The geometric details of Ottoman architecture and costumes have been surprisingly under-used elements in fashion design, says Atil Kutoglu, the Turkish Vienna-based designer. Perhaps the bright colours and emphasis on heavily detailed patterns are a little too loud for European designers to stomach but for a new wave of Turkish designers they offer a new source of inspiration that harks back to a golden age in fashion when Istanbul was its centre.
Kutoglu is just one designer who has been looking at the points at which old oriental and contemporary European trends meet – a formula he describes as ‘silent luxury’. He describes Atil Kutoglu, his self-named brand, as ’combining architectural elements and geometry with an oriental flair. My inspiration comes from Ottoman and Turkish cultures, which are then turned into very modern and contemporary clothes in a minimalist style.’
Kutoglu cuts an orthodox figure in modern fashion design. He never went to fashion school and instead learnt all he has to know from his own research and his part-time work at the Turkish clothing brand Vakko & Beymen, whilst still at high school. Taking a retrospective look at fashion has also helped him pick out past trends to inspire his collections. He tells us of another important, often unknown stage in fashion’s evolution, from an imperial empire that saw its death knell at the same time as the Ottoman Empire’s.
‘My inspiration usually comes from Vienna’s golden era (around the 1900s) and of course very strongly from the Ottoman culture,’ he comments. This fusion in his collections helps him reach out to an audience of ‘cosmopolitan, modern women and men who are open minded and interested in different cultures.’
This so-called golden age in fashion also coincided with the rise of Austrian symbolist Gustav Klimt, which presented the designer with another opportunity to fuse art, history and fashion.
‘A milestone in my career was the display of 27 of my fashion designs within the big Gustav Klimt painting exhibition “Klimt and Women” in 2000 in the Belveder Palace Museum Vienna,’ he remembers. ‘When I look back now, other glorious moments in my career were the regular fashion shows at New York Fashion Week from 1999 to 2007.’
However, despite his fondness for the past, Kutoglu remains a forward thinking designer, constantly reinventing and updating his collections whilst retaining more
But his Turkish roots remain an important to his psyche and plays again on this in his most recent line. ‘We just showed our collection for Fall-Winter 2012/13 with a fashion show at the Istanbul Fashion Week,’ Kutoglu says. The idea of his most recent line comes from the unlikely blend if Seljuk architecture and Brigitte Bardot. ‘I was fascinated by her movie And God Created Woman,’ he says. He uses a complex mix of fabrics such as silk, cashmere, leather to compliment the different cultures and traditions he is influenced by. ‘I think of my style being like a bridge between the European, Middle Eastern and Turkish cultures and this cultural mix in my collections has helped make them a hit worldwide, especially in the USA.’
Where did you study?
I never studied fashion design.
Famous brands you’ve worked with?
Turkish brands Vakko & Beymen
Designing for how many years?
An oriental flair
Where are your designs most popular?
USA, Germany and Turkey
12 month plan?
A second label
Who’s the next ‘one-to-watch’?