An Ottoman designer in Europe

Designer Esin Ertan, inspired by Ottoman design, has achieved success through traditional designs. (Photos: Today's Zaman)

August 01, 2013, Thursday/ 16:53:00

Many designers do not prefer to use traditional designs in their work. Haute couture designer Esin Ertan's works are, however, the best example of success with traditional designs.

I became acquainted with Esin Ertan's reputation through an email from a friend of mine. Her brilliant resume was so attractive that I could not help but to pay attention. Last week, I met her in her workshop in Bebek, İstanbul. This was a proper place for a fashion house inspired by Ottoman tradition. I was not surprised in the least bit though, as this area has become the prime location for such services. She attracts visitors from the Gulf States, including Dubai and Qatar and her dream is to open showrooms in these countries in the future.

I was embraced by Ottoman-style decor in the fashion house. The first thing I noticed was the fashion books on her desk. Rather than well-known fashion books, she had thoughtfully chosen to read Moda ve Zihniyet (Fashion and Mindset), a book by Fatma Karabıyık Barbarosoğlu. I was moved by this designer who reads, does research and thinks about fashion before beginning production. Ertan acquired this culture by virtue of the education she received. After graduating from İstanbul University in 2008, she received a master's degree from London Metropolitan University, after which she stayed in London and began to work as a designer. In 2010, she was accepted to the Instituto Lorenzo de' Medici, a respected and prestigious fashion school in Italy, on a scholarship. During her time at the school, she prepared Ottoman-inspired collections that were exhibited at international fashion shows. She was ranked first in a fashion show she participated in and her designs were praised in European media as works of an “Ottoman fashion designer.” After completing her studies in Italy, she returned to Britain where she did an internship in Ted Baker's ladies' design department. She still maintains a workshop in London that she visits once a month.

Ertan's designs: a one woman show

After this brilliant start to her career, she began to develop Ottoman-style designs and works in her fashion house in Bebek and in London, offering elegance and novelty in bridal gowns and other ladies formal wear. I am not sure whether those who are familiar with conventional evening gowns would be satisfied with her designs; however, because she describes her works as princess gowns that feature handcraftsmanship, exclusive detailing and elegance but which do not overtly attract attention. Ertan, who believes that the dresses acquire value through the identity of the wearer, draws all of the designs completely by herself. For this reason, completion of a dress may take up to 80 hours. According to Ertan, high fashion, referred to as haute couture, is really such a great service because only in this case is the gown customized to the person.

I should also note that handcraftsmanship is in a golden age in the world. Customized embroidery is extremely popular in fashion at the moment. And, of course, the inspiration for Ertan's use of embroidery is historical designs.

Esin Ertan also designs headscarves. She started this during her college years. The intricate details in her collection, "Ottoman's Shadow," completed at the famous Miarjam Rouden design workshop in London, managed to grab attention at Première Vision Paris. She then decided to design headscarves professionally. The designs and colors were inspired by Ottoman styles. It is surprising to see this, considering many headscarf brands offer the designs of Italian designers.

Caftan was the item I liked most

The caftan was the item I liked most at Esin Ertan's fashion house. She says: “The caftan was pretty important in Ottoman society. It was a major item in the Dede Korkut stories [legendary tales of Turkish literature], which note that girls wear a red caftan for their marriage ceremony. The most important color in my caftans is crimson; it is possible to see the beauty and novelty of this color in the caftan design. It is so famous that it is known in the world as Turkish red. Another important color is Turkish blue. Italians refer to this color as turchino and the word turquoise is also named for this color. These colors, used in Ottoman times, attracted the admiration of the West. That admiration was so strong that British Queen Elizabeth I charged her men with collecting technical information on the making of these colors.” All these things tell us that we need to rely on the values in the legacy that is our history for unique design. I see the awards and accolades given to Esin Ertan as appreciation of Ottoman art.