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Fashion Week Istanbul Takes Turkish Style to Global Audiences

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Despite operating one of the top apparel manufacturing industries worldwide, Turkey is still a largely untapped resource for fashion inspiration. But amid Covid-driven changes that have sparked a shift to digital, the industry now can capitalize on its biggest event to connect Turkish fashion talent with a global audience.

In collaboration with Turkish Fashion Designers’ Association (MTD) and Istanbul Fashion Academy (IMA), the Istanbul Apparel Exporters’ Association (IHKIB) launched the second virtual edition of Fashion Week Istanbul (FWI) from April 13-16, featuring 30 designer collections in a digital, seasonless showcase that includes the latest women’s wear, men’s wear and gender-neutral collections. The next event for the fall season in October 2021 will be a hybrid event, combining the digital elements with the return of physical showrooms.

“Fashion Week pushes the designers to their limits as they know that they have to prepare an impeccable collection,” said Cem Altan, an IHKIB board member and president of the Fashion Week Istanbul Committee. “This helps lift the general design and production quality and they bring collections with competitive pricing to the industry both locally and globally. At FWI, we also support our designers with international marketing efforts that include working together with prominent fashion publications as well as effective influencers.”

While Turkey is the sixth-largest clothing supplier in the world and the third-largest in the E.U., the market’s manufacturing and design capabilities haven’t gotten sufficient global exposure, despite their historic roots in fashion.

Eda Güngör, founder and designer of luxury brand Museum of Fine Clothing, noted that the Turkish fashion industry is still missing one major proponent to take it global—outside investments.

“We have top talent,” Güngör said. “All we need is major support behind us—and that has to come from investors and the government.”

FWI partnered with JOOR to host the event, which has a reach of over 200,000 buyers from 144 countries. Fashion Week Istanbul has its own dedicated space within the B2B platform, making its designer collections available to international buyers, who can review and order the items directly.

“I believe Covid-enhanced digitalization provided some unique advantages for fashion events like ours that were originally sidelined by major fashion weeks,” Altan said. “When we had the physical event, we used to invite international press and buyers to Istanbul. While this was a hands-on opportunity, given the busy schedules of buyers and editors, it was difficult to attract the numbers of industry leaders we wanted. However, now by collaborating with international digital platforms, we can reach our target audience much more directly. In a way, digitalization helped lift the natural boundaries and opened a gate of opportunity to discover new and more geographically diverse talent.”

Designers capitalize on creative freedom

This is the second Fashion Week where designers could showcase their collections online; the first was October 2020. But the event marked the first time that designers had complete creative liberty on how to bring their digital collections to life. The event encouraged participating designers to choose their own location for shooting, as well as the theme, season or gender they wanted to showcase.

Tuba Ergin, a participating designer in FWI, said that this freedom enabled the “ultimate stimulation of creativity.” Ergin, who has worked in sustainable fashion for over 10 years, said she shot her runway video in a solar plant, helping her convey the Earth-friendly concept “far better than a standard runway” could.

“I wanted to create a collection that communicates the dream of a world that can be carried to a more responsible, mindful and innovative future,” Ergin told Sourcing Journal. “With the new collection, I wanted to draw attention to the fact that understanding sustainability in fashion is not only limited to eco-sustainable material selection and production techniques, but also the energy resources used by manufacturing companies supplying the fashion industry.”

Another designer participating in the event, Çiğdem Akin, said the digital atmosphere delivered a major benefit, in that she could showcase her 2021-22 autumn-winter collection via a short film that would be broadcast to a new fashion audience.

“‘Nobody knows’ was this year’s theme, and it was truly the best collection I have created this year,” said Akin. “Silk chiffon, wool, cashmere and velvet fabrics found their places in the collection, which is dominated by luxury fabrics with brocade weaving. The color theme was dark sky blue, which included cherry, purple and deep black as well.”

Every season, FWI offers two spots to dedicated, emerging designers, this time selecting Karma and New Gen for the April event. These designers are chosen among the graduates of Istanbul Fashion Academy, a prominent fashion school also funded by IHKIB.

Although the designers get to exhibit their collections to potential brands first-hand, they aren’t Fashion Week Istanbul’s only potential beneficiaries, according to Altan. Industry talents including fashion photographers, stylists, producers, music talents and makeup artists all gain wider audience exposure in collaborating with designers on collections and videos.

“Our aim has always been to introduce Turkish talent from all branches of the industry to the global scene,” Altan said.

Applications are now open for the upcoming Fashion Week Istanbul on Oct. 12-15. Learn more about the Istanbul Apparel Exporters’ Association (IHKIB), their members, and recent projects here.

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