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  • Writer's pictureCath @MyMarketingToolbox

Fashion Stories at AW 2021/22 Istanbul Fashion Week - Your visual diary to My Fashion Stories Box

In my today’s post, I will speak about the last edition of the Istanbul Fashion Week which took place from April 13-16 2021 online. This post is a visual complement of the corresponding My Fashion Stories Box podcast’s episode #10: Fashion stories – Fashion Stories at the Istanbul Fashion Week available at this link, on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Stitcher, Deezer and many more :)

Mert Erkan AW 2021/22 collection - Istanbul Fashion Week
Group picture from Mert Erkan AW 2021/22 collection

Who has never been fascinated by all the glamour, celebrity and strass of the fashion weeks? A world reserved for an elite, a happy few selling inaccessible dreams and lifestyle to the rest of the world. Well, it was like that before the pandemic and, though I don’t like these crazy lockdown days and uncertainties we are currently living, there are some advantages of being online: a wider access to events that were previously restricted. Fashion weeks are part of that. I remember my first fashion weeks in Istanbul where, without invitations, I would wait until the last minute to be seated in the back row just before the show started. Now, I can watch all of them from my living room and with a glass of Champagne if I want!

Enough small talks! Let’s start speaking seriously! Follow me through Istanbul Fashion Week and my personal takes on it!

For this edition, Turkish designers decided to make us travel, if not in real life, at least online. It wasn’t just a travel in space where you would discover beautiful places in Istanbul and in Turkey. For me, it was also a travel in time: in the past and in the future.

To prepare this podcast and this post, I watched the shows several times. A first time without taking notes, letting my imagination carrying me and another time while taking notes. I also analysed the pictures of each designer’s collection to identify repeating occurrences and, maybe, spot some historical references.

In the menu:

My Fashion Stories Box Podcast crew wishes you a pleasant journey through fashion and history...


Discovering Turkey through its fashion designers: a journey in space

The first impression I had after watching these videos was one of journey: a journey in time, past and future, a journey in space and a mystical journey.


Istanbul is a fascinating city. Previously known as Byzance and Constantinople, the city bears the marks of an incredible historical heritage in its landscapes. From Ancient Greece, the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire, the city has everything to sparkle imagination, creativity and admiration.

Let’s discover how Turkish designers paid tribute to Istanbul in their locations choices.

  • Ceren Ocak and Cihan Nacar shot their collections in old Byzantine cisterns, creating an atmosphere of mysticism through the softened light and the old stones:

  • Nej shot her collection at Halic Center where you have beautiful views on the Golden Horn and where you can see the day pass by:

  • Ozlem Suer chose the back gardens of the Grand Bazaar to create a contrast between the raw aspect of the place and the delicate and feminine touch of her seasonless dresses:

  • Sudi Etuz recreated a Japanese video game place in a market in Istanbul, blurring the borders between reality and virtuality as well as the borders between countries:

  • And Tagg recreated a nostalgic journey through Istanbul in black and white in an empty city on a rainy day, making me longing for these not so far away days when we could scroll in the city’s streets:


Istanbul wasn’t the only part of Turkey in the spotlight during this Istanbul Fashion Week.

  • Tuba Ergin shot her collection at the Akdere Solar Station, thus giving a futuristic, space travel touch to it:

  • Murat Aytulum went to Pamukkale (the Castle of Cotton) where the whiteness of this natural limestone formation nicely contrasted with his strict black and white collection:

  • Zeynep Tosun celebrated the Greek heritage of Turkey by shooting her Antique female warriors’ inspired collection in the mythical place of Ephesus, in the Izmir region. We even learn that this place was founded first in 6000 BC by women warriors and named Arzawa – city of the Goddess.


Storytelling and short movies: a journey in time

One particularity of this Istanbul Fashion Week online edition is the creativity and storytelling some designers developed to showcase their collections. For some of them, it wasn’t a runway anymore and it was more about creating an atmosphere, a story where the models played characters and where the outfits had, at some point, second roles. For some of them, I almost forgot I was watching a fashion show!

