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Comparing Dutch and Turkish fashion


Despite the fact that Turkey and Netherland enjoy a special relationship that dates back some 400 year ago and have very active bilateral ties, including trade, investment, cultural cooperation Dutch fashion is hardly known in the Turkish fashion circles.

Outside a select group of enlightened Istanbul fashionistas, nobody had even heard of Viktor and Rolf and the vibrant fashion scene burgeoning in the Netherlands. The same would be true with regard to the knowledge of the Turkish fashion scene in Holland.

Given the potential for collaboration, it is really ironic that apart from some odd fashion shows, high on budget, low on impact, that serve primarily as one off promotional events without long term strategy of partnership and follow up activities very little is done in the field of fashion between Turkey and the Netherlands.

Obvious differences Sustained by unique system of grants and subsidies to creative professionals fashion in the Netherlands is more of an artistic pursuit than a commercial activity.

In Turkey such subsidies are hard to come by therefore designers have to think of, first and foremost, selling their wares. They display an impressive entrepreneurial spirit; less concerned with hemlines and silhouettes, they focus on opening own boutiques, distribution, production and market share increase.

Whereas Dutch designers seek individual expression and treat tradition with irreverence inventing new codes; Turkish designers constantly turn to the heritage of tradition for inspiration. Unique as it is at times this weight of tradition hampers their freedom of experimentation.

The Dutch are averse to following trends. They create to be different. Turkish designers with few exceptions are very receptive to trends and do incorporate them into their work.

Dutch fashion designers are recognised for their conceptual approach, purity of lines and perfection of form stemming, undoubtedly, from the Calvinist tradition of sobriety.

Turkish fashion designers have little affinity with sobriety. They tend to be less conceptual and more commercial. Their unavoidable reference is the opulence of the Ottoman court life and the rich history of craft; they create to dazzle and stun. They go big on details and ornaments. “Leaving out” appears to be an alien concept. But their technical prowess is simply astounding.

Yes, this abundance of detail and “heavy sauce” styling does not always woo the international customer. Locally, however, Turkish designers sell more gowns than any of their peers in the Netherlands and beyond.

If we were to draw parallels between fashion and storytelling then Turkish fashion is a costume drama, whereas Dutch fashion is an intellectual essay.

Obvious SynergiesIt is really disappointing that in the pursuit of the “bigger picture” in China, India, Germany Dutch design policy makers have overlooked fantastic opportunities closer to home in Turkey where potential synergies for cooperation are simply obvious:

  • Istanbul nurtures ambition to become a new fashion capital, so does the city of Amsterdam. Turkey is pushing to rebrand herself into “country fashion maker”. Amsterdam is working hard to become a creative business centre.
  • Whereas Istanbul looks to develop and invest in fashion education, Amsterdam offers a wide range of creative education in institutions such as the Rietveld academy, the University of Amsterdam and Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI) well-known for the quality of its training which lures in artists from all corners of the world.
  • The Amsterdam International Fashion week (AIFW) is steadily establishing itself as a young and focused alternative to other more traditional fashion weeks. Concentrating on Amsterdam’s reputation as an inspiring city, the AIFW program combines creativity with commerce and is attracting a growing audience of international brands, buyers and press.
  • The Istanbul Fashion Week launched last year is quickly establishing itself is an important event in the region due to heavy presence of international press and buyers flown in by the organisers
  • Turkey offers ample opportunities for independent Dutch designers in manufacturing small collections, in sourcing fabrics; in easy access to available skills in traditional crafts like embroidery, beading, marbling, etc.
  • Turkey is one of the world’s biggest producers of organic cotton and offers possibilities for working on green /sustainable fashion
  • Turkey could also be a potential market for Dutch designers and Dutch brands, but also a spring board for expansion in the Middle East, CIS and South Eastern Europe markets