Bora Aksu goes back to his roots
Turkish designer Bora Aksu doesn’t shout about being ethical but he is mindful of his impact. He sources carefully, often using recycled, natural and hand-made fabrics. For his Spring / Summer 2014 collection – his 10th year showing at London Fashion Week – he decided to further explore the handicrafts that are such a strong part of his Turkish heritage:
“When I realised I this would be my tenth year at London Fashion Week it really struck me how long it has been since I left Turkey to come to study. It made me reminisce and go back to my roots. I wanted to relight the passion I had from the rich culture and traditional artistry of Turkey that inspired me in the first instance.”
It can be a challenge to keep traditional crafts alive – without the design skills to keep products relevant today they can seem dated, and the additional costs associated with ‘handmade’ can price makers out of the market (or force them to work for peanuts). Handicraft producers are often unable to compete with industrially produced and highly commercial trend-led garments. According to the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, “as a result of changing living conditions, and particularly industrialisation, the production of these [traditional arts and crafts] has now pretty much ceased altogether”.
In order to preserve their country's traditional skills, the Folk Culture Research and Development General Directorate arrange yearly inspections of handicrafts and their producers. This provides an opportunity for the crafts or ‘works of art’ to be studied, photographed and recorded. The studies are published and archived, and exhibitions are held to promote artisans and their craft in Turkey and further afield.
By incorporating Turkish textile crafts into his collection of design-led pencil skirts, dresses and jackets, Aksu helps to preserve a rich cultural tradition, thereby supporting the craft industry in Turkey. He also shatters the image that the term "textile handicraft" can (for some people) conjure up: that of misshapen brown and beige beaded macramé wall-hangings.
Aksu's SS14 show was a joy to behold – a wonderful display of colour and texture that carefully and expertly mixed Turkish-made handwoven fabric, crocheted panels, cotton and lace.
These rich textures and patterns were inspired by the famous Turkish Iznik tiles, a hint of which is reflected in the use of quilted panels, striped cotton, silk, lace and layering. The colours are equally rooted in Turkish culture: the cool blues tones come from the ‘Nazar Boncuk’ or ‘Evil Eye Bead’ (traditionally a disc of blue glass), whilst the bright hues of pink and yellow are redolent of the ‘long hot summers’ of Aksu’s youth.
“This collection has been incredibly personal for me. It’s been fantastic to have the support from the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism and take this first step in highlighting a land I am so passionate and connected to. I hope the show will inspire people to explore the rich culture and traditional artistry that Turkey has to offer.”
After seeing this magical collection, who could possibly be in any doubt about the rich tapestry of talent that the artisans of Turkey have to offer.
Images: Christopher Dadey