Thesis: Fashion Designers in Turkey

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Fashion Designers in Turkey

Emerging Fashion Designers in Turkey

Fashion is a good indicator of the social and political trends characterizing society at a given point in time. It is safe to say that fashion represents a very powerful means of communication. Just as it can be influenced by people, it is in the same manner that it can influence them. Taking a good look at the contemporary Western fashion scene it is interesting to notice that numerous designers, which mark it, come from countries such as Turkey. Among them we can mention names such as Hussein Chalayan, Dice Kayek, Atil Kutoglu, Dilek Hanif and Cengiz Abazoglu.

Fashion is an extremely powerful tool. It influences the masses at an international level. Successful trends get adopted all over the world. Therefore, it is more than obvious that the message sent by and through fashion can become more than relevant. The purpose of this paper is to provide some insight regarding the manner in which the Turkish designers mentioned above have succeeded to become important on the international fashion scene. The main thesis is that what these designers are really trying to do through their work is to construct an identity to be promoted in the Western world. Let us analyze the implications of this statement.

First and foremost one should understand what exactly is a Western sense of fashion. It is from the beginning of all time that clothes have had more than a pragmatic function. They primarily serve to cover the bodies and protect them from the cold, but nowadays this aspect is perhaps less important than the power that clothes have in constructing an image. Let us think of the hippie or the punk movement. Clothes and looks became symbols for political and social beliefs. They became a unifying element as well as a distinctive one. Therefore, it is safe to say that in Western culture fashion is a communication tool, a means of creating one's identity and transmitting it to the others .In other words, it is an instrument used for creating meaning.

It is important to underline that while looks can be used in order to communicate something about people, the communicated image might not be the same with what the person really is. In other words fashion is a tool, which can contribute to creating a desired image of ourselves, image that might not correspond to the truth. There is a clear distinction to be made here between form and content.

Fashion in the West is not a communication tool only. We must not forget that first and foremost it is an industry. Being an industry it must sell. Therefore, fashion "industrialists" together with the media are constructing and promoting desirable images of the self that people can achieve through the act of acquisition. Every season people need to become someone else, younger, better and more popular. More and more attention is put not on what people are but what on people look like.

Taking into consideration the fact that one is judged by appearance, more and more people are investing in this appearance. Huge sums of money are invested in clothes and accessories. Western culture wishes to be a culture of opulence. Western designers can be said to dedicate themselves to the construction of opulence. In other words they are slaves of the luxury principle.

From this point-of-view there is an important distinction to be made between Western designers and Turkish ones. The latter come from a different cultural reality and are more focused on other values. The truth is that they are trying to impose themselves on the market through a differentiated advantage, which is constituted by their very own identity.

In other words they can achieve success by communicating traits and characteristics at first perceived as exotic because different and unknown. And taking a look at the influences that are to be found in the works of all the designers cited above, it could be stated that they are actually doing so. But this is not enough. In order to be successful, they need to adapt themselves to the cultural reality of the West (not only in terms of symbols, but also in terms of values and preferences). Hussein Chalayan is a relevant example in this direction. He is perhaps the best-known Turkish designer at the international level.

What are the things, which make Turkish designers different from Western ones? The difference resides in the perspective they have on fashion and the fashion item. It is important to underline at this point the fact that all Turkish designers who have managed to achieve success in the Western world, have had a long time contact with this culture by living in Western countries. Atil Kutoglu, for example, "one of the top Turkish Fashion designers, went to Vienna to study."

Similarly, Turkish-Cypriot artist, Hussein Chalayan "was born in Cyprus in 1970. In 1982 his family migrated to England and he graduated from Central St. Martin's College of Art and Design in 1993."

Both Kutoglu and Chalayan have a strong understanding of Western culture, from the position of a detached onlooker. Yet this is the case of all the fashion designers mentioned here. Fashion for Kutoglu and Chalayan becomes an issue regarding their own identity. On the one hand, through fashion they communicate their identity -- as Turks and as citizens of the world. On the other hand fashion becomes a tool through which they actually build their identity. After all Kutoglu, Chalayan and the other Turkish fashion designers all live abroad, undergoing influences from the various environments they come in contact with. This is I believe one of the major reasons for which the fashion that they create comes very close to art. In fact, all the mentioned designers are important contributors to the world of haute couture. As the director of the Groninger Muesum, Kees Van Twist states,

" An important element in Hussein Chalayan's work is the influence of various cultures, primarily West-European and Turkish, resulting in a genuine encounter-confrontation even- between Western an non-Western elements. His creations display little of the traditional Western dominance, and the non-Western elements in it are more than merely superficial embellishments. This is what distinguishes Chalayan from many of his fellow-designers and adds something that the superficial fashion world frequently lacks: true political and social commitment."

However, this is not all, I believe that one of the factors, which is helping these designers gain success in the Western fashion world, is an attitude oriented towards creation and the future. Hussein Chalayan, for example, managed to get a lot of media coverage with a collection of clothes which modify themselves. On the one hand, there is a philosophical interpretation that can be given to such a fashion-based conception. A shape becomes another just like a person becomes someone else after having underwent various life experiences. The world is in continuous transformation, in a continuous evolution and the clothes people wear should be a sign of this transformation. On the other hand, there is a very pragmatic interpretation of the concept. People work a lot; People have less and less time to dedicate to themselves. They usually run from one appointment to the other. Once a task has been delivered a new one already awaits. From this point-of-view, clothes that are able to change themselves are more than handy. They are practical and pragmatic since they allow you to change your look according to the situation that you are in. In this case their pragmatic function becomes just as important as the aesthetic one.

The fact that the leading Turkish designers are focused on the haute couture and luxury market segments is another marketing oriented factor. There are several reasons for which this statement is true. The haute couture segment allows much more freedom than the ready to wear one. It can be stated that haute couture is so close to art that the haute couture designer has the maximum of freedom in the process of creating. This allows not only a free expression of the self but it also provides more chances for one to achieve relevant results. Moreover, the haute couture and luxury fashion segmentshave a target, which is powerful both in terms of finances and influence. Once you have conquered this target, the doors of success are more likely to be opened. Turkish designers want to make a difference. One gets to make a difference when one manages to set the trends. Trends are set by the visionary minds. And the Turkish designers can be considered to be daring visionaries. Organizing fashion shows in Paris, London, Milan and New York, as well as opening boutiques in these locations are a good way of making yourself seen. It is an important financial investment which has the advantage of reaching a target segment which is educated enough in fashion to understand and appreciate the offer, but also rich enough to afford it.

Targeting an upper class segment is… [END OF PREVIEW]

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