Istanbul’s fashion industry has been booming over the past decade as a whole generation of young Turkish designers has emerged, galvanizing the local fashion industry. These cool young designers are favored not just by locals, but also increasingly by in-the-know international fashionistas.
Many of these designers have opened shop in the funky, up-and-coming Galata neighborhood, which is often referred to as the Soho of Istanbul.
One of the Galata area’s best-known designers is Simay Bülbül, who opened her showroom here in early 2010. Known for her trademark leather designs, Bülbül works with a range of fabrics, including jerseys and silks. Almost every piece has some kind of leather detailing, resulting in a thoroughly modern aesthetic. Arzu Kaprol is a darling of the Turkish media. Her designs, which include both couture and prêt-à-porter lines, are sold in Turkey and abroad. At her namesake boutique, you can find her fashion-forward designs, which use texture and pleating to create highly sculptural pieces. At local jewelry designer Aida Pekin’s shop you can find her simple pieces and whimsical, childlike designs in silver, gold, and felt. Be sure to check out the Istanbul collection, inspired by the city’s iconic architecture.
Meanwhile, the Galata area is also home to a number of cool boutiques and concept stores. Lunapark Shop is the kind of store that you can’t help but buy something before leaving it. It’s quite a unique store, specializing in items that are solely Turkish – by nostalgic Turkish brands or contemporary Turkish designers. Here, you’ll find a range of traditional and humorous products, from cosmetics, accessories, bags, and food to home décor, stationary, and books. Atelier 55 is another concept store selling everything from clothing and jewelry to accessories and hand-painted cushions. Carrying a range of creations by both Turkish and international designers, everything in the store, including all the furniture and paintings, is for sale. BNG is a Turkish designer boutique with stores throughout the country, including branches in Galata and on the Asian side in Suadiye. They carry a range of stylish and unique clothing in neutral tones, as well as accessories.
While the elegant and posh Nişantaşı neighborhood is known for being home to many leading international brands, Turkish designers also have a strong presence in this stylish neighborhood, with many having opened namesake boutiques.
One of the Turkish fashion industry’s most established designers is Gönül Paksoy. At her distinctive boutique, you will find a range of unique designs in hand-dyed fabrics, as well as one-of-a-kind handbags, slippers, and jewelry that are inspired by Ottoman fashions and often incorporate vintage beads and textiles. Dilek Hanif carries both a ready-to-wear and a couture collection. While the ready-to-wear line focuses on elegant suits, evening gowns, and fun and colorful cocktail dresses, the couture line offers ornate embroidery and beading. A newcomer to the area, Tuba Benian just opened her boutique in early 2012. This store features funky yet tailored, lady-like clothing, as well as many leather and equestrian-themed clothing items.
Hakan Yıldırım designs a very glamorous range of womenswear from his Nişantaşı workshop. A favorite with Istanbul socialites, his garments are produced as a limited series, and have been gaining increasing international attention. Atıl Kutoğlu has also gained an international following with his designs, which feature his trademark sexy and hyper-feminine looks, with lots of leather, satin, and plunging necklines, often with a Turkish flavor.
Elif Çığızoğlu’s designs have recently become very popular with Turkish celebrities and socialites. Known for her pretty pastel and bright colors, as well as unusual shapes and designs, her clothes are structured yet also soft and feminine. Elaidi, by designer Mehtap Elaidi, carries cool yet wearable clothes aimed at professional ladies who lead busy lives and need wearable clothes for whatever their business or social lives throw at them.There are also several concept stores in the area, including Beymen Blender, the cutting-edge sister of the powerhouse Beymen department store. As the name suggests, you can find a blend of products, including clothing, accessories, and home décor. Another noteworthy store is Midnight Express, which carries ready-to-wear clothing, jewelry, decorative items, and furniture. The aesthetic here is urban and sophisticated, and the store features the products of many young Turkish and international designers.
For home décor, drop by Yastık, which means cushion in Turkish. This shop carries a dizzying and colorful array of its namesakes, designed by internationally acclaimed fashion designers Rıfat Özbek and Erdal Karaman. For unusual jewelry pieces, visit Ela Cindoruk-Nazan Pak, a jewelry studio and store that features the work of both Cindoruk and Pak as well as pieces from other young designers. Their designs are clean-cut, geometric, and modern, often made with materials like resin and paper, and in bright colors.
In addition to a branch of the popular concept store Midnight Express, the Bebek area is also home to Cashmere in Love, another small local boutique that carries a range of knitwear in modern designs, made out of quality Mongolian cashmere.
Kağıthane (“house of paper” in Turkish) is a quirky and cool shop located in Karaköy that sells just about anything you can imagine that’s made of paper. You can find notebooks, stationery, calendars, bookmarks, coasters, and other decorative objects, as well as bags, jewelry, and accessories, all designed by Turkish artists.
Zeynep Tosun is a young designer known for her fashion-forward look. Having gained a more mainstream audience, she has now opened a store in the upscale Akmerkez shopping mall.