Turkish Fashion Searches for Its Roots

Like world fashion, which draws inspiration from locality and returns to its cultural roots in its quest to be original beyond similar trends, Turkish fashion has been tracing its history in recent years. The leading fashion designers of our country presented the panorama of Turkish fashion while explaining how they took inspiration from the cultural values ​​and traditions of the Ottoman and Anatolian regions and transferred them to the present and the future with a modern interpretation. We hear from them how they built the bridge from the past to the future with the richness of locality.

GÜL AĞIŞ: In the footsteps of genetic heritage

The desire to be real. It is precisely this feeling that brings Gül Ağış together with her roots and leads her to research her past: “As a designer born and raised in these lands, I must reflect my essence. I feel lucky to have such a unique cultural wealth. “As a genetic inheritance, we have a unique record of texture and color information within us,” begins Gül Ağır, the founder and creative director of Lug Von Siga.

He explains that the Töre, Grand Bazaar and Mirror collections, in which he touches on cultural, historical and social issues, are capsule collections that are like manifestos and draw the panorama of the rich geography we live in with special embroidery, 3D prints and motifs.

Ağır says that as his collections mature, they gain a broader, contemporary, sustainable and different identity. “We prioritized Anatolian craftsmanship and embroidery in the shootings we made in Bayburt Baksı Museum, Harran Plain and the house of Russian ballet dancer Nureyev, who is known for his admiration for Turkish culture in Bademli,” he says.

Cultural values ​​always keep his creativity alive. For her latest collection, she explores how Uzbek bedspreads from the Grand Bazaar can be transformed into softer and more wearable contemporary clothing: “I achieved contemporary forms by using sustainable fabrics and organic threads. The name of the collection is ‘roots’. “When I examined Uzbek history, I saw how similar it was to our roots.”

ÖZGÜR MASUR: A couture interpretation of Anatolia

Özgür Masur praises Anatolian culture and Anatolian women in his Anatolia collection, which stands out with its forms inspired by Anatolian civilizations, which he created after a three-year research process in women’s institutes all over Turkey. The 100-piece poetic collection, unveiled on the 100th anniversary of the Republic, not only conveys the cultural memory with macrame, needle lace, wire lace, hand-woven fabrics, and scarf bindings, carpet weavings, and tile patterns unique to this geography, but also conveys the talent and skills of Anatolian women who lived under domination for years. It also highlights its power.

Özgür Masur, who interprets his cultural heritage with couture craftsmanship, prepares his collection by traveling every inch of Anatolia. She goes to Mardin, Şanlıurfa, Hatay and Gaziantep and visits workshops where women use handcrafts and shops selling dowry. She has needle lace work done on chiffon and tulle in Hatay and wire breaking in Bartın. She uses the ikats of Antep, the quilts of Kilis and the cotton fabrics of the Aegean. In the Anatolia collection, which he created by transforming the traditional into the universal and giving wearable forms to cultural elements, he draws attention to the discrimination and sexism that women have been exposed to for years through the traditions he reflects on the clothes, and raises awareness on the path to equality. “I showed you,” summarizes Özgür Masur’s second signature collection.

ASLI FİLINTA: She writes new stories from old stories

Aslı Filinta continued to be inspired by Anatolia and cultural history throughout her entire fashion career. It is possible to see the influence of Piri Reis, a Turkish/Ottoman sailor and cartographer, in the Spring/Summer 2014 collection. In her fashion show in 2018, women selling flowers on the street and their styles were on the podium. In this collection, which showed how committed it was to its values ​​and traditions, the polka dot blouses worn by flower women over leopard patterned skirts and cardigans combined with pleated skirts played the leading role.


In his 88-piece Autumn/Winter 2019 collection, which he created by transforming the old into the new, without wasting any fabric; He added cultural and historical touches to the clothes by using fezzes and Turkish slogans such as “Is This the World of Justice?”

Turkish lace, which was abundant in the Autumn/Winter 2021-22 fashion show, patterns and fabrics bearing traces of Anatolia, and the integration of chintz with needle lace, showed how Aslı Filinta is connected to her culture and how she interprets it today. Finally, Aslı Filinta, who collaborated with the SkinCeuticals cosmetics brand, organized the project “Adding Value is in Our Hand” in collaboration with Hatay Altınözü Zeytin Labor Women’s Enterprise Production and Business Cooperative (Hazek Women’s Cooperative) in order to re-transform the tradition of cimem made with “Wheat Straw Knitting”, one of Hatay’s almost forgotten handicrafts. He started the “Income” project.

