A Fashion Revolution in Turkey: Meeting with Reflect and Hatice Gökçe at IFA Paris, Istanbul campus
No need to repeat it, fashion is the second most polluting sector in the world, after oil and gas.
And no need to say that, behind all its strass and glamour, fashion has a very dark side. Who should die or sacrifice one's life for a pair of jeans, honestly? Nobody.
However, in April 2015, the Rana Plaza, a building in Bangladesh where some famous fast fashion brands produced their outfits, collapsed, killing and injuring hundreds of people who were working there in hazardous situations.
This event acted as a wake up call with consumers finally seeing the dirty face of their cheap outfits and understanding that the clothes they were wearing had blood on them.
Their aim is to go on sensibilizing the opinion on the bad impacts of fashion and trying to change the dynamic, for a more beautiful fashion world, not just from the outside, but also from the inside.
Being a part of the fashion world here in Istanbul from my previous work experiences and from my teaching activities at IFA Paris, I find it as my duty to help changing the practices and mindsets at my scale. And working in a fashion school that trains the designers of tomorrow, it is essential to start with this new generation and to educate them so that their creations don't harm people and our planet.
During the 2019 Fashion Revolution Week, IFA Paris organized at the Istanbul campus a meeting between the school's students and two major players in a more sustainable fashion. Because role models are always important when you start a new venture.
Zoom in... Reflect
The first speaker was the founder of Reflect, a clothing brand with a positioning on sustainability.
For them, sustainability is articulated around three main axis:
Every purchase is an endorsement
They want the consumers to understand their impacts and to be conscious on how they spend their money. You are what you wear…
Transparency establishing trust
When you buy a cloth from Reflect, you have a QR code sewed on the inside. By scanning this QR code, you will be directed to the brand's website page dedicated to the product and you will be able to learn about the origins of the raw materials and they way it has been produced.
You are the story your clothes tell about you
Reflect has another mission with their clothes: to transform every consumer into storyteller through their outfits. Each product or collection of the brand is related to a social issue or a gender equality topic. The clothes are not just pieces of fabrics, they embody key celebrities who had an impact of change on the society.
To complete their commitment toward sustainability, the brand also creates partnerships with organizations having a positive impact on the world, as WWF.
Tough, according to the brand's founder, sustainable fashion is not a priority yet in Turkey, he plans to play an active part into changing this conception, making people think about the impact of their fashion purchase, before and after wearing it.
Zoom in... Hatice Gökçe
The second speaker was a very renowned and well established Turkish designer, Hatice Gökçe. For the little story, the first fashion I happened to attend during the Istanbul Fashion week some 4 years ago, was hers.
Hatice Gökçe has been graduated from Mimar University's Fine Arts faculty in Istanbul. She is a men's designer working with leather only.
Her main focus is sustainability.
And to complete her commitment to a more sustainable fashion world, few years ago she created Argande, a project in the South East part of Turkey to promote women's work.
A real women empowerment example in the fashion industry providing women living in a difficult economic region with work and remuneration and, thus, changing the perception and mentality.
Around 1000 women are working in this project, realizing outfits designed by Turkish designers and then selling them in stores.
The first Argande collection was released in 2009. On the label of each cloth, you will find the name of the designer alongside with the name of the woman who produced it. A short text will explain the value of such a cloth and the positive impact it had.
This project, not only provided jobs to women, but also created economic opportunities in the region for fabric suppliers. Indeed, the fabrics used to create the outfits are produced locally, in the same region. Batman, the main city of the region, became a textile provider after the implementation of Argande.
Pictures used for the collections' look books and catalogs are taken in natural and historical places of South East Turkey, a region rich in history and breathtaking views.
They push the region identification a level higher as the location's natural or historical particularities is also shown in the design and styling of the clothes.
For Hatice this project is a very personal one with the real conviction that she can change fashion, the world and support women in their economic development and independence by giving them work and education.
Sustainable, time lasting, high quality products have always been part of her DNA, should it be with her eponymous leather brand or with Argande. She is aspiring at making design and the design process more impactful.
When asked what was her best memory and her worst one for this project, Hatice mentioned that, when politics are involved somewhere there are always problems and some women didn't like to be commanded by a woman from Istanbul.
However, seeing that when women started to make money, their lives changed, they had more power and they completed changed their relations towards men by deciding to marry whoever they wanted, was something priceless for her.
Hatice Gökçe is one of these designers that had a big influence on Turkish design in general.
She is creating a certain form of art out of fashion and mixing it with Turkish historical references.
As a proof, her Leather Age project I invite you to watch the video. The visuals are incredible and the music stunning, to me.
Even though sustainable fashion might not be a priority yet in Turkey, things are quickly changing and new and established designers alike are putting efforts to make Turkish fashion a better one.
Our two speakers, Reflect and Hatice Gökçe, have been quoted as examples for Turkey in the newly published book Global Perspectives on sustainable fashion.
To add on your reading list, should you be a designer, a fashion student, a fashion player or just a conscious consumer.
These two brands are just some examples of what is happening in the fashion world. This change gives good hopes that fashion can evolve and I hope the coming new fashion designers generation will go on that way, creating innovative, respectful of the environment and people and beautiful outfits.
This is one of the mission we have at IFA Paris. And I want to thank a lot my colleague Arzu Suzmen for organizing these meetings and encounters.
Do you have other examples of sustainable fashion designers?
Or best practices and advice you would like to share on how to make the fashion world a better world?
Feel free to comment :)
Cath @My Marketing Toolbox