Is Istanbul the world’s new fashion capital?

With its current spate of fashion days, could be Istanbul poised to become the new capital of the international fashion community?

The countdown has begun to Istanbul’s becoming a 2010 European Capital of Culture. All eyes, particularly in the European countries, will soon be on us. Nor would anyone deny that Istanbul is finally receiving the attention she has long deserved. While a flurry of preparations are under way in response to that attention, Istanbul has also been the scene of several important world fashion events. First, Istanbul Fashion Days in August were followed in October by FashionableIstanbul.  The common denominator of the two was to carve out a new niche for the city among the world’s handful of genuine fashion capitals. The aim is high. And the work to be done is commensurate with it. So, can Istanbul really become a fashion capital like New York, Milan, Paris and London?

To answer this question, it is essential first of all to understand what makes these cities fashion capitals. The notion that simply staging a fashion week is sufficient is completely off base. Talks are held, preparations are made, people toil for months on end to make such a week happen. But in the end but a fashion week is a one-off event.

What are we lacking?
Above all else it is important that a city be inspiring. Istanbul lacks for nothing in this sense But when we look at the other cities, we see that all of them are quite advanced when it comes to fashion design. This has to do with the residents’ design consciousness and degree of interest. A common complaint among designers who live and work in Istanbul and offer their designs to these cities is that they fail to get the feedback they desire. This is not a matter merely of people’s interest; it depends as well on members of the press who have trained and specialized in this area. And one of the ways in which these four cities are way ahead of Istanbul is that they have strong press support, which is a key factor in enabling designers to develop themselves and make their names and their work known.

With a textile industry that can compete with the world’s giants, Turkey is in a relatively good global position as far textile exports go.  How unfortunate then that a country with a capacity for production of this magnitude has so few brand names and has for so long been unable to develop the concept of brand awareness. Another way Istanbul falls short is that she fails to make her brands known in the international arena. We currently have fashion designers abroad who are doing exceptionally good work and have scored big successes, but they can be counted on the fingers of one hand. And a large segment of the population unfortunately regard them as out of reach or their designs as unwearable.  The biggest pluses of the other great fashion capitals are that they support their designers and provide enthusiastic potential designers with a wide range of incentives. There’s no denying as well the support of buyers who appreciate and value design.

Due to its natural geographical situation Istanbul is not only an inspiration to designers, it also offers a designer the logistical infrastructure for transporting his designs to the world. Nevertheless, while its location at the heart of the Old World renders it unique, it is debatable how much logistical support this actually offers/can offer designers and the extent to which designers take advantage of it.

Another weakness is that textile-producing firms relegate design and designers to the back burner. Instead of producing original designs by talented designers, thereby promoting their names around the world, firms avoid risk by recycling the same old hackneyed designs when what they need to do is realize how important design has become in our changing world. As long as this doesn’t change, Turkey is never going to be more than a country producing ancillary collections for the great fashion houses of Europe.

In short, Istanbul has a long way to go to becoming a fashion capital. The brunt of the responsibility is ours to bear as we go down this road. If we support our culture and stand behind our designers and keep our fashion design industry alive, the rest will follow automatically.

Fem Güçlütürk
Partner, Beraylafem PR Agency
We’re becoming more creative but with an ‘arabesque’ mentality. We are only able to make our voice heard intermittently through superficial projects that are devoid of real content. They don’t last. We can’t take any criticism. We can’t look back and see where we went wrong and take a lesson from our mistakes. Instead we gloat when we get through some event without a disaster and it goes to our head. In short, there are many ‘societal’ reasons why we can’t become a fashion capital. So many that they exceed the bounds of a single paragraph. Nevertheless, I can’t refrain from mentioning them.

Bahar Korçan
Moda Tasarımcıları Derneğİ Başkanı
The world is changing. Innovation is bringing about change in every area. We’ve realized that saying we are going to make Istanbul a fashion capital has become old hat.  We said that Istanbul could be a viable alternative to the rest of the world with its designers, exports and ready-to-wear brands. With all the ancillary branches that feed the fashion industry (fashion photographers, models, editors etc), Istanbul has already become a sound and viable alternative.

Feride Tansuğ
L’appart PR İstanbul
Istanbul is and will be a design and fashion capital. She is advancing rapidly down this path guided by projects realized in the recent period and currently under way. We are going to be able to express ourselves even better as projects that support Turkish brands and Turkish designers and promote them more effectively abroad proliferate. Never before has such emphasis been placed on the international branding process. We may have been late to appreciate its importance, but I believe that we are rapidly going to close the gap.

Özlem Süer 
Fashion Designer
We live in a land with deep-rooted tradition and beauty to inspire everyone. This is gradually being noticed and Istanbul is entering the ranks of the cities recognized by the prestigious foreign press. Foreign fashion designers are starting to spend more time here too. All these things are an indication that we stand on the brink of favorable developments. I am hopeful for my country and my city.

Jean Paul Cauvin
Fashion editor, Fashion Daily News
The textile and apparel industries are strong in Turkey. Turkey’s manufactures are of higher quality and more attractively priced by comparison with China and India, who are looking to rise in this sector. All these are big pluses for a country. Istanbul also has advantages: her population is diverse and very young, which gives the city a special dynamism. If the people, the state and the city support creativity and clear the way ahead for young designers, Istanbul has a good chance of taking its place among cities like Paris, Milan, London and New York.

With its open-minded, cosmopolitan outlook and awareness of what’s going on in the rest of the world, Istanbul in my mind is poised to become a fashion capital. The younger generation hold out hope for the future. You have talented and impressive artists in many branches of the arts. The only thing missing is to give these young intellects an opportunity to practice their art in the best possible way.

Metin Gürsoy
PR and Marketing Consultant
This question has to be answered with another question: Should Istanbul be a fashion capital? And the answer depends on an entirely strategic decision, because cities become centers in any field whatsoever not only because the people who live there want them to but because the states of which they are a part also desire and support this. With the proviso that it be taken as my own personal view, I would say, no, Istanbul should not be a fashion capital. For rather than being a center of fashion, Istanbul should be pushed and supported to become a center of something higher, something of more substance. Or else we should just leave the city be and see where the flow of its boundless energy takes it.