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“By 2023 Istanbul will have become a global fashion centre playing in the same league as Paris, New York, Milan and London.” Zafer Caglayan (Turkish State Minister in charge of foreign trade) told some 200 international press gathered in the Conrad Hotel, Istanbul on the occasion of the second edition of the Istanbul Fashion Week in February 2010.  

Ever a dandy, with a taste for pinstripes and emphatic ties, the Minister has re-iterated his ambitious vision for Turkish fashion. By 2023 (the year the Turkish Republic will mark its centenary) Istanbul will have become a global fashion centre playing in the same league as Paris, New York, Milan and London. Ten new Turkish fashion brands will enter the global market and Turkish economy will join the club of the top ten. And to any doubting Thomas in the audience his message was the unequivocal “Yes, we can”.

A humorous reference to Barak Obama’s election campaign slogan it might have been indeed, but rather than a case of grand posturing by a politician, it denotes a clearly defined strategic goal. Grand? Undoubtedly. But also quite realistic given that the country has a well developed infrastructure of textile manufacturing, young highly skilled work force and serious government commitment to invest in education and provide financial backing to the nascent Turkish brands.

Fashion in Turkey has always been about business. After all, the textile and apparel industry is the backbone of the national economy contributing around 10% of the national GDP. It is responsible for 20% of all industrial production in the country. Whereas in the past the efforts were on manufacturing for others, the time has come to concentrate on nurturing home grown fashion brands and in invest in DESIGN.

With the launch of Istanbul Fashion Week in 2009 Istanbul once known as “the city of world desire” is on course to become a new capital of style makers and trendsetters ready to claim style credentials worthy of its imperial past. Just like in arts and music, fashion has seen a resurgence of designers turning to express their individuality rather than following pronounced trends.

Arzu Kaprol, Özlem Süer, Mehtap Elaidi, Hakan Yıldırım, Bahar Korcan, Idil Tarzi and other fashion designers have contributed to building a new image of fashion ‘MADE IN TURKEY’. Of the new generation Asli Filinta caught the eye of the international fashion community. Her collection “Kisses Can Fly” was recently featured among the fashion super brands like Chanel, Fendi and Lanvin at Magazine Alive Store in Tokyo, a new concept pop-up store by Comme des Garcons. Hakan Yildirim won the coveted Euro 220,000 Andam fashion prize, awarded each year in Paris. Simay Bulbul is another Turkish designer to watch.

As for the ambitious goal to make Istanbul one of the world style capitals and whether it will be achieved by 2023 as set out by the visionary Turkish leadership, it remains to be seen.

However, one thing is certain there is commitment, there are resources and there is a strong will. And as the old adage goes where there is a will, there is a way.

“We are known all over the world as a producer. We also want to be known for our design.” 

Hikmet Tanriverdi, ITKIB Chairman



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