February 14 2014
Vibrant and cultural, Istanbul continues to revisit the best parts of the Ottoman era and bringing them into a contemporary age: from copying the carved motifs of its religious architecture, balanced ancestral decorative motifs, unique design and new lifestyle expressions…this city continues to shine with unparalleled richness.
As founders of the brand Dice Kayek that has been pushing Turkish fashion to new heights, sisters Ece and Ayse Ege are the 2014 winners of the prestigious Jameel Prize awarded annually by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. And for good reason too. Inspired by the city’s mosques, the perfect domes designed by the great architect Mimar Sinan and decorative details from the heyday of the Ottoman Empire, their models from the Istanbul Contrast collection evoke “the artistic and architectural history of the city, while emphasizing the Islamic traditions that contribute to its vibrant legacy. Better still, these old influences apply to other disciplines, transporting from one art to another,” the judges of the prize explain. 26 models of exquisite beauty, without a doubt set to be future collectibles.
Coming from generations of artisans specializing in the production of carpets, Memet Gureli started his own company in 1989 before realizing, buoyed by the success, there was little or no design approach in the industry. In 2002, the Ethnicon Vintage collection was born, as a tribute to ethnic traditions and ancient motifs, measured out and transposed in a contemporary manner. Memet opened a shop in the Grand Bazaar and completed his plan of attack by launching Dhoku – which means texture/touch in Turkish – a range consisting of 7 carpets lines handmade in Anatolia on old looms. Since its conception, Dhoku has called upon the skills of international artists and designers – such as those of the architectural firm Superpool, designer Koray Özgen and graphic designer Filip Pagowski – to dream up unique designs, now lauded around the world.
GAIA&GINO, founded by Gaye Cevikel, is now recognized as the main Turkish player and manufacturer on the stage of world design. Aware of the challenge that awaited her (especially after writing a column in the national daily paper from 2000 to 2004 which allowed her to invite designers to speak, to explain their approach and demystify design), she launched GAIA&GINO in 2004-2005, focusing at first only on collaborations with established designers. “The success of my first collection designed by Karim Rashid came from abroad,” she recalls. Today, this visionary presents unique collections at the Milan Furniture Fair and Maison & Objet; the latest of which was critically acclaimed for its stylized lanterns and Hookah pipes modernized by Karim Rashid, Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance and Jaime Hayon. GAIA&GINO is a rising star of Turkish design.
Founded by Yelda Süren Elmas and Zeynep Özcan, two Turks who speak impeccable French, the Magnolia bookstores of Galata and Tesvikiye look like antechambers of contemporary culture. Ceramic tiled floors, well-filled shelves, carefully selected decorative objects and colorful slices of beautiful books mixed with lifestyle knick-knacks, photographs and Ottoman treasures. And to complete the look, monographs and thematic volumes by Flammarion, Assouline, Thames&Hudson and Boyut Yayinlari (a local publisher), alternating here and there with a glass bestiary handmade by the artist Feleksan Onar, ceramics by Iznik (found at the Grand Bazaar) perfectly adapted to modern life and lamps designed by Turkish designer Arzu Dalbasar. A bookshop that certainly creates a bridge, like the city of Istanbul, between two worlds, at once modern and oriental.
Whether in the former four-story mansion that he built in the heart of the steep neighborhood of Çukurcuma or in his yole (a villa built on stilts in water) in white wood on the banks of the Bosphorus, Erkal Aksoy certainly has a taste for beautiful objects. Countless globes and world maps, old books bound in parchment leather, travel trunks from the time of the Pera Palace and Old Masters from by-gone centuries – all of it comes together to create what looks like the scene of a film. We were invited into these two homes, arranged like a cabinets of curiosities by Erkal – an exquisite host who gladly welcomes visitors into his living room well into the late hours of the night, and chats around a bottle or homemade liquor – or unearths a rare kilim. A great collector of these old carpets (which he sells to well-informed connoisseurs in Çukurcuma), he brought them out still rolled-tied before deploying them in all their color and contemporary aplomb. A journey back to a time of elegance.
Past the commercialized fringe of this main street in Akaretler, Gile stands as the gastronomic exception in Istanbul. Led by the duo of Chefs Cihan Kıpçak and Üryan Doğmuş (who ran La Mouette before embarking on this solo venture), this table is finally approaching a fluency in the kitchen made entirely from Turkish produce and flavors. In a neo-Scandinavian décor enlivened with colorful paintings and a wine cellar wall, we plunge with delight into Anatolian and Aegean traditional dishes with a küşleme, a lamb fillet wrapped in filo pastry accompanied by blackened eggplant, beets, hummus and roasted pepper, and the “octopus ash” served with celery leaves, parsley salt, lemon confit and blackened leeks. An address that takes its cue from French cuisine to glorify local flavors.
Haakan Yildirim is a star designer in his country. And one of the few to show in Paris and rightly so since he was the winner of ANDAM prize in 2010. Displaying a sensual and ultra-feminine style, he has experimented as much with the world of Haute Couture as he has sportswear. In his new minimalist boutique where white marble, black lines and mirrors create a suitably avant-garde setting, it is customary to see richly embroidered sleeves next to frail gauze tops, second skin leather pants and micro-dresses made with architectural lines. A wardrobe befitting the multi-faceted lives of the elegant Turkish women who wish to embody casual-chic, naive, sex bomb or glamorous and desirable (and adorned with the finest jewelry!) all in the same day.
Fed up of repetitive trips to luxury hotels that all look more or less the same? In Istanbul, the alternatives are certainly numerous, but none really compete with X-Flats. Located in beautiful historic buildings – with a view no less! – these luxury apartments welcome stars and international travelers passing through. The crew of the latest James Bond? Do not look any further, their hideout of choice was X-Flats, of course! Styled like a contemporary home-residence, each apartment boasts stunning interior design and state-of-the-art kitchens. And why not live it up whilst in Istanbul?