Istanbul’s prominent designer multi-brand concept store Gizia Gate is winning over locals and tourists alike.
Located in the fashionable Istanbul suburb of Nisantasi on Abdi Ipekci Street stands the concept store Gizia Gate. Said to be Turkey’s first exclusive multi-brand concept store, it brings together a selection of the most innovative Turkish womenswear designers under one roof. The two-storey shop features a largely neutral decor in a grey palette with a few brown wooden furnishings dotted around. It houses collections from local designers including Erkan Demiroğlu and Deniz Berdan, as well as the more established Gizia brand.
Founded by Ismail Kutlu, the chief executive and founder of Gizia, in September 2015, Gizia Gate offers those with deep purses the chance to buy clothes from Turkish designers: 45 ready-to-wear brands on the ground floor, retailing from TRY2,000 to TRY10,000 (£426 to £2,129) and couture on the lower level at TRY4,000 to TRY10,000 (£852 to £2,129). The store also stocks 30 footwear and accessories brands.
“We want a woman to come here and find everything she wants to go to a party, events … everything,” says Gizia Gate assistant brand manager Zumrut Koca as we tour the 16,146 sq ft store. “We want them to feel that we can help them in every way. If we don’t have a dress in a particular size, then a designer can make it for them. Whatever the customer wants, we can sort.”
New designers are showcased at the front of the store, while more established Gizia occupies the rear, explains Koca: “For this to be a concept store, the designers need to be at the front, taking the most attention,” says Koca. Most of the designers offer between 10 and 15 pieces, depending on customer demand. Koca says the most popular is Özgür Masur, thanks to the designer’s collection of “crop tops and skirts, which are affordable”.
Another strong seller is Nihan Peker, whose blouses and skirts are in store for a fourth season. “She has a very hands-on approach. She comes here and helps customers in any way they need.”
Istanbul Fashion Academy director Seda Lafci is enthusiastic about the store: “For Turkish designers, to survive as a designer is a really tough business. You need to pay your rent, pay for your production team and need to have a showroom to sell products. Multi-brand stores are limited here, so being able to survive among the well-known international designers is also an issue. This is a great opportunity to meet with customers. And it’s only for Turkish designers.”
She says tourists were always asking where to buy Turkish designer products: “It was limited. So this a very unique idea. Here at Gizia Gate they have moved the Gizia collection at the very back so it’s only the designers at the forefront.”
A short taxi ride away through the choked-up traffic of Istanbul on the top floor of Gizia’s headquarters, Kutlu explains why he founded Gizia Gate: “In the luxurious areas of Istanbul you can see all the global fashion brands but couldn’t see all what Turkey offered. This was an opportunity. We also carried out research with tourists and wealthy tourists who asked, ‘Why is there not a store where we can purchase Turkish designers?’ They wanted to experience Turkish designers with global trends.”
Designers stocked in the store take 50% of the sale price, Gizia Gate the other half. “For this project we decided that both parties should be happy,” explains Kutlu. “It should be a win-win. The aim wasn’t to open a store and earn money from there. We want to change the image people across the world have of Turkey. Many Europeans see the country of manufacturing, not design.”
The company will not reveal figures but says sales at Gizia Gate have risen 57% year on year.
In a bid to present Turkish fashion on a larger scale, the plan is to put Gizia Gate on a global map with a similar concept store in Shanghai, which opened in December. Kutlu’s five-year vision is to open a string of stores in Paris, the Middle East and London, as well as three more in Turkey, including one in the Asian side of Istanbul.
Kutlu hails from a textiles background – his family runs clothing manufacturers. A career in retail beckoned and he worked his way up several brands before launching Gizia as a premium womenswear wholesale and retail brand in 2004. The brand expanded with a lower-priced range, Gizia Casual, in 2008. It now has 42 stores and 200 wholesale accounts in Turkey, and 60 stores overseas, as well as concessions. It is in talks to open a wholesale account with a UK stockist.
As well as running four collections a year, Gizia creates capsule collections for different markets.
“As we have a large group of people doing designs, as well as a large R&D department, and we can manufacture the collection ourselves, we have the ability to create capsule collections to European and Middle Eastern taste,” says Kutlu. Wholesale prices range from TRY150 (£32) for a blouse to TRY6,000 (£1,280) for a couture dress.
Kutlu, the brains behind Istanbul Fashion Week and its president from 2009 to 2011, brushes off questions about the effects Turkey’s failed military coup and terrorist attacks last year might be having on tourism.
“It doesn’t affect us much,” says the entrepreneur. “People are still shopping.”
And Gizia Gate will continue to be a beacon for burgeoning Turkish fashion designers hoping to one day be in the limelight.
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