The history of textile production in Turkey goes back to the Ottoman times. In the sixteen’s and seventeen’s century cities such as Bursa, Bilecik, and Uskudar were centers where the world’s finest silks, velvets, cottons, and woolens were woven.
The Ottoman world was known for its production of sumptuous textiles that were woven with shimmering silk and metallic threads. Exquisitely decorated satins and velvets were cherished by both the Ottomans and the Europeans. These luxurious fabrics also provided a medium for the arts of embroidery, hand-painting, and block-printing.
The Ottoman Empire was strategically located on the path of the east-west silk route bridging Asia and Europe. Silk, transported by caravans from Iran passed through Anatolia as far as Bursa. Bursa was the major center for the international silk trade during the early sixteenth century and provided substantial revenues to the state by customs, taxes and brokerage fees levied from the Iranian and Italian merchants; in addition, it developed its own textile industry, an important sector of Ottoman economy.
The tradition of tailoring and master tailors can be traced back to the same period. Even today with fast fashion available everywhere there isn’t a neighbourhood in Istanbul without a tailor shop. Turkish tailors are able to execute the most intricate designs and produce spectacular garments often without patterns cutting directly on the fabric
At the turn of the century Istanbul, the city where the heart of the Turkish fashion beats, saw an emergence of a new generation of Turkish designers keen to establish own brands and express their own vision, different from the old “more is more” school of the established couturiers. Among them we have to single out Arzu Kaprol, Ozlem Suer, Mehtap Elaidi. Of the three Arzu has become the most international, Ozlem more couture, and Mehtap more conceptual. With home ware, linens, diffusion lines and other brands collaboration Arzu Kaprol is building an expanding fashion empire.
The new generation
On the heels of these three a wave of new designers has come up to prominence. Simay Bulbul, İdil Tarzi, Gamze Saraçoğlu, Deniz Mercan, Ezra-Tuba Çetin, Özlem Kaya, Özgür Masur, Günseli Türkay, Müge Ersin, Zeynep Tosun, Zeynep Erdoğan, Cem Likmanhekim, Bihter Aida Pekin, Niyazi Eerdoğan, Nazli Çetiner. They have preserved traditional workmanship and exceptional technique but infused fashion with modern vision and individual signature.
Simay Bulbul, for example, works with leather. She crinckles it, twists it, lazer cuts it mixing it with silk and jersey. She is a perfect example of a Turkish designer who uses local savoir faire of leather craft and gives it her own interpretation.
Or take Ozgur Masur. He is a master of a perfect dress. In his own words his creations can be best described as “minimal pieces, small details, big message --- sophistication”.
The new kids on the block making waves are Berra Terzioglu and Begum Salihoglu. Both studied abroad and returned to Istanbul to start their own labels which are taking off with impressive speed seducing fashionistas and retailers alike.
According to Feride Tansug, Turkey is just beginning to realise the enormity of its creative potential. ”Individualism and combining story has not reached its peak in Turkey yet. However designers are working in the experimental area and they are making a great contribution to the market. The way some designers rely on their taste and instincts instead of trends can be seen as an indicator of the “individualization” of Turkish fashion”