Identity, Culture and Class Representations

  • Why this blog?

    Having a name that promises a very comprehensive content, this blog is in fact thought to be a collection of resources on the Fashion in Turkey (especially to "haute couture", which is a concept that appeals according to Simmel first to elites and after a while to the rest of the society). It is a basis to a project that I've always wanted to realize since the first years of my sociology education, even though I am not so interested in fashion (I have always adopted the slogan of "fashionable sensitive but too cool to care"); it aims to import the concept of "sociology of fashion", that is not easily accepted even in France to Turkey. And in the meantime, perhaps it could become an easy access to resources who are interested in Turkish fashion. I hope to make a good analysis someday... If you would like to contact me: and for the more comprehensive Turkish version:

Istanbul Fashion Week 2010 was held in the ancient and magnificient building of Istanbul Technical University Taşkışla in 25-28 August and as every event held in Istanbul, it was included to the Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture agenda. The Fashion Week that was held in Istanbul in 2005 for the first time, since two years covers a four day marathon of four days in August and February. As it was stated by the Istanbul Clothing and Apparel Exporters Union Chairman who interviewed to CNN Turkey before the IFW in February, IFW intends to "provide Turkey with a fashion culture" and to transfer it to the international platform.

This organization is managed by Istanbul Textile and Apparel Exporters' Union as well as the Undersecretariat of Foreign Trade, Fashion Designers Association and Istanbul Fashion Academy. Fashion designers such as Atıl Kutoglu, Arzu Kaprol and Bahar Korcan who shaped Turkish fashion in the last years attended to the event as well as some "young talents" and brands.

Leaving behind the serious part of this event, let's pass to the observations of an alien to fashion on IFW 2010...

I was able to enter from the land of people who are not even aware of the Fashion Week to another one that has worked for it for a long time, thanks to Vogue's online invitation. Entering through the gates of ITU with an army of security and people committed to fashion, I told them that I came for peace. Trying to protect my academic identity, I was not stylish at all (the only designed accessories I had for the two days were the silver filigree I have designed) and I admit that maybe I behaved a bit shamefully. I tried to find a place to myself at the yard which brough together a portion of Istanbul's fashion world. For the first timers like me: if you do not want to take attention, or to draw good attention, you need to follow the latest fashion trends, select at least a few pieces suitable to your taste and wear them.

Simay Bülbül Catwalk - 26.08.2010

So who were at the IFW? Fashion Week is not open to the public and you need an invitation to get inside; and unless you try your chance with Vogue, there is no possibility to get inside if you're not somehow linked to the fashion business. As I understand it, at the top of the fashion hierarchy there are fashion designers and fashion magazine editors; after them people with access to the backstage such as models (which make you feel like a hobbit in the restroom), stylishs, make-up artists; professionals of clothing, textiles and apparel field (which I did not observe any), fashion professionals such as photographers, fashion magazine employees, organizers, trademarks, and finally general press and bloggers (my observations may be missing, thanks in advance to those who would support me via e-mail).

As I learned from a fashion photographer friend of mine, except for this pyramid established in the fashion industry there was another hierarchy that was based on the very heart of fashion: which can be named as the "style hierarchy". My friend's four-layered style hierarchy is very relative to Bourdieu's concept of habitus. According to Bourdieu, the mind is exposed to various schematas, sensitivities, trends and tastes. We live with these concepts since our childhood because of the social structures we live in and we combine them with our personal subjectivity in order to create our identity. In order to step up in the style hierarchy, a person needs to have a certain social/cultural and economic capital and to be able to digest it. In this respect, the people that could be defined as trendsetters were located at the top of the hierarchy, they had some kind of "anomal" looks and they caught everyone's attention for setting the future trends of fashion. In the second place there were the casual stylish. The other two after this layer was composed of two opposite groups: the ones who did not try to dress fashionable (casuals) and the others who tried too hard to dress fashionable but could not digest it that can be named as parvenu, or the new arrivals.

Economic capital is not the single important factor in forming these groups. For example, the parvenus may have poured a lot of money for the clothes they carry on them, but as long as they lack establishing a position in the fashion world with their clothes, they will remain as new arrivals. However, money is still an important factor. Because the admission to the fashionables society necessitates the continuing pursuit of the latest fashion and you cannot use clothes from previous season's discounts (only vintage is acceptable); you either have to buy clothes with hand-burning prices or maintain clothes and accessories that you're sure won't find on someone else -most probably from abroad-. Not everyone who's interested in becoming a trendsetter can become one because you have to dominate the popular and alternative culture, to be a part of it and be known in this world for a while.

Another point that I saw about the Fashion Week was that it carried over the effects of being very new. Yes, perhaps I have never been to a fashion week before elsewhere, but my stylist mother has always told me of Fashion Fairs such as the one in Dusseldorf, which I did not get the same feelings in IFW 2010. I felt that there wasn't enough exitement to participate in the catwalks, I though the "mother/father" figures of Turkish fashion would be more present but it remained limited, there were two hours of waiting between ten minute shows, most comments on the internet after the catwalks were not generally positive and on the stands there were brands rather than fashion designers.

The Fashion Week occupies in fact a very important position for a "textile country" like Turkey, but baby steps are being taken at the organization and PR issues. IFW, which is desired to be recognized in the international platform is not even properly recognized by the middle-upper class even though it should be the target. In this perspective, we could discuss how well the general press, an important factor for the PR was welcomed. Besides, it seems more meaningful and effective to have famous Turkish people (or in other words the gatekeepers such as talk show hosts or musicians) rather than Meg Ryan, who in the quest for becoming international was brought in the last February's IFW.

But contrary to my wise-ass and maybe a bit unfair critics, I have observed clearly that IFW has a very important role in the development of Turkish fashion industry. An Australian professional make-up artist/bodypainter Georgina supported this same idea. She is living in Istanbul by chance since four years and told me that she believes there has been a constant progress in these last four years; especially in the perception of fashion (which has always been focused on textiles before). I believe that the emphasis on "young designers" and the inviting of bloggers (who can have access to a specific public) to such events are consequences of this change.

In this blog that I've been running for more than six months now (I'm talking about the Turkish version), the most prominent issue was this change in the perception of fashion in Turkey. While finishing this article, I reveal the future question of my research. Having a past full of homemade dressmaking, and a main role of fashion in Ottoman and Turkish women's emancipation processes, fashion was re-discovered in the name of textile after the textile boom in 1990s. So how did fashion (not textile) suddenly became more important in these last few years, with a new claim to become a center of fashion in the international terms? In my next posts, I will try to focus on this question.