London Fashion Week starts tomorrow, and we prepare by putting together our looks, sorting out our invites, and packing up our beauty essentials, we take a break an introduce you to a brand new talent, London-based Turkish designer Serap Pollard.
Pollard’s latest collection at the London Fashion Season AW15 Show will utilise Turkish fabrics and traditional techniques. Serap Pollard believes that Turkey is very rich in traditional values as a result of a deep and rich history, and therefore, she is very attentive to use the traditional values of Turkey in her designs. Similar to her previous projects, Serap Pollard will be using the other fabrics which originate from the depths of Turkey’s history.
The designs of Serap Pollard are very successful at combining traditional lines with global trends. Serap Pollard works towards promoting sustainability and helping people in the world’s most marginalized communities escape poverty by actively supporting Fair Trade producer groups in Turkey.
Despite a very busy schedule pre-LFW, Serap sat down for a chat and we talk Turkish culture, ethnic fabrics and sustainable fashion.
Serap Pollard is showcasing her Autumn/Winter 2014 collection on Saturday, 15 February at 1pm at the Charing Cross Hotel.
Firstly from Istanbul all the way to London, how did you end up here?
I did a BA in Turkey and a degree in 2000 and after studying four years in Turkey about fashion, I decided to learn English and learn more about fashion in the world. I moved to London in the year 2000, since then I have been here.
What made you decide to settle down in London rather than go back to Istanbul?
Serap: When I came it was a very interesting country and very rich culture and lots to see and do. After I learned English, I decided to study about fashion because there are lots of universities here such as Central Saint Martins College, London College of Fashion so I did study there and then I told myself, “Maybe I should get a little work experience” so I worked with a very famous designer called, Christian ***Lewis then I said maybe I should work for the high street, after all that could be great, maybe I should earn more money from fashion jobs, I applied to lots of jobs and a couple of them got back to me, they took me with a great offer, so that one followed the other one and I’m here.
After 10 years working with very established companies and designer brands you finally launched your brand in 2011. What were the challenges you faced in starting your own label and business effectively?
In the beginning before 2011, lots of tutors, professors, managers from the company where I had been working and all my friends they were like, “Oh you should start your own brand” and I was like, “No because it’s too much work and then I started to do research about brands and start a new company, new designs and clothing line. It took me nine months to put it on paper, then I said, “Okay, it’s time to do it” so I did it in 2011 but before that I did a lot of work and research. That is why it has been so successful; in 2 years it has rapidly increased, garnering interest and comebacks. I was thinking in the beginning to go slow, step by step, but I think business started to run and I’m running afterwards.
So your advice to anybody looking forward to starting their label is to really do their research and take their time?
They must study at the beginning, they must be talented, right after the talent they must study and see the opportunities they have. Before they start their business they must research on the paper work – finance wise and art wise. They should test the market.
Your new collection is being sponsored during the London Fashion Week with the Turkish Minister of Culture and Tourism which is a huge honour. How did this come about?
My collection before this project, it was mainly about Turkish textiles. Turkey is very rich in history and culture and my project at lots of different influences from Turkey. I used different fabrics from different cities, as every city has different traditional weavings or colours, something special for that city so there’s a lot in Turkey and in my projects I’ve been using those.
For this new collection I’m using traditional fabric from Gaziantep in Turkey; it’s a beautiful city and they have gorgeous fabrics. The research again it took like three months research and a fuether three months were spent creating the collection. They loved my work. They believed me, they trusted me and that is how they decided to support me.
You talked about using traditional Turkish fabrics and techniques from Gaziantep. What else can we expect from this collection?
I’m a sustainable fashion designer. It’s been about sustainability in the last six years, it’s been very very popular with designers from high street companies. There are a lot of things to be sustainable like ten different points to make garments sustainable, I did a Masters on that subject and there were ten different points to take into account, so you have to think about the world and as a designer you have to be start to be sustainable before you think about designing.
This collection is ethical fashion because the fabrics are hand weaved in Gaziantep so it’s ethical fashion and the material is cotton and silk and the colours are hand dyed as well so it is very special material I’m using in the collection. Apart from being very traditional it fits the trend of the world at the moment so it’s very modern and sustainable and beautiful gorgeous colours.
