A Fashion Storm is Brewing in Europa

BEGÜM AKDOĞANLAR IS A YOUNG TURKISH DESIGNER WHO GRADUATED FROM MILAN’S ISTITUTO EUROPEO DE DESIGN WITH A FIRST IN FASHION AND ACCESSORY DESIGN. WE TALKED WITH HER ABOUT EUROPE’S FASHION FAIRS AND HER OWN DESIGNS.

Since when have fashion fairs been held in Europe?

Europe’s fashion fairs date back a long time. They started at the end of the 1950’s and have continued in increasing numbers since the sixties. They have become even more frequent in the last five or six years due to globalization and today’s consumer society.

In which countries do fashion fairs attract the most visitors?

The Prêt à Porter Fair in France has been the world’s top international fair for years in terms of attracting participants and visitors from every country. Second to that is the White Show in Milan, which includes the more unconventional designers and firms.

What is the secret of high participant and visitor numbers?

Fierce competition in textiles is constantly fueling the market and forcing people to look for new alternatives. And fairs are the best environments for finding new alternatives all in one place and presenting your own designs to the world.

Who can participate in fairs?

Firm owners and individual designers with their own brands can take part. If you are a shop owner, you can also get in as a visitor to place an order with a firm or designer.

How does participation work? Can any firm take part?

In the case of some textile firms, your application is approved following payment of a participation fee. But at fairs where the value given to design takes precedence over material gain, you can only take part if your collection is approved by a jury.

How did you get started in design?

I studied fashion, textile and accessory design at the Istituto Europeo di Design in Milan and graduated with a first. When I returned from Milan in 2007, I started to put together a collection for the leading firms in the sector and I continue to do that today. I also created my own brand, BEGART.

What do you pay particular attention to in your products?

What I pay attention to in both textiles and leather is raw materials of outstanding texture and appearance. I wanted to reflect that in my creations as well by using exotic leathers. The natural patterns and colors of exotic leathers create a sense of being special and unconventional in those who use the products. The leather and all the accessories I use on it are from abroad and come to life in the hands of my production team here in Turkey.

Where do you get the inspiration for your designs?

I don’t take my inspiration from any particular source, but geometry, the surreal and things from the past can all provide inspiration to me.

Which animal skins do you use?

Mostly python and water snake. Apart from those I also use camel hair, alligator, stingray, karung and lizard skin. I use lambskin and calfskin as well for trim. None of these skins are obtained from animals in nature, of course; they are all raised on special farms.

People usually associate Paris and Milan with fashion. Is this trend continuing, or are new cities and countries also getting into the fashion business?

Milan is the second city after Istanbul where I feel most at home. Of course, that’s largely because I studied there and spent so many years there. Yes, Milan is definitely still very important in fashion. For me it’s tops. But to see unconventional designs that push the boundaries, you have to go to Antwerp and Tokyo.

Held in Paris September 3 to 6, the Prêt à Porter fair is the first harbinger of autumn. Four Turkish designers will be among those whose special collections have been selected for presentation in the hall.