For when a T-shirt and cut-offs won’t do.
Summer has arrived, and travel is on the brain — and no vacation is complete without a resort-ready wardrobe to boot. If you are looking for a little inspiration for that next big trip, or just something to spice up the doldrums of a local staycation, look no further than the best Turkish brands of the moment. Wildly popular and full of wanderlust-inducing pieces, this new wave of need-to-know labels is a goldmine of getaway style.
Nestled in between Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, the unique placement of Turkey provides a range of landscapes and a variety of people and artisans that are extremely inspirational to the designers that reside there. “I love that [Turkey] is where East meets West. We have so many traditions, which combined with the [country’s] history, are hugely inspirational,” Ela Onur, Founder and Creative Director of Else, tells TZR. “I’m lucky to be surrounded by endless cultural history, from the small villages to the multinational heritage,” adds Mina Dilber Temo, Founder of Anim. “I find myself amazed everyday.”
The country’s rich culture has shaped the fashion and textile industry into what it is today, propelling it into the future. “Textiles have historically been one of the most important industries in Turkey and we have a beautiful range of traditional materials produced locally by Anatolian craftswomen,” Ceylin Türkkan Bilge, Co-Founder of Siedrés, tells TZR. Derya Kocak, Founder and Creative Director of Sandshaped, points out that the area is well suited to larger scale operations as well. “Turkey is a great market and worldwide hub for garment production,” she explains. “Due to the economic devaluation in the last few years, it has become one of the most affordable markets to manufacture in.”
Perhaps both the stylish appeal and economical advantages have impacted the rise in Turkish designers, but the rich heritage their homeland possesses have also shaped the lasting legacy of the textile industry, allowing for more longevity. “I have been on the Istanbul Fashion Week Committee since day one and I am very inspired by the potential of Turkey’s fashion scene, since we have a multilayered culture which enables Turkish brands who are using our cultural references and traditions to stand out from the rest,” Mehtap Elaidi, Founder and Creative Director of namesake brand Mehtap Elaidi, tells TZR.
These creatives share both a passion for beautiful made pieces and a collective dedication to preserving their country’s authenticity. For these reasons (and, you know, the cute clothes) it’s worth investing in the Turkish fashion community right now. Keep scrolling for 6 brands to know — from the emerging to the established — and some of their stand out pieces of the season.
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This Istanbul-based ready-to-wear line, founded by fashion designer Ceylin Türkkan Bilge and husband Emir Bilge in October 2019, has already developed a cult fashion following — thanks in no small part to its effortlessly cool silhouettes, knockout prints, and vibrant colors for both women and men. “My husband and I have always dreamed to leave the big city for a sweet and sunny town on the Mediterranean coast,” Türkkan Bilge tells TZR. “This is the fantasy from which we conceived Siedrés, a fashion brand and a lifestyle in the making.” The fantastical world of Siedrés, seen through their design and imagery, has left customers wanting more each collection.
“I look for a starting point, whether it be something I overheard, read about, or experienced myself. It is from these early inspirations that emerge the colors and patterns which constitute the theme of the coming collection,” Türkkan Bilge explains, walking TZR through her design process. “Our studio in Istanbul lies at the heart of the history, culture, and aesthetics that constitute my main inspiration. Apart from its villages and seaside towns, it is the nature and the colors of the Aegean and Mediterranean seas that greatly influence my designs.” Customer favorites like stretch knit pants and matching tops come in kaleidoscope prints and soothing colors that are reminiscent of these coastal towns.
Siedrés also focuses on their sustainable impact as well. “Scouting local and authentic fabrics introduces us to pieces that have life in them,” Türkkan Bilge says. “Generally speaking, today we are limited by the lack of masters in craftsmanship that we admire. In an effort to maintain traditional forms of craft, our main objective is to support local economies as much as we can,” she mentions. “Given the size of the modern Turkish textile industry, we have an abundance of remnant fabrics. We [Siedrés] give them a new life.”