How do you combine the traditional Turkish fabrics and influences in the international trends that we see around the world catwalks?
Some people sometimes say, “I created it” but actually you don’t create, God creates something from zero so you just get inspired by something as a designer you get all the inspiration, like in your dream maybe you see something ,and I get inspired with how people make a material and bring it to life. I follow all the trends; I don’t need to do much about it actually, it comes to me naturally and I design something it comes out of me. I’ve become fond of using the traditional fabrics, some little details from being traditional but it is basically created for today.
You’ve mentioned that you produce ecologically and you support sustainable fashion and fair trade, was this a conscious decision that you took right after you finished your masters to go into ethical fashion?
It started before that, when I was pregnant nine years ago and I was dying my own hair. I started a research – I think I love researching about everything that I go through – and then I found out chemical stuff is not good for pregnant people because it can pass on to the baby, so I stopped using chemical dyes and I started falling in love with organic food and I found out more that being organic is not enough. How can you continue eating organic food is okay but not put in your life more that is organic? Since then I stopped dying my hair, I had chickens in my garden getting my own eggs, so it’s not just the trend for me, it’s a lifestyle. When I started my company then, I wasn’t looking just for money, I was looking for something that would suit my lifestyle.
I researched again and I found this subject so I decided to do a Masters about fashion being sustainable and ethical. I also started to go to seminars in Turkey at some universities and speaking to students, teaching them what I know because we have to pass our knowledge to the next generation.
You partnered with Top Model 2013 to dress their models, how was this experience?
The experience was good because I worked with top models and they loved my designs, we met with the organiser in London Fashion Week. He goes through my card and my designs and he loved them so he offered me that, and I accepted the opportunity because my garments would be worn by beautiful models and it was top models worldwide and it’s like lots of press as well and it was known. It was great, I loved it.
Another highlight for you was during the 2012 Olympics in London with your baobab tree project how did it make you feel to get so much media attention worldwide?
Serap: It was amazing because Olympics is very important for everyone. I’m not a sports person – yes, I play tennis, and I love swimming, but I don’t do Olympics. My designer friend and I were thinking of what we could do so we decided to do something about the Olympics; as designers we decided to do a baobab tree with lots of traditional fabrics and It was an amazing feeling because so many visited London and visited our tree and we were involved in the Olympics.
Apart from what we talked about dressing models from all over the world, doing something to support the Olympic Games what kind of inspires you in your creative work, what motivates you to create what you create?
Every collection has a different story and every designer has their different stories and you would never know what is going to happen next year so the inspiration comes to you and you follow your inspiration so you cannot name it, you cannot just say, “Oh I do this or I do that.” No, it doesn’t work like that.
How would you define the Serap woman?
The Serap woman loves being noticed they are very smart, they look after themselves and they love quality.
If you could dress any kind of celebrities or iconic women, who would be that person you must get your clothes on?
Serap: Kylie is so pretty and maybe Lady Gaga would be nice.
I know that you said we cannot really plan what we are going to do or what we are going to get inspired by in the future or tomorrow but in the short term what are your plans for 2014 after you’ve showed at London Fashion Week?
Now we are planning to show in Vietnam, Italy, Germany and France it’s lined up before next London Fashion Week and next London Fashion Week, we will be in London.
Our classic question, because our magazine’s name is FAB its stands for Fabulous African Black what makes the Serap Pollard label FAB?
Because the garments are gorgeous and any lady who wears them will feel special that’s why they are Fabulous.
And what is fab about being Turkish?
Serap: I feel special because we are a really rich country and rich culture because when you go up there but they are lots of things to experience. When you go to different countries you go there like a tourist, but when I visit Turkey I go there like a local. I visit the small villages and talk to the old ladies and try to listen to their stories, and they are so natural. Because I’m Turkish I know the deep history about textile and fashion and I think Turkey is special from that point.
Anything else you feel you may want to add that I may not have asked?
I would like to say thank you to everybody because I got a lot of support from my friends and Turkish cultural tourism and culture ambassador in London, I would like o say thank you to everybody in my life and let’s keep sustainable.
Find out more about Serap Pollard here.