Combining her sensitivity about nature protection and sustainability with her desire to transfer historical values ​​to the present, Aslı Filinta continues to work and produce in this direction.

DİCE KAYEK: A fashion philosophy in the footsteps of Istanbul

As a brand born in Turkey and raised in France, Dice Kayek has been inspired by its roots since its establishment and created sculptural designs by blending its cultural heritage with modernity.


The founders of the brand, Ayşe and Ece Ege, explain: “We belong neither to the East nor to the West, we are the synthesis of the two. “We prefer to use traditional handicrafts and examples of almost forgotten crafts in our collections, we are inspired by the cultural heritage of the Ottoman and Byzantine, and since we grew up in Europe, we are able to synthesize the two cultures.”

The effects of the Istanbul Contrast collection, which they designed years ago with inspiration from the historical beauties of Istanbul and decorated with details reflecting Istanbul, the Byzantine and Ottoman Empire, still continue today, not only in Turkey but also in the world.

The floor goes to the Ege brothers: “There are more than 20 designs in the Istanbul Contrast collection, each inspired by the tastes, architecture, flowers and texture of Istanbul, and it is possible to see a different face of Istanbul in each garment. Kubbe, Kumru, Turkish Delight, Galata, Topkapı, Lale, Kaftan, Istanbul Modern, Bosphorus and Hagia Sophia; They turned into clothes as historical and cultural symbols of Istanbul. Kaftan, Hagia Sophia and Dome won the ‘Jameel Prize 3’ award of the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2013 and toured different cities under the auspices of the museum.”


Reminding that they benefit from the forgotten techniques of cultural heritage in each of their collections, Ayşe and Ece Ege say that they also used the “groom’s pocket” in their last summer collection.

ZEYNEP TOSUN: Strong women of the past, present and future

Zeynep Tosun is a designer who creates the identity of her brand with the inspiration she receives from her homeland and roots, and uses the cultural heritage, motifs and traditions of Anatolia and Turkish handicrafts with an innovative interpretation in all her collections. “Apasas”, based on Amazon women who lived in Anatolia and their life stories; In his collection titled “The City of The Mother Goddess”, he used wire wrapping and wire breaking techniques from the Bartın region, knot and tassel embroidery techniques from the Kastamonu region, and hoop and laser techniques. The implementation of handicrafts by women in the region increased employment and emphasized the importance of women’s power.

Zeynep Tosun aims to carry the Anatolian heritage to the future with the collections of the ZT ready-made clothing brand, which she founded in 2023 and appeals to women between the ages of 25-30. The “From Anatolia to Sirius” collection, dedicated to Göbeklitepe, bears traces of Anatolia and the sky in the details and patterns, while the designs reflect the symbols and depictions of the civilizations that lived in Anatolia. Zeynep Tosun not only brings Anatolia to life with its traditional handicrafts and motifs, but also keeps its roots alive by providing employment opportunities for women in the region. Tosun explains: “As someone who believes that the future and change is in the hands of women, I see how working with women and standing on our own feet positively affects our environment.”

ATIL KUTOĞLU: Modern interpretation of Turkish and Ottoman culture

He was nourished by his roots since his student years in the USA and then in Austria. By integrating the proper promotion of his country abroad with his profession and passion for fashion, Atıl Kutoğlu became a designer who created collections bearing traces of Turkish culture. He explains how he interprets his cultural heritage in the design world as follows: “When my passion and admiration for my country and Turkish culture combined with my love of fashion, the effects of our cultural mosaic began to show itself in my designs with a modern interpretation. While studying in Austria and visiting museums in Vienna, I studied the works of genius artists such as Klimt, Schiele, and Adolf Loos and understood the power of simplicity. As a result, I created simple but extremely striking and modern lines that appeal to the taste of European women, inspired by Turkish, Ottoman, Byzantine and Seljuk cultures.

I attracted attention with this feature and made a difference among my foreign colleagues. Important fashion writers of the New York Times wrote articles emphasizing the transformation of ethnic influences in my collections into modern and comfortable creations.

