Fashion and offers a fashion design programme worthy of attention. Their aim is to produce Turkish designers to compete with established European fashion houses. Designer Asli Jackson was one of the judges at their graduate fashion show last year, and has a boutique in historic Beyoğlu where she creates concept pieces featuring elements of deconstruction. If you’re a fan of Vivienne Westwood’s boundary-breaking shapes, you’ll love Asli’s designs.
Another groundbreaking designer is Zeynep Duygulum, who calls her footwear collection ‘wearable sculptures.’ Given their structured curves and chunky designs, it’s easy to see why. Her work appeals to an increasingly fashion-conscious crowd of hip Istanbulites, who flock to concept store Beymen Blender in search of her designs (as well as other pieces of clothing and housewares by up-and-coming local and international talent).
Serra Turker was born and raised in Istanbul, and the designer’s Misela bags are luxurious pops of colour featuring vivid geometric shapes. Turker creates cute rectangular purses and structured handbags in pastel shades and statement prints – they’re striking enough to have gained the attention of the international media and stylish enough to have been featured in Elle Magazine. The brand has a new boutique in the bustling neighbourhood of Asmalımescit.
Although Atelier 55 is by no means a new addition to the world of fashion in Istanbul, it continually stocks new collections by different up-and-coming designers. The boutique has its finger firmly on the pulse, and has a record for predicting who’s going to be the next iconic designer to come out of Istanbul. Atelier 55 currently offers pieces by eye-catching menswear (and androgynous womenswear) designer Umit Benan and London-based Turkish designer Bora Asku, known for his couture cocktail dresses, among other hand-picked labels.
Turkish designer Günseli Türkay wowed fashion lovers and industry professionals alike at Istanbul Fashion Week last year. The young designer’s bold, clashing and daring animal prints mirror the city’s vibrant, non-stop atmosphere. This is textile design at its very best; check out her collections online or head to her industrial-themed showroom a short way away from Taksim Square.
If you’re after prêt-a-porter clothes with a designer feel, look no further than Midnight Express, which offers a chain of boutiques spread across the city. Established by an architect and designer couple and designed to reflect the innovative and increasingly avant-garde nature of fashion in Istanbul, these stores offer the latest Turkish trends. Banu Bora is the designer behind the clothing side of things, but the store also carries well-known international designers such as Carven and Issa London.
Words by Katie Gatens
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