The field of fashion offers infinite possibilities for collaboration between Turkey and the Netherlands. This collaboration could be developed on a purely cultural level as one of the means to increase cultural dialogue and exchange, but it could also be taken into the practical realm of business collaboration. Right now, when looking at the fashion activities between the Netherlands and Turkey over the last few years, we can state that they have neither an institutional involvement, nor a focused formulated policy, they lack cohesion and are more of a haphazard nature.
Take fashion in Turkey seriously
Turkish textiles and apparel industries are the biggest economic sector in Turkey and account for 10% of GDP and 20% of industrial production. Production equipment is modern and the country has integrated and high capacity operations. Because Turkey is becoming too expensive for low cost production, it understands that it has to invest in fashion, design and in creating its own brands. Turkey is very serious and ambitious on the issue of moving from ‘country textile manufacturer’ to design and there is support from the highest level for this change. As recent as five years ago the situation was very different.
There is an increasing support to young fashion designers from the government institutions; and investment in fashion education and Turkish brands is on the rise. Turkish fashion is well organized nationally (FDAT) and can speak in one voice. As Turkey works to shed the old image of the ‘country textile manufacturer’, it looks out to France, Italy and Germany for expertise and savoir faire. It is unaware that the Netherlands have exceptional expertise in creative management and have developed a sophisticated infrastructure to position Dutch design and designers that could prove beneficial to Turkey if studied.
Develop the many potential synergies
Given the potential synergies for collaboration and the importance of Turkey for the general Dutch trade and investment policy, it is really ironic that apart from odd fashion shows -high on budget, low on impact- that serve primarily as one off promotional events without a long term strategy of partnership and follow up activities very little is done in the field of fashion between Turkey and the Netherlands. DDFA was deliberating whether to make Turkey/Istanbul a 4th focus in its policy. If DDFA does not support Turkey, one of its competitors should get a budget to fill the gap.
Stimulate trilateral cooperation
Because Germany is one of the countries chosen for the DDFA program, and the connection between Germany and Turkey is strong, it might be an idea to organize fashion related activities between Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.
Before effective exchange and cooperation takes place it is imperative that potential partners find each other and learn to know each other. It is advisable to organize country visits with participation by the industry players, academics, designers, other industry professionals and a trade fashion mission for the Dutch designers and industry professionals to explore sourcing and manufacturing opportunities in Turkey, including small volume collections manufacturing, a wide range of high quality textiles, organic cotton, etc. The program should cover visits, matchmaking sessions, presentations, network building etc. It is important that the groups include representatives from across the sector, particularly young designers, fashion schools representatives, etc and not only the usual suspects from the establishment.
* More Dutch fashion in Turkey [III] *
On the back of such a visit it would be good to launch an event or a campaign and open it with a big name resonance -in Turkey names always produce an impact- and to build a PR campaign around it. Dutch fashion designers (or even ‘Dutch design’) are not known in Turkey; outside a select group of enlightened Istanbul fashionistas, nobody has even heard of Viktor and Rolf and the vibrant fashion scene burgeoning in the Netherlands. Names matter in Turkey so a Victor and Rolf event, or the latest Foam exhibition of Ines van Lamsveerde and Vinoodh Matadin, would create some awareness of the Netherlands as a country that has fashion designers and a thriving fashion scene. Another idea to increase awareness of Dutch fashion in Turkey is to organize a conference in Istanbul on the ‘Dutch Fashion Landscape Today’ involving education establishments, fashion institutions, newly established independent platform Fashion NL and fashion media with workshops and presentations. A showcase of Jan Taminiau couture would be a most telling example of Dutch fashion as compared to Turkish fashion.
Dutch styling could be showcased by for example a window display at Beymen/Vakko/ Blender done by Dutch stylists and visual merchandisers. Workshops/short courses by Dutch specialists on visual merchandising and styling can be held either in the framework of fashion school exchanges or as a special offer.
More Turkish fashion in the Netherlands
Turkish fashion is hardly known in the Netherlands. In terms of taste and perceptions, Turkish fashion design is more sumptuous, details abundant and dressy as compared to the Dutch school. Errol Albayarak, for example is a typical representative of the old school Turkish couturier designer that goes for the opulent and the theatrical. However a new wave of independent boutiques by young experimental fashion designers in Istanbul showcase and sell designers which have a cleaner, more modern style and would appeal to Dutch taste. These designers could be invited for a presentation in the Netherlands. A show by a Turkish designer -for example Simay Bulbul- could be styled, directed and choreographed by a Dutch team. Dutch collaboration with independent fashion designers from Turkey that have their own productions and shops may be interesting for Dutch fashion designers. These Turkish designers work in a more artistic way, rather than commercially. They also have contacts with boutiques in Istanbul that sell more contemporary and/or conceptual fashion.
Collaborative activities in both countries
In both countries pop up stores could be set up featuring the work of the Dutch and Turkish designers around a specific theme interpreted in a variety of ways. Istanbul based arts organization Europist has experience setting up a pop-up store for young designers.