One day, when the famous Princess Ira von Fürstenberg, who was my guest in Istanbul, told me that she bought Turkish flags from the Grand Bazaar and that she liked them very much and that she would hang them in her house, a light went on in my brain and the first lines of my Turkish flag collection appeared. My Spring/Summer 2003 collection, which I exhibited at New York Fashion Week, was completely dominated by the Turkish flag. In addition to red and white, crescents, stars and geometric lines attracted attention. If I go back even further, in 1999, the then Prime Minister Mesut Yılmaz and his wife Berna Yılmaz suggested me to hold a gala fashion show on the occasion of the 700th anniversary of the Ottoman Empire. “The ‘Ottoman Collection’, which I presented at Yıldız Palace, bringing Ottoman influences to modern looks, was a first and was met with interest by the international press.”


Stating that he has been inspired by Turkey at different times of his career, sometimes making designs bearing traces of the Aegean and sometimes the Mediterranean, Atıl Kutoğlu said, “In an age where everything has become extremely modern, even bionic, and technology has advanced a lot, colder, distant and sometimes emotionless environments are developing. . He concludes his speech with the following statement: “Cultural heritage and historical values, sincerity and warmth felt in common shares are the solution to this apathy and stimulate people’s creativity.”

MEHTAP ELAİDİ: Needlework collections and tribute to Anatolia

Mehtap Elaidi starts by explaining that she loves themed collections and that this makes her job valuable: “As a designer brand, I have a problem with telling original stories. That being the case, I expand the circles starting from my immediate circle. At this point, the stories of the places where I was born and raised become my reality.”


He emphasizes that he was inspired by Bodrum for the Summer 2023 collection and benefited from the traditions of the region: “For this collection, we went to Bodrum with our team for 4-5 days, understood the history of the region, wandered around its streets, ate, drank and experienced it. We used evil eye beads engraved on the side streets, stone prints, and various details that remind us of Bodrum in embroideries and patterns. We used needle lace items made by our female friends in Çatom as accessories. The result is a collection that smells like Bodrum.”


Mehtap Elaidi turned to Anatolia for her Spring/Summer 2021 collection. Elaidi and her team, who came together with Çatom again to reflect the lace work in the collection, brought the special beaded mimosa lace and çintemini pattern lace made by Çatom women into the collection. In the end, pieces that paid homage to Turkish culture and Anatolian traditions emerged.

ARZU KAPROL: When meeting traditional technology

It not only carries the values ​​of the past to the present, but also transfers them to the future as a futurist perspective and the legacy of the future. Arzu Kaprol begins by saying, “The rich diversity of traditional motifs, patterns and colors in Turkish culture influences the basis of my designs” and continues as follows: “I love using both technology and traditional fabrics and touches in my designs in different areas and with the same mathematics of thought. In Arzu Kaprol collections, we take care to use fabrics 100 percent produced in Anatolia for summer, winter and all subgroups. Hand-woven fabrics, silks and special prints are valuable points for us.

In K by Kaprol collections, where traditional fabrics are prominent; In cooperation with Kutnia, specially designed weavings and our very special fabric called Üzlü Dastar, which also bears the special geographical indication of Fethiye, are used. Additionally, special fabrics from the Denizli region and Trabzon are also included in our designs. Anatolia is a great resource for us when it comes to carrying the cultural values ​​accumulated over centuries into the future. The ‘Happiness Knot’, a design element that often stands out in my collections, is still found on the inner collar of all clothes today and has represented fertility, the symbol used on Ottoman coins for centuries.

In Anatolian tradition, it is believed that the Happiness Knot makes love, marriage and happiness eternal. “I aimed to bring abundance to wardrobes by using the Happiness Knot in my designs.” Stating that locality has created “an increasing awareness that it can lead to rich and meaningful experiences”, Kaprol said: “The need of people to establish deeper bonds and belong to a larger entity than themselves increases the importance of locality together with the concept of sustainability, which we have frequently talked about in recent years. “Supporting local artisans and producers also contributes to the preservation and celebration of cultural heritage.”