Gül Ağış, Founder and Creative Director of Lug Von Siga, always knew she would work in fashion. “Since childhood, I always wanted to be a fashion designer. When the time came to enter university, I chose to venture to Italy, studying fashion design at Instituto Marangoni Milan and from there went on to attain my master’s degree at the Politecnico Di Design University,” Ağış tells TZR. “I knew I wanted to return to my country and create a ready-to-wear brand in the end, joining the likes of the many Turkish couture designers before me and doing something truly of my own.”
Upon settling back in Turkey, Ağış founded Lug Von Siga in 2010; since then the company has become recognizable for its vacation-perfect pattens, embroidery work, and soft, feminine shapes. “Traditional Turkish textures, patterns and colors are the most inspiring things for me,” she says. “For instance, I go to the Grand Bazaar quite often and each time I go there I find a secret spot or an exciting, inspiring object. When I start designing, I believe that accumulated research is the most important factor in the process. Inspiration can come from a movie, book, artist, or my traditional elements. Sometimes it starts with a vintage texture or a painting then it evolves.”
This well-researched approach to design can also be seen in the quality of the garments and the company’s attention to earth-friendly practices. “Lug Von Siga is made for the woman who cares for the planet as much as she cares for herself,” Ağış says. “The brand’s commitment to sustainability is not only part of its ethos but also runs through most of the production processes. My main philosophy is respect for people, nature and animals.” Natural resource conservation is top of mind for the brand and use of renewable materials, like organic and recycled fabrics, are used throughout most of the collections.
Ela Onur, Founder and Creative Director of Else, grew up among artisans and designers of her family’s lingerie accessories business. “I started the brand back in 2008, when I couldn’t find the type of lingerie I wanted to wear as a 34D,” Onur tells TZR. “My family had an atelier making the hardware for lingerie, so I worked on a capsule collection, which offered the support I was looking for, but with a modern and clean aesthetic, which used a graphic lace as a point of distinction.”
Since then, the brand has grown from solely lingerie into new categories including loungewear and a just-out swim collection. “We approach the design of our swim with the same know-how we do our lingerie,” Onur says. “We use specific techniques to ensure we offer the most support possible, whilst maintaining the minimal esthetic our customers have come to love from us.” The styles from simple one-piece suits and bikinis to luxe cover-up styles, in both neutral and bold colors, with simple yet special detailing. Comfort has always been key for the brand as well. “One of the most important factors for us is that our laces and fabrics are soft,” Onur mentions.
Even better, sustainability has always been top of mind for Onur from day one. “In our lingerie collections, we use laces made from solar-power generated yarn,” Onur says. The brand is also empowering women in their community by employing women who hand make every piece in their Istanbul atelier, and educating these artisans in the latest lingerie-making techniques. “Turkey is my home and such a fascinating and beautiful place. By keeping our production and atelier here, we are also supporting the local economy,” she continutes. “We love working with these amazing women and seeing how this job means that they can support their families, acquire new skills and feel safe in their work environment. It means a lot to us.”
Although Mina Dilber Temo, founder of Anim, grew up in a family with a background in textiles, she never planned on having a brand herself. “For college, I moved to Los Angeles to study political science and film studies at USC. After graduation, I started working as a journalist at CNN,” Dilber Temo tells TZR. “It was there that I gained many valuable insights and developed my sense of storytelling, but still couldn’t resist the urge to create something that carries the traces of my background with a modern take. I wanted to take my strength in storytelling and combine it with the feeling of cross-cultural belonging that I always felt.”
Thus Anim, a direct-to-consumer lifestyle brand specializing in superb textiles, was born in 2019. “I started Anim with more of a focus on home textiles and our home collections initially were the starting points for our ready-to-wear, but overtime our process became much more fluid,” Dilber Temo tells TZR. “I love to travel inside Turkey, and discover textiles and learn the stories behind them. To know the story is as exciting for me — as just exciting as imagining the textiles as a finished product — and it’s a part of the process that I call the Anim journey.”
