Cutting between Istanbul's Blue Mosque and the Aya Sofia on the way to work is a bit surreal. The April day is shining and clear and the tourists who would normally throng this area are alarmingly absent - a suicide bombing in the Istanbul airport in 2016 has driven Europeans and Americans away in droves. The carpet dealers that lined the Sultanahmet historical district have shut their doors one by one, their trade killed by lack of commerce.
I'm headed to the one who survived. Mehmet Cetinkaya has built one of the finest selections of carpets and textiles in the region and knows his stuff. So does his daughter, Zehra, who greets me with her glamorous smile as I enter their magical boutique.
Mehmet saw the crises coming long before the bomber took the tourist trade. He saw the antique and vintage textiles running out, and did something about it. Mehmet and Zehra began to scour the region for artisans who are still capable of making great textiles; they organized and commissioned them to make fine embroideries and woven cloth for their discriminating customers.
I sit on a bench with dozens of velvet ikat fabrics spread out on the floor in front of me and begin to narrow them down. It's hard. The velvets are stunning. I'm a sucker for the cloud like tiger stripes, but don't think you'll love the colors. So, we head to the office and begin to play with a palette . . . rich indigo and a bourbon kind of hue that looks great with leather and suede and jeans and winter white - that's where we land.
Most velvet ikat is made of silk with cotton, nice and hefty for pillows and upholstery. But I am asking for it to be woven with 100% silk thread so that it flows and feels beautiful on the body, and while this is very rare to find, Zehra says the word I want to hear: Yes, of course. So began the process of hand-tying silk threads to dye in this ancient Ottoman pattern, handweaving to our specifications - that alone a three month undertaking; then the garment meticulously tailored and lined.
When the finished coat came in, our entire team flipped. This is something you simply don't see, in a fabric so lush and gorgeous and unique and with a fit so flattering . . . well, I don't know how it gets any better. Zehra's Coat we call it. Because, when the old stuff runs out, they didn't close their doors, but found a way into the new, and in finding that way, kept not only an artisan world alive, but the women weaving it. I'm all about that.
We're proud to unveil this handsome treasure for you, and honored to work with Zehra. Take your tiger stripes, then, women of the world, and hear us roar.
All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker