London, Paris, New York, Milan: the “Big Four”. These cities have long held the most prestige in the industry but recently the birth of digital fashion weeks has sparked a globalisation of sorts. No longer are fashion weeks a hub of exclusivity, but rather an open platform for art, readily accessible to anyone with a wifi connection.

IstanbulOdessa Chitty for Varsity

Fashion Week Istanbul represents a fantastic success story from the world of digital couture. They have fully embraced the online format, with little intention of returning to traditional runway shows. 2020/21 has been, for many designers at FWI, an opportunity for the fusing of fashion, environment, film and music into a single piece of work; it has enabled stories to be told in a way that transcends catwalks. I interviewed some of the designers who have been part of this revolution.

HATICE GÖKÇE

HATICE GÖKÇEHATICE GÖKÇE FOR VARSITY

Hatice’s collection Newborn is presented in a sunlight-dappled countryside, spotlighting the connection between her work and nature. As well as being a source of artistic inspiration, this environment brings to mind issues of sustainability — Hatice has considered the climate crisis, both in her personal life and her work, for longer than most. She explains, “Nature affects my designs with everything, from its landscape to the textures it contains.”

On the subject of promoting a sustainable approach to fashion, she states, “I have had this responsibility both personally and since the day I started my brand. [...] Knowing that the textile sector is the second largest polluting sector in the world has always led me to make more environmentally sensitive designs and productions.”

“Nature affects my designs with everything, from its landscape to the textures it contains”

“Environmentalism has become more noticeable as it is now an urgent requirement for all. It makes sense if we are aware of our responsibilities and can influence ourselves and our environment first and then a wider audience.”

Consistent with her interest in conservation, her designs foreground the beauty of local materials. The unique texture of her materials combined with their cultural and environmental significance are married in her totally distinct style — in Newborn, she highlights the ihram fabric specific to the Bayburt Province in northeast Turkey, and ‘Acrycycle’, a material made from recycled acrylic fibre.

A DESIGN FROM "NEWBORN"HATICE GÖKÇE FOR VARSITY

She expresses her thoughts about FWI 2021: “I have to say that I love digital fashion weeks with their egalitarian side [...] it will pave the way for more creative, need-oriented fashion when managed well.”

“I think fashion week in Istanbul was a great fashion week where we saw more things about Turkey. It was exciting to appreciate the local and to see brand new comments from the designers of the country.”

TUBA ERGIN

A BRAVE NEW WORLDinstagram/tubaerginofficial

Tuba has often spearheaded ethically driven projects, including an accessory line made of vegan leather and upcycled tyres in 2013. Her latest collection for FWI addresses the climate crisis via an explicit reference to renewable energy; she sets the show in a field of solar panels, using two rows of these to create a runway.

“The reason behind the choice of a solar plant field for the venue was to draw attention to the fact that the understanding of sustainability in fashion is not only limited with the eco-sustainable material selection and production techniques, but also the energy resources used by the manufacturing companies supplying for the fashion industry must also be clean.”

“Fashion I believe is the ultimate speechless tool of communication”

“For me sustainability doesn’t consist of only the selection of materials you choose but all the choices you can make to create sustainable systems.”

This collection, A Brave New World, does what so many Gen Z fashionistas strive for in their day-to-day outfits: it eloquently references the past whilst simultaneously describing the future. “Fashion I believe is the ultimate speechless tool of communication. [...] And it has to be timeless…independent from pop trends. Istanbul is a highly dynamic city. It lives 24 hours and in my collections I think of the dynamic urban women by offering them designs they can use from the day to night without having to go back and change in the crazy Istanbul traffic.”

“The silhouettes have been inspired by 1980s glamour that meets the modernity of the 2020s. Strong shoulders, maxi shoulder pads and stirrup pants emphasize the 80s whereas voluminous silhouettes and cocooning and detachable outerwear prepare us for changeable weather patterns.”

Tuba also speaks to me about her experience as a young, female entrepreneur and mother of two girls — specifically, the way this has influenced her portrayal of women.

“In every collection I create, I portray a heroine; whether she is a Japanese archer, or a dystopian fighter, always elegant and strong, which represents the existence of modern women. From season to season she changes — as we all do. Sometimes more romantic and sensual but always keeping the essence of the independent, strong woman she is.”

EMRE ERDEMOĞLU

Beni Bağrına BasEMRE ERDEMOĞLU for Varsity

A designer who appeared at the Fashion Week Istanbul in 2020 rather than 2021, part of Emre’s inspiration comes from the effects of the pandemic within communities. His Fall-Winter 2020-21 collection, Beni Bağrına Bas (Hold Me Close to Your Heart) explores themes of embrace and love: “Throughout the entire collection we have incorporated figures of people embracing each other stitch by stitch using weaving and printing techniques. In all of the details, I have interpreted figures embracing each other with a graphic language and inserted the three dimension human figures I designed into the collection.”

He goes on to explain the more practical effects of COVID-19. “I am using more lycra fabrics and oversized patterns and forms while preparing my collection. The impact of the pandemic and the seasonal transitions have guided me to make my collection more timeless. I always put less heavy fabrics in when preparing my winter collection and make a more timeless pantone when preparing my color pantone.”

Along with Hatice and Tuba, he stresses the importance of sustainability and discusses the ways in which he makes sure his brand adheres to certain principles.

“Istanbul is a very cosmopolitan city ... its history, works, traditions and customs have always pulled me into it”

Beni Bağrına BasEMRE ERDEMOĞLU for Varsity

“Everyone should do their part as an individual in this sense. Having sustainable fabric throughout the entire collection was very important for me. [...] The sustainable polyester threads of the fabrics I use are produced from plastic bottles. By using recycled polyester thread we play a role in the ever growing ocean pollution problem of our customers and consumers.”


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In particular, the city of Istanbul is a great source of inspiration for him. He explains, “Istanbul is a very cosmopolitan city. It is an enchanting city that holds cultures from all over the world within it. Its history, works, traditions and customs have always pulled me into it. [...] I find Turkish fashion to be worldly and never boring or old. [...] We succeed in reflecting traditional textures in our present day. We have many stories to be inspired by. We always have a story to tell.”

Finally, in a moment of reflection, he looks to the future.

“I hope that the good days to come will help us forget the hardships and losses we have experienced. I hope the whole world will be able to produce freely like we did before.”