Last Spring, when Ricky Cohete called to see if I wanted to go to Turkey for a month- i had one day to freak out, and then three days to plan. I didn't just want to vacation, I don't really do that. I wanted to spend the trip, exploring, meeting people, and mostly meeting creatives in the field of fashion.
Istanbul in particular is quickly becoming a fashion capitol, and I was eager to get a glimpse at its meteoric rise. Alara Kap at The Guide Istanbul was supremely helpful in recommending a few designers that I should meet, and I immediately got down to planning.
On a sunny day Ricky and I hiked to a neighborhood of Istanbul we had not yet visited. It reminded me a bit of Haifa, or perhaps Cannes- perched high on a ridge with several streets of posh boutiques, and designer ateliers. We stopped at a Starbucks (Ricky's choice) to recover. and then headed across the street to a beautiful, stately building.
Elif Cigizoglu, is a warm, charming woman. She was pregnant at the time, and exhuded a natural, even elemental kindness. Her Atelier was serene, in the style of a polished Haussman. We sipped water in the coolness of the studio surrounded by white walls, and comfortable furnishings. The striking experience was one of natural simplicity paired with elegance- to great effect.
Elif builds like an architect. Her garments are meticulously crafted. Each bead and brace, created by hand. Every element, strong and visually arresting. The colors may be muted, but her garments are magnificent in structure and craftsmanship.
She walked me through her workroom, confidently explaining each piece. Much of her work is for individual clients- mainly in Istanbul's Jewish community. The women who commission gowns are educated in fashion, and want something unique. She discussed the elaborate, and often competitive nature of the Turkish wedding- each guest requiring an original, beautiful garment. This she attributed to her success... but her runway collections were equally impressive.
Over the course of my sojourn in Istanbul, I had heard the murmurings in cafes and bookshops- political and cultural unrest. With this in mind, I asked her discretely about the effect of politics on Turkish fashion. She assured me that it had little to no effect- That the class who bought couture was constant and unaffected by unrest. It was interesting to hear, and reassuring that creativity could continue unscathed.
I am eager, in the coming year, to feature Elif's garments in a few editorials- so stay tuned for more collaborations... and if, in the coming months you need an exceptional garment, remember Elif. My visit with her was truly delightful and inspiring.
Jonathan Randall Grant