Orka Textiles boss Süleyman Orakçıoğlu tells Drapers why Turkish fashion is set to be the next big thing.
When Süleyman Orakçıoğlu founded his menswear label in 1986, Turkish fashion brands were a rarity.
“I loved the fashion industry but our country was only manufacturing for foreign names under their brand,” says the boss of Orka Textiles, over a cup of Rize tea at the company’s headquarters in Istanbul.
This might have deterred others, but it provided Orakçıoğlu with the impetus to change the status quo: “I wanted to make my own brand and sell it to the world.” Orakçıoğlu claims to have established the first men’s design department in Turkey.
Orakçıoğlu’s decision to pioneer in a virtually non-existent market and launch Orka Textiles, the parent company behind what would become a trio of menswear brands – Damat, Tween and DS Damat – proved to be a winning formula. The collections are now sold in 200 stores in Turkey and 100 overseas, in countries such as Russia, Romania and Italy. In addition to retail and online, the wholesale arm has 400 stockists worldwide in countries including Pakistan, Italy and Spain.
I loved the fashion industry but our country was only manufacturing for foreign names under their brand
The brands have three lines – formal, casual and ceremony – each with their own characteristics and price architecture.
Damat, the first brand Orakçıoğlu established, is focused on affordable luxury with a higher quality and emphasis on detail – mother of pearl buttons on jackets, for example.
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“Damat means ‘groom’ in Turkish,” explains international sales and marketing assistant Irem Kahraman. “We want our customers to feel like a groom every day – by that we mean feel special every day. We wanted to create modern businessman style.” Wholesale prices range from €24 (£20) for a T-shirt to €169 (£144) for a suit.
Its Tween brand, which was founded in 1994, strikes a more casual note.
“It’s more ‘businessman during the weekend’,” says Kahraman. “It’s still chic and makes the customer feel important, but in terms of colours and style, it’s more casual. Each suit has the name of the producer inside, so people know what they’re wearing.” The wholesale price range is around 40% less than Damat – from €17 (£14) for T-shirts up to €119 (£101) for a suit.
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There is also a playful element to Tween: foxes are embroidered into the lining of jackets and across other products, such as bags, for autumn 17. For autumn 18, an elephant will replace the fox.
“We always have a subject in the lining,” says Kahraman. “It’s playful and makes it different.”
Set up in 2002, DS Damat is directed at the young businessman – the collection features more colour and prints, and the overall focus is on polo attire. The price point is similar to Tween, at prices from €13 (£11) for a T-shirt to €110 (£94) for a suit. “In this collection, we try to combine a lot of three pieces to help customers create a special look,” says Kahraman. “They’re more conservative, and don’t want to spend a lot, but want to feel right.” The collections, which are all manufactured at Orka’s two factories in Giresun, near the Black Sea, attract repeat customers.
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“They become established customers,” says Orakçıoğlu. “What they buy is timeless.”
The company, which employs 3,200 staff, started as a wholesale brand before entering retail in 1994. Already with a considerable footprint overseas, the plan is to keep on expanding.
“We are planning to open at least 45 international stores in places like Italy, Australia and Israel in the next year,” says Orakçıoğlu. “These will be a mix of the three brands, depending on the market.” In the UK, there are plans for a retail debut with a mono-brand store in 2018.
“We’d like to open five stores in London by 2020,” says Orakçıoğlu. “London is important for us, but we don’t want to be in the fourth or fifth zone – we want to be central.”
Previously sold in House of Fraser and Harvey Nichols, the company is in negotiations to open three wholesale accounts in the UK, including department stores and boutiques, following a period of focusing on directly operated retail stores.
“We are very powerful in Turkey,” says Orakçıoğlu. “But we want to be as big outside of Turkey.” He believes Turkish brands are gaining momentum overseas: “We [Turkey] are creating a brand name across the world. In five years’ time, I’m sure people will be talking about Turkish brands because Turkish brands have 3,000 stores across the world, and two years after that, I’m sure it will be 5,000.” Big ambitions indeed