How Do Migrant Women Wear Their Culture?

International Fashion

By Ada Zguros

Each morning we establish an image and an identity for ourselves through the simple act of getting dressed. The clothes we wear fulfil our needs and through them we communicate. Sometimes they convey a sense of belonging and cultural heritage, especially for special occasions.

Women are always concerned about clothing, dress sense and their body, in a world where popular media and culture presents an increasingly extreme and distorted view of femininity and the ideal body.

How do they feel in front of the mirror? Do they keep their culture style or do they change it influenced by British culture? We have asked two Turkish women to share their feeling and experiences with as. Meet Arzu Kara, a stylist and Asalet Tulaz, advice worker and learn more about them.

Arzu Kara I have always been intrigued by the beautiful clothes

Arzu Kara is a young fashion designer originally from Istanbul. She launched her fashion label in 2006 and her company is based in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire. She has studied at St. Martin’s and later graduated with a degree in Fashion Textiles from Thames Valley University. Arzu is a very talented and vibrant young woman who instills confidence and energy.


What is special about Turkish fashion? 

The traditional styles of fashion are located in the rural areas of Turkey. However, as I was born and raised in Istanbul, fashions and styles were in line with the rest of Europe and traditional clothing was not apparent, hence my designs and creativity were based on modern popular European trends.

How do you combine the tradition from your country with the modern fashion? Do you ever incorporate any elements of your tradition into your clothes? 

I haven’t yet but I have always been intrigued by the beautiful clothes made in the Black Sea region so I think I will have to pay them a visit and base a collection on them.

Is what you wear important to you? 

Like most (or all) women, the clothes I wear change my mood and affect how I feel about myself. No one can deny that as soon as we put our heels on or a well made/fitted dress, we instantly feel more confident, sexier and leaner. However, comfort and being able to move is the most important factor for me – especially working in the studio (draping on the mannequin and pattern cutting requires movement). I wear pieces from my collections almost everyday but I also mix and match them with more basic stuff. I do love dressing up though when the occasion arises.

What is your favourite brand? 

Hussein Chalayan is my hero. I can look at his incredibly elaborate but simple designs for hours. Bora Aksu is another designer that I am in love with, which is completely different to Chalayan in style, but his pieces are so dreamy and he is an expert in draping and mixing textures. Alexander McQueen for his amazing vision reflected onto his clothes and Valentino for the eternally classic but ladylike dresses.

What colours do you use mostly? 

I love all colours so tend to use most of them but of course blacks, greys and neutrals are staples in my A/W collections.

What is your favourite style? 

I like simple, well cut and constructed garments with a twist in natural fibres. For evening, I choose more elaborate dresses or jeans with killer heels.

Do you think that what you wear helps women in their career? 

I personally think it does, especially if one works in front of other people. Some might claim that there are very successful women, who started their businesses from their kitchen dressed in their pyjamas but I, like many other women I know, need to get ready properly.

What made you pursue fashion? Was there a particular person in your life or reason that inspired you? 

No one in my family has been into fashion (apart from my younger brothers, who are very into their clothes) so I can only assume that it came within. I used to crotchet little dresses for my dolls and draw Barbies with super long evening gowns. Up until the age of 8 I couldn’t decide between Fashion and Law as I also wanted to be a Lawyer but my father discouraged me in pursuing that. So fashion has become my destiny.

What are your tips for launching a successful career in fashion? 

I would suggest that they stay true to their style but listen to their audience. What looks great on paper doesn’t necessarily look great in three dimensions. A wearer must feel good in the garment and comfortable. My first collection after graduation had many compliments but didn’t sell too well. This was due to my naivety expecting all of my potential customers to be size 8 and 6 feet tall. Everything looks OK on a static mannequin but we live in our clothes and need them to maintain their shape. Fashion to young people seems incredibly glamorous but behind the scenes are many sleepless nights and a lot of hard work.

Why did you choose the UK to set up your company? 

I was 20 when I came to the UK to study English, then Fashion Design, and never went back. This wasn’t a conscious decision, things just happened that way and despite all of my family living in Istanbul, I stayed here. I think it was a good decision as London has become the hub of fashion in the past 10-15 years.

Does the fashion industry in this country favour young designers (of foreign heritage) more than other fashion hubs, by others meaning Paris, Milan or New York?  

I believe that, like in every sector, we have the hunger for new and exciting stuff which might manifest itself in favouring young designers but we are very encouraging when it comes to creativity. Which I think is wonderful!