Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Istanbul awakes

Sandwiched between New York and London, the fashion week on the Bosporus is a reminder that fashion can open borders

Achtung Mode accepted an invitation from Turkish style maven Ece Sukan to attend Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Istanbul. At the moment, Sukan serves as brand ambassador for Istanbul Fashion Week and has put Turkey on the map by being the founding fashion editor of Turkish Vogue with her whimsical shoots. Apart from that, she is a street style icon who is married to Umit Benan, the best Turkish designer out there.

In light of the political tensions between Germany and Turkey, we thought it was extra important to come along to show that human relations between Germans and Turks are what they always have been: full of mutual respect and warmth. Berlin’s Kreuzberg could be a Turkish city and the integration of Turks in German society is a successful migration project.

Istanbul is home to 17 Million inhabitants and the river Bosporus connects the European to the Asian side, so scale and size of this city are just overwhelming. Needless to say, during the day it’s nearly impossible to advance by car and it’s wise to move early morning or at night. The shows were held in an upscale multimedia culture center where hundreds of fashion hungry kids lined up outside to look at the denizens of the local style world led by Sukan. As it goes with global street style, embroidered Gucci-esque looks and oversize Balenciaga-esque looks dominated. But it’s a clear observation that the Turkish woman likes to play dress-up in fancy looks, which are sexy. The style horizon between Burka-clad Muslim female tourists and sexy non-Muslims is rather striking.

Apart from Umit Benan, Turkey’s internationally most recognized name in fashion are the Ege sisters Ayse and Ece who form the label Dice Kayek. Interesting enough, instead of showing their clothes on the runway, they opted for the format of fashion film executed by Showstudio contributor and fellow German Marie Schuller. Ece Sukan added a third surprise film on the sister’s latest collection with videographer Yagmur Kizilok. Sukan stole the show from Schuller’s films by giving a concise tour of her native Istanbul and seaside resort Bodrum and clearly showing the clothes in a fresh, unpretentious way. While Schuller, who spoke on a panel with the Ege sisters and Sukan beforehand pointed out that she wanted to bring story lines and relevance to the medium fashion film, she did not achieve that with her film shot in a London pub where one was dying to see more of the structural silhouettes Dice Kayek is known for.

The program also included a visit to the current Ai Weiwei porcelain exhibition where we met up with Banu Bolen, the director of Turkish fashion week and Mehtap Elaidi, the head of the Turkish Fashion Designers Association. Two down-to-earth, hands-on and smart women who have one common goal: Transforming Turkey from a textile manufacturer into a fashion design driven country. Both were proud that IMG had originally picked Istanbul and not Abu Dhabi as hub to the East. They established a serious acceptance committee of six members who approve or turn down if a designer can show at Istanbul Fashion week. So the professional structures are established but to be honest, most of the shows we witnessed were a bit too banal or student like.

Sukan supplied another highlight by presiding over a panel with the subject Fashion Without Borders in which she managed to bring seven members on the panel, all esteemed members of the international fashion community who have seven different passports. Designer Esteban Cortazar from Colombia, stylist Elisa Nalin from Italy, Dan Thawley from Australia, Leaf Greener from China, Francesco Sourigues from Argentina, Sukan from Turkey and us from Germany. The lively discussion encouraged the numerous guests to be open minded and even while living in a politically repressed country, to travel and open personal borders to ensure a new generation of Turkish fashion.