The brand’s offerings now range from homegoods to women’s ready-to-wear and menswear and the heritage prints have taken center stage, becoming a signature, customer favorite. “I love looking at old family photographs, whether it’s an interior design element or an outfit from the ‘60s. They can all become a source of design ideas for me, especially for our prints,” Dilber Temo tells TZR. “I have childhood memories of my grandmother’s vintage textiles and remember observing the colors, the exotic shapes, and the patterns from her collections.”
“Anim’s core values stand for high-quality craftsmanship, which in my opinion can not exist without an ethical work environment,” Dilber Temo also calls out. “We are so lucky to be connected with the best ateliers and have amazing relationships with everyone in our supply chain. Our textile sourcing process is very meticulous and we always look for vintage textiles, organic cotton, and recycled polyester,” she adds. “Becoming 100% sustainable in fashion is very difficult, but we are eager to grow and learn as our industry discovers new ways to produce and protect our environment at the same time.”
Anim’s distinct, heritage textiles will have you coming back for more, so make sure to grab your favorite items fast (as they sell out quickly!).
Derya Kocak, Founder and Creative Director of Sandshaped, had always dreamed of creating her own label. But it was not until an accident that finally inspired her to chase her aspirations. “One day I was rushing to work in the morning, when I had a traffic accident and unfortunately was badly hurt,” Kocak tells TZR. I decided then and there, that life is too short not to chase my dreams!” This meant creating clothing that others would love wearing and, most importantly, feel good wearing. “I myself had difficulties finding certain types of clothes, accessories — and especially bikinis — in Turkey,” she explains.
The result was an assortment of modern basics, featuring minimalist swim, easy cover-ups and even a terry towel collection, ideal for traveling and beyond. “I am always inspired by travel and especially summers in the Aegean Sea area, in the Western shoreline of Turkey,” Kocak tells TZR. “Especially Bodrum has been my source of inspiration for many years, with its azure blue sea, pink bougainvillea and breezy evenings. Luckily we have all four seasons in Turkey, but as a summer-person, my favorites are summers in the South-Western shorelines, the Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea area.”
The brand’s soft color palette and effortless silhouettes pair perfectly with its easy, beach-ready materials. “We try to work mostly with suppliers that provide ethical working conditions and conscious, organic or vegan material options,” she notes. “As for swimwear fabrics, we only use regenerated Nylon ECONYL, made from plastic waste such as fishing nets and plastic bottles. Our aim in the next few years is to completely switch to made-to-order-only basis as part of our sustainability goal,” Kocak says.
Mehtap Elaidi is another creative who always dreamt of becoming a fashion designer — but her path there took a few turns before the dream was actualized. “We had a white shirt and skirts uniform at school and I used to take my dad’s huge white shirts and cut them up and customize them because I wanted to wear something different,” remembers Elaidi. “I wasn’t able to study Fashion Design at college, instead I studied Business Administration, and went into working in the marine insurance industry for a little over a decade. I was going through a tough time, and I started questioning my career at 35 years old, and somehow, I was brave enough to change course and follow my childhood dream.” This tenacity has proven to be a testament to her brand, establishing her namesake label, Mehtap Elaidi, in 2000.
“We started out as a white shirt brand over 20 years ago, and now offer all kinds of clothing to [the Mehtap Elaidi] customers, but they would always come looking for our white shirts,” Elaidi explains. “Our design process always starts with a theme. I come up with a theme and build a story around it and then share it with the design team. We talk about the mood and the Mehatp Elaidi woman we envision, and then go sourcing for fabrics and creating our prints.”
Eco-sourcing is also key to the Elaidi’s process. “For the last five seasons, we have been including more sustainable fabrics such as Ecovero, tencel, organic cotton, etc. in our collections,” she says. “If and when we use more traditional fabrics, we try to get deadstock fabrics from textile firms or we reuse our old fabrics from previous seasons. And we design, source, and produce everything in Turkey which also helps us lower our carbon footprint as a brand.” Her M.O.? “Designing timeless items that can be worn for a lifetime — so we focus on using the highest quality materials.”
With this approach, Mehtap Elaidi has proven her lasting legacy, having been a champion for Turkish designers and in business for over 20 years. You won’t want to miss her beautiful dresses, patterned bottoms, and of course, signature white shirting.