By Rebeca Riofrio
Can you give a brief history on you and the brand and when you decided to become a designer?
I launched the Zeynep Kartal brand at the beginning of 2013, following more than twenty years of experience in the fashion industry in a variety of areas including textile, design, production and marketing.
Ever since I can remember, designing and creating bespoke pieces has always been my passion. As a little girl growing up in Turkey, I loved to make dresses for my dolls. We used to make our own dolls from sticks and my friends would ask me to make clothes for their dolls too. At the age of ten, I attended the local sewing course with my older sister and aunties, and in my later years, I received a symbolic award for my attendance presented by the Ministry of Education. Throughout my teens I would design and make clothes for my friends and family.
I have always loved dressing in beautiful clothes, and bringing new designs to life. Following graduation, I worked as a designer for four years developing my general designing and business skills and was head- hunted by a major textile company in Turkey, which is recognised internationally.
My life then took a different path when, having given birth to twin boys, I moved to the UK with my family as my husband was offered a job here. As a result, I spent four years away from the general textile business. With time to reflect on my career in textile, I decided to study fashion design here in the UK. This made me realise how much I enjoyed creating and designing clothes – not producing them in bulk. At the beginning of this year, after nineteen years of design, production, and marketing, representing well-known international companies, I knew it was time to start my own label and so the ‘Zeynep Kartal’ brand began…
What does Zeynep Kartal as a brand represent? Who is the Zeynep Kartal Woman?
My collections are elegant, timeless, sophisticated, and because of the detailed elements every piece of the collection is unique and tailored to fit. For each collection I aim to give the Zeynep Kartal ethos for every woman who wears a Zeynep Kartal dress a feeling of stylish sophistication and self-confidence.
Can you talk through your spring/summer collection…what is it based on? Why did you use the fabrics in the way you did?
For my SS15 Zeynep Kartal Collection has drawn influence from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic British novel, ‘The Secret Garden’; similar to Burnett’s exploration of the healing power of the hidden rose garden on Mary within the novel Kartal illustrates the beauty of the power of nature and turning of seasons as a chance to transform and find oneself.
Overtly feminine silhouettes in delicate fabrics can be seen throughout including; luxurious floor skimming fishtail dresses, loose ruffles, nipped in waists, silk georgette pleated calf skirts and loose fitting palazzo jumpsuits with plunging necklines and flirtatious sheer side panelling. The Kartal’s signature embellishing takes two forms for SS15 featuring oversized pearlescent beading alongside delicate embroidery adorning; thigh split column dresses, structured box cut tops, tailored city shorts and sculpted silk bodies teamed with floating collarless capes.
A nod to the secret garden’s discovered spring blooms can be seen through a palette of vibrant limes, dusky rose pinks, dove greys, barely there botanical prints layering fresh whites and full floral applique detailing offering an elegant collection that is the go-to for enchanting yet timeless cocktail, occasion and evening wear.
What is the key piece in your collection?
The Zeynep Kartal aesthetic creates a distinctive sense of elegance and femininity using the finest fabrics including natural silk, crepe, lace, and lurex silk hand-made embellishments I feel those pieces and influences are key in my collections.
The women always feels empowered and uplifted wearing one of my designs…
What inspires you?
I find inspiration from day to day life, sometimes it maybe cultural regarding my background, however I tend to work instinctively. Many things interest me like nature, culture, weather but in general I try to envisage how a women would want to feel wearing one of my dresses. The women always feels empowered and uplifted wearing one of my designs. I am not satisfied until I feel this is embodied within each piece of my collection that I produce.
Being a Manchester based designer, what do you think makes Manchester a special and unique place for fashion, style and culture?
There is so much culture, diversity and architecture in Manchester I find it all very inspiring, the Manchester Art Gallery & Museum, the recently reopening of the Whitworth Gallery and the Manchester Town Hall. Actually our AW14 Opulence Collection was all inspired by The Manchester Town Hall, designed by architect Alfred Waterhouse, is regarded as one of the finest interpretations of Gothic revival architecture in the world. The dark exterior of ‘Barbary’ sandstone juxtaposed against delicate tiling in the grand entrance and an emerald ceiling featuring intricate gold leaf, is the a inspiration for the autumnal colour palette of ivory, teal, rich burgundy, noir, dazzling metallic gold and pewter. I tried to reflect the Art Nouveau and Neo-Gothic architectural designs from iconic buildings in intricate lace hand embroidery, metallic applique and rich velvet finishes teamed with effortless elegance.
What projects are you working on at the moment? What can we expect for the next season’s collection?
I have just flown back from Turkey, we held my first fashion show in my hometown in Konya at Dedeman Hotel on 8th April for the benefit of children in need, and was supported by Turkish Prime Minister’s wife Dr. Sare Davutoğlu, Konya Governor Muammer Erol and Konya Metropolitan Municipality. I am very proud of my heritage and my home town Konya, in traditional times the capital city of the Anatolian Seljuk period was actually Konya, the architecture, ceramics, and motifs are all authentic rich which I found genuine inspiring. Especially as this was all for a charity for children desperately in need which is very close to my heart and also, I wanted Konya to be the city of my first fashion show in Turkey.
For next season’s collection which was showcased this February at London Fashion Week, my Zeynep Kartal AW15 Enchantment Collection explores a world of the mystical and the enchanted inspired by the C.S Lewis classic folktale, Narnia. The collection reconnoitres a fantasy world that spills into reality. References were taken from traditional Turkish embroidery from her home town Konya reinvented with; lurex silk threads, innovative placement on translucent wide leg organza jumpsuits and day-to-night contemporary wool capes. For this September I will showcase my brand new SS16 collection.
My best designs come when I can understand the client’s passions in life…
What advice would you give to women when dressing for a special occasion?
Besides my main Zeynep Kartal brand line, I also create bespoke collections and feel it’s very important to get to know the client on a personal level. My best designs come when I can understand the client’s passions in life, her personality and what she is looking for in her bespoke piece. I genuinely love to create designs specified towards a client’s individuality as I can recognise what is suitable for their body shape and my aim is to encourage every woman to find their own style and to feel confident in their appearance.
How do you think the show went?
As an overall result I think it all went amazingly well, I couldn’t be any happier!
What made you decide to design a collection based on your Turkish roots?
I am very proud of my heritage and my home town Konya, in traditional times the capital city of the Anatolian Seljuk period was actually Konya, the architecture, ceramics, and motifs are all authentic rich which I found genuine inspiring. Especially as this was all for a charity for children desperately in need which is very close to my heart and also, I wanted Konya to be the city of my first fashion show in Turkey.
Are you pleased with the finished result?
Yes I am very pleased with the finished result, it was very well received by all the Turkish Press and it was such a privilege for the Turkey’s Prime Minister’s wife Dr. Sare Davutoğlu to make an appearance at our Anatolian Seljuk Gala.
Which celebrity would you most like to see in one of your designs?
Kate, Duchess of Cambridge. She is a very beautiful and elegant. I think she has this particular aura that is unique; this enables her to be admired by the world. I think the charisma and elegance would make my gowns look its most exquisite.
What’s been your career highlight so far?
This moment in my life right now is a true highlight of my career, the Anatolian Seljuk Gala is all for charity and my first show in Turkey was showcased in my hometown and I am proud of my heritage and hope that with this Anatolian Seljuk collection that brightly shines through for the world to see.
Where do you hope to take the brand next?
The next step for the brand is London Fashion Week for September and a dream of mine for the near future is I hope to stock my Zeynep Kartal brand in the very prestigious department store, Harrods!