BAŞAK CANKEŞ: It nourishes locality with universality

Başak Cankeş, who draws on cultural motifs while bringing art and fashion side by side, explains that her mother’s role as a guide introducing Turkey to foreigners played a major role in helping her understand the importance of localization. “I believe in the power of combining the local with the universal,” he says. Inspired by the differences and similarities between cultures, Cankeş continues, “I have been observing for many years how great the impact Turkish handicrafts can have on the world when they are highlighted in the right way.” Başak Cankeş, who continued to produce fabrics with women in Anatolia after having Turkish motifs woven by the indigenous women of Peru and Colombia, created the Wearable Art collection by blending different cultural elements. He also videotaped the entire process and made a documentary film.

Cankeş draws on the cultural characteristics of the Ottoman and Anatolia in almost all of his collections. In short, a designer who bases his design philosophy on locality. He explains his previous collections as follows: “In 2016, I interpreted Ottoman miniatures through the eyes of a surreal painter like Salvador Dali. I brought together our miniature artists and Salvador Dali in a wearable art collection. In 2017, I produced the collection called ‘The Ballerina’s Dream Under the Glaze’, which combines Edgar Degas and Turkish tile, for which I wrote the script by establishing a connection between tile art and ballet movements. “In 2019, I designed a collection and stage performance in which we translated the Pinocchio story through leather carving and told the false world of fashion.”

HATİCE GÖKÇE: In the light of ancient knowledge and traditions

He has rediscovered and interpreted Anatolia in every collection he has made since 2011. He established a connection with our cultural past through fashion and brought a modern face to forgotten traditions by bringing them to the present: “My aim is to present the values ​​of these lands from a different perspective, to help these ancient knowledge reach more people by keeping them alive and contributing to their updating. “To clear the prejudices on the word ‘traditional’ and to highlight the valuable attitude towards the need in ‘tradition’.”

The Leather Age, which he prepared solely for exhibition in 2013 with the inspiration taken from the strengths of eight civilizations that lived in Anatolia, and the shoe collection he made by applying the art of marbling on leather in the same year; It is one of the first works in which Gökçe turned her attention to her cultural heritage. He continues his fashion journey inspired by the beauties of the past: “In 2015, I prepared a collection in which I used the miniature horses from Evliya Çelebi’s travelogue as prints and embroidery. In 2018, I made double-sided wearable designs and daily-use bags from Ehram weaving for the Baksı Museum. It is still on sale at the museum. In 2019, I had a collection in which I used Matrakçı Nasuh’s miniatures and depicted Nasuh’s animals, plants, sea and Istanbul.

“My collection titled The Sun King in 2023 underlines the cultural richness with bright silks with a rich variety of patterns.” Finally, the social responsibility project Argande, for which Gökçe is the design coordinator, contributed to the continuation of weaving looms in the Southeastern Anatolia Region by using kutnu and shawl shepik fabrics in the collections every season. He provided employment for women in the region by making them produce.

DİLEK HANİF: A journey from the Ottoman Empire and Anatolia to today

Dilek Hanif, who was inspired by first Ottoman and then Turkish culture throughout her career, explains that what led her to cultural history was the desire to be different and original. Talking about the couture weeks he attended in Paris, Hanif reminds that he stood out and differentiated himself by remaining original and turning to his cultural roots among the big brands that appeared there and made similar designs.

He talks about how researching Ottoman culture excited him while he was working on the collection he was going to showcase for Paris Couture Week in 2004, and how he took great pleasure in researching history. Dilek Hanif, who conveyed the rich and magnificent culture of the Ottoman Empire with velvets, brocades, lace and silk chiffons, black, gold, burgundy and purple in all the collections she took to Paris, began to be inspired by Anatolia in the following years.

Finally, for the People’s Art exhibition, which was open until November 26th and was realized with the contributions of NTV and Halkbank, Dilek Hanif travels every inch of Anatolia, traces the handicrafts that are on the verge of disappearing and left under the chests, and examines the weavings, motifs and It is looking for ways to transfer the patterns from traditionalism to the younger generation with a more modern touch and adapt them to today. Behind the 32 clothes created by Dilek Hanif, you can see Erzurum’s ehram, Tokat’s woodblock print, Antep’s kutnu, Kastamonu’s nail lace embroidery, and Göynük’s buckled veil. Dilek Hanif emphasizes that by turning to cultural heritage, original designs can be made and employment can be provided to young generations.


Writing :Selin Miloshyan

Taken from ELLE Türkiye January 2024 issue.

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