  • Ceren Ocak invites us in a spy story with hide and seek games between the models and an underlying notion of a fight between the Good and Evil.

  • Dice Kayek gives us the Agatha Christie vibe and by the choice of the location, the Pera Palace Hotel where the writer used to stay, and by a Cluedo atmosphere. A murder happened. Who killed this man amongst all his former lovers? Does it ring a bell? Hercule Poirot and the Orient Express seem to have been a source of inspiration…

  • Cigdem Akin is also all about mystery. She invites us to follow her heroin in a hotel in her quest. What is she looking for? You penetrate in a mystical atmosphere, inside what could be a secret society, where the heroin undergoes a sort of initiation rite…

  • Mert Erkan is also all about mysticism and secret society with his black modern witches, talismans and gothic feel.


Celebrating nature and craftsmanship: a journey in time and space

Some other designers decided to pay tribute to a certain vision of life, that we could qualify as “slow life”, featuring their collections in countryside landscapes or in undefined premises.

  • Lugvonsiga featured her signature voluminous dresses in a lazy day in the Mediterranean countryside with the two models playing as sisters in some Jane Austen’s stories.

  • Zeynep Erdogan conveys a similar feeling with an atmosphere of loneliness in a museum during Winter and some interesting ethnic ikat prints.

  • Red Beard plays with craftsmanship, mysticism and some witches’ rituals in a countryside setting.

  • Hatice Gokce pays tribute to nature and traditional craftsmanship with a back to roots feeling and invites us to follow her model undergoing a pilgrimage through the wonders of Mother Nature.

  • And Hakaan Yildirim summons the nymphs of the river and the Nature priestesses dressed in bold and colorful Anatolian prints. Models are shown as flowers, caterpillars in transformation to become beautiful butterflies.

These were, for me, the designers whose settings and locations made me feel somewhere else than in my living room. Their fashion shows weren’t just about the clothes or accessories. They played with the scenario, the editing, the location, the music to convey more information about their collections. They took the viewers into completely different worlds and realities, making them dreaming, wondering, living the collections and wanting to learn more about them.

This creativity exercise is, of course, easier for online shows. Physical fashion runway shows have certain limits in logistics and setting to respect.


Istanbul Fashion Week and Historical inspiration in the designers’ collections

Now that I told you about the shooting locations and the atmospheres designers managed to create for their collections, I’d like to talk about the historical inspiration findings and references I spotted.

Wide padded shoulders

One recurrent theme I noticed in almost all designers’ collections are the wide padded shoulders.

For me, they refer to the 80s power suit when women, storming the corporate world, had to impose themselves visually and took elements from the men’s three-pieces suits.

They wanted to show that they had the power and were in power, achieving professional and personal successes.

Another historical reference for these wide padded shoulders is the war fashion during the Second World War. War fashion was dictated by rationing and restriction, limiting the quantity of fabrics and other materials people could use to create new outfits. In these hard times, fashion adopted a strict, military inspired silhouette, with square shoulders.

These types of shoulders have made a come back in fashion few seasons ago and you can still spot them in designers as Ceren Ocak, Cigdem Akin, Mehmet Emiroglu, Mehtap Elaidi, Mert Erkan, Murat Aytulum, Nedo by Necret Taciroglu, Ozgur Masur, Ozlem Kaya, Red Beard, Sudi Etuz, Tuba Ergin, Tuvanam, Y Plus and Zeynep Tosun.

Voluminous sleeves

The 19th century’s gigot sleeves were also in the spotlight for this Istanbul Fashion Week with interesting takes on voluminous sleeves.

The gigot sleeves were named that way due to their resemblance with the leg of a mutton, “Gigot” being the French word for “leg of a mutton”. They were also named “leg-of-mutton” sleeves.

