It’ not that easy to be an “It Girl,” although it may look easy for our people. Being pretty and dressing well might be a privilege, however we do want to shout out that it is not enough from time to time. Then sometimes, someone comes along that we can point our fingers to and does the correction we want to make ourselves with their attitude, their existence, and their success…
While Istanbul is progressing when it comes to fashion, it looks like the city is only beginning to make a name for itself. What do you make of this situation? What kind of path should the fashion industry follow?
We have to think about what cities apart from Paris – and Milan in a commercial sense– have really made a name for themselves, and what it means to do that. Apart from certain time periods, even New York and London are unable to hold this title. Istanbul doesn’t need to make a name for itself through a fashion week.
Fashion Week is necessary for designers, however if we’re talking about Istanbul making a name for itself then let’s do a higher quality textile or leather fair. The whole world would come; all the big brands come here for production, they’ll come without a second thought. I don’t know if we have really good young designers but that can be focused on as well. Other foreign young designers could join, it could be the competitor of TRANOİ. There are many designers who come here for production. We don’t pay attention to our strengths.
Successful Turkish designers changing their names, calling themselves British, or having to do that for investment purposes… that’s what we should be talking about. First off, let’s be a city and a system that people are proud of, that inspires and supports- financially or educationally. If we have a few internationally renowned designers, then we would have succeeded in some way.
Of course this is easy to say. Turkey is a country that has been struggling to stand on it’s own two feet for more than half a century. It’s normal for luxury and culture to take the back seat in this scenario. However everyone needs it, so it should be pursued. Comparing ourselves with western or other countries that are socio economically advanced or settled seems absurd to me. We can turn inwards- explore our identity if there is no support, culture and education. What kind of values and specialties do we really have? How does this country that we are unable to choose really inspire us? Do we have any other choices other than being purely creative and individual? Does anyone?
What kind of path does Near East take to associate Turkey with global sources?
This is an instinct that is part of all the projects I’ve been trying to do since arriving in Turkey in 2006. Our content and approach may look different however everything we do is to keep Turkey and Istanbul in dialogue with the world. My initial responsibility is to bring Near East to a level where it can stand on its own globally, whether it’s Chinese or French. The fact that Near East is an Istanbul-based, successful magazine is enough, and it connects the city with other places. It’s the first Turkey-based magazine that is followed world- wide. The magazine has expanded into various formats in terms of both the idea, different opportunities and projects it provides. Other than magazines like Vogue which are published under Conde Nast or magazines in the Middle East, it’s the first magazine from a non western region that incorporates fashion that is distributed world- wide including Asia, Europe and The US. Our motto is “Modern International Culture.” Our goal now is to continue in the best way possible for this global magazine that we’ve created, and try to pursue making a valuable product and object with the collaboration of a few brands that are really important to us and that support us.
Primarily, we wanted to change the fact that the language of art,fashion and publishing, especially in publishing, are only created using a western grammar. We couldn’t have accomplished this by only speaking ‘our own language’ -in many ways than just linguistic- and ‘our’ topics while trying to create a different approach. We can’t do it by featuring the only Sudanese model in Paris or a Turkish soap opera star on the cover. Sometimes they ask us why we’re not doing a magazine that is more exotic, that celebrates Turkey and the East openly and with strength, or that the look and feel is more western than Eastern. We could have done that, and it could have been a very strong model, it still can. However we did get into that in the beginning a little bit and we didn’t want to get stuck in a certain market. At the end of the day we are a conceptual magazine, so we need to approach things in this way. Like any long standing, strong publication, things change with time. My stance is that there is nothing to celebrate- everything and every culture are equally dynamic and modern, and equal. Also that there must be a reason why there are no big magazines from the East or Turkey. We said, “We’re probably not the first to think of this,” and we wanted to create a system that works, that is flexible and that has longevity, and gain strength from that.
