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November 21, 2017
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Istanbul Fashion Week Puts Turkey on the Global Economic Map

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Atil Kutoglu S/S 2012 (Source: Putto Magazine).

Istanbul can claim yet another successful fashion week, its fifth so far, with reportedly over 100 members of the press from all parts of Europe and the Middle East in attendance. Set in the historic city of Beyoğlu, 22 designers and five brands from Turkey showcased their collections for the Spring/Summer 2012 season. Perhaps it's due to the backdrop of a charming ancient city, a robust economy, a burgeoning scene of design talent, an aggressive agenda to become a member of the EU, or all of the above, but Turkey's stance in the fashion market is palpable. It is becoming all the more real with Istanbul Fashion Week (IFW).

The growing visibility from Europe and the Middle East of Turkish fashion designers means that IFW can relinquish its former goal of assimilating with the fashion markets of the Big 4 (i.e. New York, London, Milan and Paris). And why should they? IFW has a couple of things going for it: a strong economy backed by booming textile sector, boasting second in the European ranks, and a fleet of interested patrons from the East. "We've stopped attempting to imitate what goes on in London or Paris. Fashion isn't decided in four cities anymore - the world is changing and there's a lot of interest in the East. We’re a bridge between worlds." says designer Bahar Korcan, president of Turkey's Fashion Designers Association and founder of IFW, in Monocle.

Indeed, Turkey is blazing its own fashion trails by developing a unique brand, and meeting demand from buyers in France, Italy, Spain, Russia and Lebanon amongst others, according to Hürriyet Daily News. While Turkey paves its own road in the global fashion market, Turkish designers such as Atil Kutoglu are managing to connect West with East. For his spring/summer 2012 collection, Elizabeth Jagger, daughter of Mick Jagger from famed rock group The Rolling Stones, graced Kutoglu's runway.

We've stopped attempting to imitate what goes on in London or Paris. Fashion isn't decided in four cities anymore - the world is changing and there's a lot of interest from the East.

IFW's agenda to develop it own package for the Eastern market is met by existing synergies between Turkey's emerging pool of talented designers and production process. Fashion brands in Istanbul work at an advantage to brands in Europe, by integrating design and production in house. As a result, the two sectors can piggy back off one other, banking on efficiencies and product quality. The Turkish government, who have lagged in IFW support in the past, are cleverly adapting to this integration, and perhaps even accelerating it, with the promise of pumping more funds to IFW from its current shoestring budget of a little more than 2 million Turkish Liras (approximately 1 million Euros).

A bolster in IFW's position within the global fashion (and commercial) arena could, by extension, have positive implications on supporting brands, such as Turkish Airlines, who have sponsored the event with transport. The same can be said for niche Turkish design brands, such as Argande, who presented their latest collection on the runway at IFW. Argande are an inspiring bunch with a tale worth telling. They exist as collaborative effort between the UN Development Programme and South Eastern Anatolia Regional Development Administration, with support from fashion designers and MUDO, one of Turkey's largest retailers. 

 
 
Argande Spring/Summer 2012 Collection.  (Source: Istanbul Fashion Week)

Argande clothes are produced by 145 women of small means living in South East Anatolia region of Turkey. The exposure IFW yields for the likes of Argande does not manifest from a macro perspective alone in terms of Turkey's strategic location, but also from a micro level, down at the consumer level. The advent of the socially and environmentally aware consumer [see “A Revival of the Fashion Pragmatist”] are seeking brands like Argande to align with their core ideals. 

As the global commerce balance tilts towards the BRIC countries, Turkey is poised for a win with the imminent growth of fashion design, coupled with its textile production stronghold. 

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