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8 November 2014  |  0 comment  |  Ali Deniz Uslu

It's great to be a designer in İstanbul.

You can discover a new street, a new person, a new emotion, a new colour in İstanbul every day!

It's great to be a designer in İstanbul.

Bige Ökten forms special bonds with the product, brand and artwork in her designs. The user also senses this right away. "Design is not an ordinary choice" says Ökten, "because the designer products you use give away bits about you, it is a method of communication." Bige Ökten tells she took journey with Sahi with genuineness in mind; "We worked to find depth and trueness to meaning. We had to combine the culture of the entire land it embraces with today." Ökten prepared ikat and kutnu products for Sahi, as well as İstanbul themes wooden pencil products; and she also designed the Gypsy    

-Let's talk about your story, what is the deal with you and design?

I have a mission other than my designer identity; I am combining this with museum studies. Before this, I worked in İstanbul Modern for four years on museum shops, what should be in a museum shop, and designing products according to vision and mission. And I have been doing this in Sabancı Museum for the past three years. 

-The concept of design is a little problematic, because people either don't know exactly what it is, or there is too much contamination in meaning. What do you think?

I would like to say that design is a new fact for Turkey. Design is already a developed concept in the world. And we just started to analyse its semantics. Actually, chaos still continues. Fashion Designers Association was founded around eight years ago; we did this so we can agree on a definition and common meaning of design.

- How do you define your work?

What I did was placing design into museum using art, and associate the coming exhibitions or collections with designer products. Design is not an ordinary choice. It is important to be able to form a physical or spiritual with the product or work or brand. In museum shops, we feature the designs we make. This is a vast area, and everyone is new. Of course, the relationship between the designer and the artist is very important here.

-We say designer products; now we prefer designer products that are mobile, which we can have with us in every part of our lives. 

Yes, people like mobile and useful designer products now. They want to carry and personalize it; this is the way the new world is, meanings are changing. This way, people give tips about themselves too. The pencils or notebooks they carry and use say something about them. These are messages, design also means communication. For example, when you go to the house of a person you don't know, the placement and objects there give you tips. Your first impression is created by these images. Designer products provide sharing of such preliminary information. We should look at this sociologically. Also, affordability of the price range is very important. When design concepts come together with the desired spirit and affordable price, everything becomes complete. We already live smaller and more refined lives. We don't have reception rooms that we unlock for guests only, and we don't have objects that collect dust or rot inside displays. Times and conditions have changed. We open our environments to our own lives, and we grow them. For example, it is a pleasure to drink coffee from a beautiful, elegant cup and devote time to it. We do this for ourselves. Because we already have very little quality time for ourselves, and we want to spend it with care and quality.

- What was your point of origin for your Sahi designs?

Sahi is a very strong idea. It has a big concern, a big philosophy as well as its literal meaning. We originated from genuineness in Sahi. We worked to create depth of meaning and trueness to meaning. We had to combine the culture of the entire land it embraces with today. There is a difference between bringing the past to present and to adopting it. As we adopt the past to present, we alter it, we disfigure it, we deform it. There's no meaning in this if we are wearing it down. For example, kutnu fabric is very special; we don't get this delusion when we make it into an ipad cover or a pencil case. Because we use it the way it is in core, but we make it complete each other with the indispensable innovations or the present. They do not harm each other, our aim is to grasp that fine line. We try to achieve this without harming culture.

-İkat and kutnu entered our lives with Sahi and embraced us.

I prepared ikat and kutnu products for Sahi, as well as İstanbul themes wooden pencil products. And the designs in Gypsy Dowery are mine.  They were prepared by Kader Kısmet Workshop. İkat motifs found function with Rıfat Özbek pillows and entered our lives. We made them into products that we can use in our homes all the time. For example, I used ikat in kitchen aprons, it is a heavy fabric. But it has a special pattern. İkat is a motif, and it has lively colours. I like blue, turquoise. It attracts, and has a protective side, which comes from the evil eye bead tradition. I believe colours should be full of action and energy, I choose them especially. I preferred green, red and orange shades for Sahi summer collection. Red and orange is dominant in our kutnu works as well... By the way, I also consult Women Improvement Project in GAP region. We contacted them at the same time with Sahi. We know that women labour is very important in this country, Sahi embraces this as well. With this project, products that are produced by our workshops, our working women will come to Sahi!

-You want to carry the past into the future without harming or deforming its legacy, isn't it?

These are products that carry the labour. Also, we cannot give up the past, its experiences, its pattern makes us happy. The past has a whole other world. That's why products with labour is so important. We are robot enough already. Now we rediscover what we lost. Now people are touching each other in every sense. A handiwork product makes it a part of life. The maker's feelings reflect on the product. They produce the products out of their own worlds. Design is different, but the spirit is blown into it by the weaver.

- Of course, İstanbul is in the heart of all this. How is your relationship with İstanbul?

İstanbul makes us ourselves... Everything is so hard in this city. And that's where we nurture from. This is a city with life, you can explore without limits. Both its people and its spirit! We are very rich... I lived abroad for years, and found another İstanbul when I came back. My second meeting with this city happened with Galata. I saw a house with bow windows in Serdar-ı Ekrem Street and said "I have to live there" to myself. Those days, Galata had not been discovered yet, it was secluded. I lived through that eerie period of Galata with happiness and comfort as a woman. The house I lived in was 150 years old, its spirit was in its walls and I was happy there. Galata is one of the most important places in İstanbul, an area where we can watch the change very clearly. After some time, all designers started to prefer being there, we organized the Galata Fashion Project, and made the designers to go to Kuledibi. Everything was on the street now! You can discover a new street, a new person, a new emotion, a new colour in İstanbul every day! It is great to be a designer in this city. İstanbul has a different taste. You sometimes have a love relationship with here, and sometimes a hate relationship. And isn't that true love, anyway? The most important things is that we cannot leave, so certainly we will stay and fight!

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