Foreign Fashion

Burcu Acem of Istanbul Fashion Addict discusses foreign misconceptions about Istanbul and its street style.

By Mallory Passuite

I was working as a fashion consultant the summer I planned my first visit to Istanbul.

While I loved the clothes and shoes of retail-land, my favorite part of the job was always schmoozing with the women who let me pick their outfits. As I prepared for my first trip to a 99 percent Muslim country, I probably told everyone I brought to a fitting room about my impending overseas adventures. Many of my customers warned me to pack my long sleeves.

Burcu Acem, a Turkish fashion blogger for Istanbul Fashion Addict and one of Sabah Newspaper’s Most Fashionable Turks, laughed when I told her about the warnings.

Burcu’s favorite magazines are the Turkish editions of Elleand Marie Claire, though she loved Seventeen as a kid. In March, Vogue launched an international edition in Turkey. Despite some cover controversy involving the use of a blonde-haired pale-skin cover model, the thick, premier issue has been a success.

Many Americans hold a misconception about Istanbul, and how women dress there. While there certainly are very conservative parts of Turkey, Istanbul is a modern, European city, and a growing fashion capital. Some fashion followers expect Istanbul Fashion Week, which started in 2009, to grow to the status of those in Milan and Paris within the next five years.

The images we associate with Istanbul are from the old district, Sultanahmet, home to stunning historic sites like the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sofia, and the Spice Bazaar – a fascinating and beautiful place to visit. But Burcu said she never goes there.

Neighborhoods like Nişantaşı, the main fashion district, and Taksim, considered the heart of modern Istanbul, present a completely different character than that of their historic counterparts, as do Istanbul’s huge, beautifully constructed, luxury shopping malls like Kanyon, a four-story open-air mall.

Istanbul is the only city in the world to cover two continents (Europe and Asia). It has a long and rich history but that is only part of its story. There are conservative Muslim parts where you may have to keep your body covered, but contemporary Istanbul is a vibrant, even sexy place. Women actually wear slinky dresses to clubs. I do not intend to paint a certain image of Istanbul for you, but only to add to the picture.

Multimedia produced by Mallory Passuite

Mallory Passuite is a regular contributor to Jerk Wear.