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Zeynep Erdoğan: Fashion journey from Italy to Türkiye

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At Gizia Brasserie in Istanbul’s Nişantaşı, I enjoy a pleasant afternoon, made all the more delightful by the presence of fashion designer Zeynep Erdoğan, whose designs I have long admired. With her trademark elegance and warmth, she discusses her latest collection and creations. It strikes me that despite my familiarity with Erdoğan and her work over the years, there are many details about her and her process that I have overlooked.

Erdoğan begins her account by painting a vivid picture of her mother, portraying her as a woman of immense creativity, refined taste and intellectual depth. She explains how her mother’s keen interest in fashion and home decor played a significant role in shaping her own passion for design. However, Erdoğan attributes her work discipline primarily to her father, a former athlete and industrious businessperson. She then reveals the absence of any family members involved in the textiles or the fashion industry, a departure from the norm in many households.

Transitioning to her educational journey, Erdoğan shares her pursuit of studies in fine arts at university, which paved the way for her remarkable achievement in winning the ITKIB Young Designers Competition. This success granted her the opportunity to pursue a master’s program in fashion design at Domus Academy in Milan, Italy.

Reflecting on her early exposure to fashion, Erdoğan fondly reminisces about her mother’s decision to enroll her in a fashion course during her middle school years, where she first discovered her passion for design. She concludes by underscoring that her journey into the world of fashion was a natural progression, fueled by her innate passion and nurtured by her family’s support and her educational experiences.

Erdoğan was already exploring sustainability within the design process while pursuing her master’s degree. She explains, “In my early 20s, I delved into repurposing vintage pieces. Although vintage stores and flea markets were uncommon in Türkiye at the time, they fascinated me. Every week, I would visit these markets, carefully selecting pieces from the ’70s and ’80s. These pieces were the foundation for my creations, whether I used them as fabric or combined multiple items to create something new. Initially, these designs were for personal use, but they eventually evolved into individual products and formed the basis of a collection.”

“Due to my keen interest in upcycling, I presented a project on this subject at Domus toward the end of 2004. It received high praise, and I graduated with a high grade. Subsequently, the products created from these pieces found retail outlets not only in Milan but also in various cities across Italy, attracting considerable interest,” she continued.

Before me stands a figure recognized and known not only in Türkiye but also across the globe for designs characterized by high-quality fabrics and craftsmanship. But how has her design journey evolved?

“I have been running my brand for 15 years. Initially, I labeled my collections as street couture, offering youthful, street-inspired alternatives that nodded to subculture fashion with plenty of ironic pieces. Over time, my style has evolved in line with my age, lifestyle and evolving tastes, but the essence of my brand remains rooted in quality fabrics and craftsmanship. We have never had a regular PR campaign. Instead, requests for pieces have often come from celebrities or their stylists, and there has been consistent demand from TV series. Most recently, I held my latest fashion show at Mandarin Oriental Marrakech as part of the Marrakesh Fashion Week, where many designers from around the world were present. The newest addition to my product range suits, and currently, I’m focusing on developing a more accessible ready-to-wear collection, primarily for online sales,” she explained.

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