While coming up with the criterion for the content, I thought it was important to not belong to the “other side”, assuming we are a part of the modern culture and world. This attitude wipes out some of the western ideas and thoughts that have been rooted a long time ago under completely different circumstances. Near East is something that started disproving a certain western philosophical idea of the ‘thinking/European man’- I forget the exact term. Beyond that, it’s a magazine that looks western, yet when examined closely, it’s a magazine that is created without using western methods, and one that searches for ways to continue doing so.
We also have a space we’ve rented for art purposes in Istanbul. We do few projects, infrequently. We prefer to move slow yet still exist by looking at how things come into being then disappear, and try to find the right time. However we do have a place in Istanbul being on the international art map. Everyone is aware of the difficulties here. We continue to keep calm and think of other ways as galleries continue to close and some institutions carry on indistinctly to everyones bemusement and disappointment.
Can you tell us about a busy week of yours? What inspires you during these times when you find yourself in other cities dealing with various things, experimenting and sight-seeing?
I don’t know when I’ve last been on vacation, although it seems to appear that way most of the time- but even while swimming somewhere, you think to yourself, the stones of this region would make amazing Near East furniture. It’s a form of insanity.
You might find a topic, person or point of view in the most western city, in the middle of California from an someone that you would never see in Istanbul.
We produced our ‘Mysticism’ issue there for 6 months because the most interesting modern mystics of the world are there, and the city is the same. In fact in answer to your previous question as well: One feels like saying “Should we have gone to India to shoot an editorial?!” When you look at everything from the Near East lens, the world becomes interesting and fruitful. A literal anser is that it’s expected of you to go to certain cities in short periods for work.
I am mostly in Istanbul, although it doesn’t look like that. For some reason I don’t know creating and producing from here and not Paris, adds a lot to the product in a roundabout way. First of all whatever we claim, other than the three big cities, you get tenacity from the fact that you’ve taken on a massive job yet you’re based in Istanbul. We are a middle eastern city after all in a way. Obviously the opportunities and people you come across in 3 days in the 3 big cities are very different. It makes one think, which is why I have to go frequently and take advantage of it. You have to say “I am here, I haven’t died.”
Lastly, you are far from the space that democratic luxury and culture provide and the energy and inspiration art and openness gives. However the energy this place gives, or rather takes from me, also puts the magazine on a different track; you see things clearer if you are not involved in the constant war over there. However it is really difficult to maintain that balance in general.
Let’s talk about the URA project and the time when you first got back from London. Although the project was “too much” for Istanbul standards, did you expect it to gain the awareness it received worldwide?
I didn’t. I just thought Istanbul was blossoming at the time and London was oppressed in a way. They were following our concerts and exhibitions and since they couldn’t experience those, we did a zine called URA that was distributed in London. We created it as if it was a letter sent to them, and also to those who claimed that we had concerts and young culture however no culture in general. 8000 copies were distributed, probably more people read it and saw it.
Since it’s the opposite in Istanbul, we gave a lot of concerts here. At the time, the hşgher echelons and supporters of the art world saw the concerts as bringing my lifestyle in London here. They didn’t support it, actually some of them covertly boycotted it, telling possible supporters or collectors not to bother and that it was a vanity project. We were completely unaware of this; we wanted to provide grounds for young people who never stepped foot in a gallery, who were hanging out in places like Peyote. To be honest with you, we wanted to save people from a the dryness of the art scene at the time – institutions saturated by an oppressive academic tinge with shows mostly about urban transformation, and tried to make young people feel like they are a part of the world. As we were doing this, it wasn’t Turkey who noticed the content and the seriousness of the project we were trying to do, but others. It’s actually not that important. It didn’t bring any support, that’s what’s important. It’s not very meaningful or useful to gain appreciation 10 years later. A lot of people claim that it brought life the hour that they were in there with the doors closed. This result is enough for something I’ve done in my early 20s. The success abroad could be reaching those 8000 people. Other than that we were doing things that were considered successful under certain criteria anyways. Not finding support was the disappointment. If you’re asking why we didn’t get any support, it’s normal because there was no market for art in Turkey, there still isn’t. If we were to question why support didn’t come from a foreign philanthropic source, everyone supports things local or close to them. However it did generate support and respect for jobs I did after that. Which is why one can call it a success, yes.
