It’s rare to find a designer in Istanbul who has studied fashion and worked in the industry outside of Turkey. Most aspiring fashion entrepreneurs and creatives attend Istanbul Moda Academy or Istanbul Technical University, and while the curriculums have been expanded and partner programs have been established with fashion schools in Europe and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, it seems that most young talents stay put after graduation. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially since fashion has become an integral part of Turkey’s economy, but it tends to create an aesthetic vacuum in which Turkish designers only design for wealthy Turkish customers, most of whom favor the couture market of lavish wedding gowns and wildly embellished party dresses. Generally speaking, the runways inside the giant Zorlu Performing Arts Center didn’t feel as vibrant or inspirational as those of other smaller Fashion Weeks around the world, though the spirit and effort were certainly there. The country is indeed known as a global clothing manufacturing hub and not necessarily a fashion capital. The goal, says Volkan Atik, head of the advisory board for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Istanbul and vice president of the Istanbul Exporters Association, is to move from “made in Turkey” to “designed in Turkey.”

Lug Von Siga is one label on the Istanbul Fashion Week calendar leading that charge. Founded by Gul Agis in 2010, the contemporary brand has expanded far outside of Turkey to markets in Europe and the U.S. (it was picked up by Moda Operandi last year). Agis left Turkey at an early age and studied fashion design at the Instituto Marangoni. She was a senior designer at Costume National under Ennio Capasa for several years, until her mother’s passing brought her home to Turkey. “When I came back, I didn’t start my brand right away,” Agis explains. “I worked with one of the biggest suppliers for four years in order to learn the Turkish import and export system, which was almost completely different from the Italian system at the time.”

Coupled with her talent, Agis’s international experience makes her garments feel a bit more thoughtful, more skillfully constructed, and more globally relevant than some of the other, more insular designers’ wares. Her Fall 2018 collection, which she presented off-site at the Pera Palace Hotel, was inspired by a trip she took last year to Kyoto, Japan, and a visit to the Zen gardens there. Traditional Turkish prints and silhouettes were juxtaposed with asymmetrically wrapped and layered fabric that mimicked the silhouette of a kimono. “I am always inspired by Turkish culture, and I always try to incorporate Turkish elements into my pieces,” the designer says. “Because I feel that my creativity is really coming from my roots, I am being real when I design clothes. I also love traveling around Turkey and studying different cultures here. I have so many books I refer to constantly on Anatolian and Ottoman costumes, and I’m very passionate about studying the forms and patterns from our past.”

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