Also a fashion competition for the fashion school students and young designers from both countries can be organized. The students produce a few pieces around a theme given by the jury, something that serves as a cultural reference in both cultures. The jury panel should be a balanced mix of TR and NL representatives. The challenge is to deliver modern interpretation of the given theme. The main prize could be a master program in the Netherlands, and an internship with a big brand in Turkey and/or cultural trip.
In a collaborative project, involving Kumpanya 62 and Fashion NL, a special collection for the commemoration of 400 years of diplomatic relations in 2012 can be developed by six Dutch designers and six Turkish designers. To be presented in Turkey and in the Netherlands.
A project involving fashion bloggers and street style photographers to document contemporary style could be highly appealing. For example Style Zoom Ist-Ams; Ist-Rotterdam
Reflect on traditional clothes and textiles
Textile Research Center Leiden is active in research and presentations of clothing and costumes from Turkey. The Center also has a rich collection. In Turkey there is a wealth in traditional costumes and textiles, traditions and other intangible heritage concerning clothing and textiles that can be a topic for research can be presented as such or in combination with contemporary designs or it can be the inspiration for contemporary design projects based on the historical material. Because of the tradition in Turkey, the Turkish side has some interest in Dutch traditional head-gear (Zeeuwse kapjes) and costume and the meanings that are attached to them (what do/did these clothes say about the identity of the wearer). Dutch and Turkish designers together could be asked to make a contemporary reinterpretation of historical or regional costumes from each other’s country. Any manipulation of Turkish traditional clothes (head scarf, fez) by Turkish designers would quickly spark specific political debates rather than debate on the potential artistic and cultural meanings clothes and head-gear can have. When the Turkish designers are allowed to research and manipulate the Dutch traditional costumes they can freely explore traditional dress for new meanings. It would allow debates about politics and identity held on another level. The Istanbul based SODA gallery would be interested in such a project. Reinterpreted costumes may also be of interest to folk dance groups who use such costumes in performances.
More collaboration in jewelry and accessories
In Turkey the gold and silver traditional jewelry business is big and mass-produced cheap trinkets are sold everywhere. In the Netherlands there is less interest in highly ornamented classic jewelry. The modern jewelry that is designed in the Netherlands has less appeal in the Turkish market. Maybe this is the reason why there is so little cultural collaboration in this field? Turkey wants to produce jewelry for all markets and move more into design as they cannot compete on price anymore. Therefore more collaboration between Dutch and Turkish Jewelry and accessories people is recommended. Dutch and Turkish designers can exchange ideas and knowledge in contemporary design and reinterpretations of traditional jewelry. Jewelry also offers opportunities for amateur projects. As is recommended in the Recommendations for Design 3D, more attention could be given to amateurs in Turkey and the Netherlands which are interested in jewelry design. Especially amongst Turkish amateurs, jewelry design is popular.
SODA Gallery was established in January 2010. It is a 130 m2 contemporary art and design space located on Şakayık Street in the high-end district of Nişantaşı in Istanbul. SODA’s first exhibition was the work of Atelier Ted Noten. SODA hosts design exhibitions and helps artists presenting in their space to produce new works; for example the Turkish industrial designer Meriç Kara who prepared a new collection for the exhibition. But the main focus of SODA is contemporary jewelry and apart from exhibiting works, SODA also sells contemporary jewelry of artists such as Ela Bauer, Jahyun Rita Baek, Peter Hoogeboom and Doerthe Fuchs. (www.sodaistanbul.com). SODA is the only contemporary jewelry gallery in Istanbul and aims to broaden awareness of contemporary jewelry design in Istanbul. They are consultants to a group of contemporary art collectors who are interested in contemporary jewelry. However due to the fact that collecting contemporary jewelry is new in Turkey, the collectors have a lot of questions regarding setting up and maintaining a contemporary jewelry collection. I put SODA in contact with Paul Derrez from Gallery RA in Amsterdam, the director of the main contemporary jewelry gallery in the Netherlands and one of the most active Dutch collectors himself. It was remarkable that the people of Dutch contemporary galleries I contacted went to Istanbul Turkey several times, but at the same time could not manage to find artists in Turkey making contemporary jewelry. Finding them was difficult because until SODA came along there was no gallery and only a few contemporary jewelry artists selling only from their ateliers which were often not in the area that people from abroad visit. Now SODA and Gallery RA are in contact and are making plans to organize a joint conference.
When it comes to reinterpreting old jewelry designs from Anatolia in gold and other precious materials, there is a market for this and the various Anatolian jewelry techniques may also inspire Dutch designers. The skill level of Turkish-Armenian masters in jewelry production (mostly gold and silver) is amazing and production is cheaper in Turkey than in the Netherlands. Furthermore due to the limited size of the objects, transport costs for jewelry and other accessories are lower than for other design products.
A visit by a Dutch jewelry designer delegation to Turkey could be useful to develop more cultural collaboration in this field, because the main stumbling block seems to be that the Dutch side cannot find Turkish counterparts or partners without some help.