Examples of gigot and other voluminous sleeves from designers as Mert Erkan, Lugvonsiga, Cihan Nacar, Dice Kayek, Mehmet Emiroglu, Meltem Ozbek, Nej, Nihan Peker, Ozgur Masur, Ozlem Kaya, Ozlem Suer, Red Beard, Sudi Etuz, Tuba Ergin, Y Plus, Zeynep Erdogan and Zeynep Tosun.


From the Middle Ages to the 20th century, women used to wear corsets which would create a certain ideal of the female silhouette but, above all, which would prevent them to freely move and breathe.

Nowadays, corsets have a more erotic, sometimes SM, meaning in the mind of people. They are associated with control and sexiness.

You can spot beautiful examples of corsets, either used as part of the dress or on the top of the outfits in the collections of Mert Erkan, Ozgur Masur, Ceren Ocak, Cigdem Akin, Cihan Nacar, Murat Aytulum and so on.


The padded shoulders and the corsets translate an impression of rigidity, of being in control, a certain readiness to cope with the uncertainties of a dangerous role.

They create an “armor” effect, reinforced by some cotes of mail tops and head accessories reminding the armor Medieval knights used to wear to go to war.

I spotted some of them in Tuvanam and Tuba Ergin who transformed their models into modern Joan of Arc.

Not just specific historical details were featured in this Istanbul Fashion Week edition, but, for some designers, a complete period was translated in their collections. Let’s continue our time travel through fashion...

Antiquity inspiration

Ancient civilisations were in the spotlight with Antique women warriors’ inspirations such as the Amazons, with loincloth effects and asymmetrically cut tops as seen in Ceren Ocak, Meltem Ozbek, or Zeynep Tosun.

To stay with Zeynep Tosun, the whole designer’s collection was developed around the mythical female warriors of the Antiquity and you can see references to the Ancient Greek way of dressing as the sandals and the jewelry.

Ozgur Masur also featured a beautiful dress “a la grecque” in his collection, reminding the peplos worn by Ancient Greek women and fastened at the shoulders with fibulas.

PS: I apologize for the picture quality but the picture of the dress wasn't available on the Istanbul Fashion Week website and, as I so wanted to show this beautiful Ancient Greece inspired dress, I did a screenshot from the show.

Pleats and draping are also an inherent feature in this season, reinforcing this Antiquity period and its myths by giving a sensation of movements and Ancient times nostalgia, reminding me of statues and columns of the Roman Empire or Ancient Greece.

Should you be interested in how Ancient Greeks used to dress, I have a full blogpost and podcast episode dedicated to them. Check it here.

Middle Ages meet Swan Lake

Fairy tales found their origins in the Middle Ages and the oral tradition. The majority of people didn’t know how to read or write and, fairy tales, or tales in general, were a way to convey life lessons and morals to educate the youth about life. Don’t believe all the happy endings’ interpretations by Disney. When you go deeper, these tales are full of double meanings, darkness and symbolism, and not just about a young girl looking for Prince Charming. They were more like an initiation rite.

The Museum of Fine Clothing shows a modern day Snow White mixed with Black Swan, a contemporary fairy tale in which the heroine is an iron fist in a velvet glove. The woman she embodies in this collection is all about apparent fragility but you can also guess in the background her dark and dangerous side.

The 20s Flappers and Great Gatsby revival

Nedo by Nedret Taciroglu recreated a modern Flapper with sparkling dresses and beautiful hairbands real Flappers would have loved to wear to dance the Charleston while smoking and drinking cocktails, enjoying their freedom of movements and to do whatever they wanted with their bodies.

The dangerous 40s

As mentioned a bit earlier in this post, Ozgur Masur brings the glamour of the 40s actress Marlene Dietrich with a Second World War spy touch and a Mata Hari vibe. The silhouettes are strict, sexy, dangerous, reinforced by the make-up, the red lipstick women were so fond of at that time, and the hairstyle so 40s.

The perfect wardrobe for a James Bond girl!

I also like that one of the models has a masculine/androgynous look. I even thought she could have been a trans but wasn’t able to confirm that fact.