An incident / show / song / party etc. that inspired you the most lately?
Balenciaga. A Sterling Ruby sculpture… If you need a more serious answer, the fact that my generation is actually becoming professionally successful and that it is our time.
What is the ideal condition for something to be “fashionable”? How do you feel towards things that are “in vogue?”
I don’t know, I’ve never thought about it. Conditions are created nowadays, that’s for sure. I respect fashion as an industry; it’s hard to make a name out of things that are not needed or come from small,local artisanal roots, or to create concept s of luxury, desire and success for a very large number of us who have perhaps never had the chance experience that in our lifetime. On the other hand, these are survival tactics that that have been used for centuries in certain ambiguous yet powerful entities. Invent, force, create need. Creating an industry out of something similar yet quite new requires wisdom, talent and stamina. You continually have to create something unreachable, or a feeling. Although some things are valuable and smart and beautiful, you are creating something that is not needed at the end of the day; it’s not like discovering the type of aluminium that covers the insides of all milk bottles or airplanes. It is also somehow valued; or rather coveted- there are great moments in terms of it as an art form. However pursuing something that has no place requires struggle and psychological games.
What is the biggest mistake you can make in your job in your opinion?
Maybe it’s going to sound classic, however not giving your all to it. This starts off as a financial thing however it should be applied everywhere. It’s very important for those who are self employed and do what they love to do. You might be doing everything in your own time according to your rules, you can be open, comfortable or creative, lucky to be doing what you already love -however you have the responsibility of the art that other people create for you, their time, money and success on your shoulders. It’s such a loss of time, creativity, communication and finance not to put barriers in the right places, not communicate clearly and not owning up to what you’ve created in the practical sense. I see it as disrespect to collaborators, your surroundings and the thing you are creating, and its a pitfall that is easy to fall into if you are on your own essentially. You need awareness, discipline and energy at all times and it can be very tough.
Since marginal ideas have become so mainstream people are becoming normal by trying to be marginal. Do you think it’s harder nowadays to be “one of a kind?”
Well I’ll say postmodernism however we’ve hung that up on a wall to look at too. Maybe that’s the reason. It’s normal. Let’s not fear, something will come up for sure, but I hope it doesn’t, I see it going somewhere better than that.
There used to be certain styles before like you said. There are creative people, especially in the past 2-3 years, trying to create a new language. Maybe it’s hard to understand, however it seems more valuable and truly seminal to be around when something organic and rich constantly evolves. Now there’s a general ‘state’ and ‘stiffness’ and there is creation being born from that. We’re completing more than half a century of culture. It’s good to stop for a while. I think we’re in a huge digestion period. Whatever has been a part of the invention of art and has been created since the beginning of time is on Instagram in thousands of forms. Some people are looking for ways to digest, me included.
It can’t be difficult to be marginal anymore. Marginality is either a necessity at the time- ie. you are forced to make yourself marginal in order to express yourself or exist, or you are forced to be so ergo you are marginalised. When it’s not necessary everyone continues the way they are, creating from their standpoint. I don’t think it diminished from any lack of a movement- it’s just not necessary anymore, everything is in front of us and anyone can be anything they want to be. Real creation is always a little chaotic and gauche. At least we are not pressured about clothing and style. Everyone is aware of bigger problems in the past 5 years and a much younger generation are fully aware of this- discrimination, post-terror and the actual feeling end of the world which is war and oppression, is manifest more than it has ever been in our lifetime. We can actually say that the people of the world have become marginalised! We’ll be entering a very creative period.
Does your success depend on being a better observer or a better creator?
It’s impossible to create without being observant. To express what you create requires awareness in my opinion; and awareness is nor possible without observation.
What is the question you are tired of hearing the most about fashion and art?
I don’t know, as you can see, I love talking about everything in length! ?
Fotoğraf / Photography: ALİ YAVUZ ATA