To stay in the 40s atmosphere, Murat Aytulum gives us a darker side of this period with stricter outfits in black and white and leather, referring more to an army uniform. While looking at his collection, I picture these Second World War movies featuring the Nazi police, the Gestapo, SS women soldiers, or these Soviet spies during the Cold War. Anyway, dangerous women, cold and objective-driven.

While Nedo by Nedret Taciroglu includes some looks Vivien Leigh and Marlene Dietrich, again, wouldn’t have refused to wear!

The pretty 60s

For their short crime movie shot at the Pera Palace Hotel where they recreated an entire Agatha Christie’s novel, Dice Kayek featured A line mini dresses, reminding the simplicity of that era’s fashion, accessorised with interesting details as bows, pleats and frounces.

The 70s hippie revival

Red Beard takes us back to the 70s with bright colors and bold prints, echoing to that decade’s fashion, or anti-fashion, and a coming back to nature.

I also saw some references to the Greek mythology with the crossing of the Styx by the souls on their way to the underworld, accompanied by Charon.

You also have this 70s feeling looking at Lugvonsiga’s long bohemian dresses.


A certain vision of the future

Fashion is not just about the past but it’s also about imagining the future, how people would dress, in what kind of environment they would live and what kind of dress they would need.

From some of the collections showcased during this AW 2021/22 Istanbul Fashion Week, we can have an idea about the way Turkish designers see the future. And here, we can see XL silhouettes, multifunctional clothes to protect us from the outside world. As if the future world they envision is a dangerous world, a raw one, with a hostile nature as in the Dune series from Franck Herbert or the type of world you see in the Mad Max movies. A dystopian world, a post-apocalyptic one.

You can spot these visions in Mehmet Emiroglu’s streetwear line. Clothes are large, oversized, as an armor to protect the body from the outside environment. Look also at the accessories and at the extra large bags in which you can put all your life.

By the way, I really like the music :)

Tagg also features oversized items, multifunctional clothes and cocoon clothes.

Niyazi Erdogan is all about the Space Race with a New age army uniform, ready to discover and conquer new universes. A mix of Star Wars and Ulysse 31, a French-Japanese cartoon which was quite famous in the 80s in France, relating the story of a futuristic Ulysses conquering space and taking place in the 31st century.

Y Plus mixes a superhero feeling with his inspiration from kirkpinar wrestlers ( a Turkish oil wrestling sport), giving birth to a genderless collection in which Asian-inspired outfits meet streetwear to create clothes protecting the wearer.

Another reference to Star Wars for me with a certain Jedi feeling…


In conclusion...

It was a quite difficult exercise to analyse the historical sources of inspiration hidden in this Istanbul Fashion Week and, at the same time, to pay tribute to the creativity of these designers.

There is such a variety of inspiration, atmosphere, meaning, vision behind all the collections showcased it was difficult to talk about all of them.

In this variety, I want to see the heritage of Turkey from the Ancient Greece, Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire reflected there, showing that modern Turkey has a rich history and that Turkish designers are proud of their heritage.

In 15 years since the creation of the first Mercedes-Benz Istanbul Fashion Week, Turkish designers have been able to mix heritage, history, tradition and craftsmanship with modernity, thus creating a signature style for the country’s fashion industry and positioning Turkey not just as a manufacturing destination but also as a creative hub.

What do you think about all these designs? What are your favorite Turkish designers or collections from this AW 2021/22 Istanbul Fashion Week? I’m curious to learn about your findings :)

And I hoped that, thanks to this post and the podcast, you discovered new designers and you got curious about the Turkish fashion scene. If you have any questions, I would be very proud to be your guide through it!

Feel free to follow the podcast My Fashion Stories Box on your favorite podcast platform, on social media and on the blog for a visual diary alongside with each episode.

See you there!

Cath MyMarketingToolbox

Photos and videos are from the Istanbul Fashion Week website:

Feel free to visit this website to discover more about the designers and their collections.

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