Harem London were a new name to me, a genderless brand founded in 2015 whose avowed mission statement is to create clothes for the citizens of the world. The brainchild of two sisters, Dee and Begum Ozturk, born in Turkey now living in London, they create well-made relaxed streetwear that transfers equally well from the streets of Hackney to those of Istanbul.
With a design philosophy that draws upon cross-cultural identity and the influences that exposure brings with it, this particular East meets West aesthetic was one that I was keen to explore further. I spoke to the sisters during London Fashion Week at their AW20 presentation in Bloomsbury, to find out what drives both them and their brand.
1.Congratrulations on your AW20 collection. What was the inspiration behind it?
It was inspired by our heritage mostly and the organic Turkish fabrics and the olden techniques that were used in Turkey to make garments and we are trying to mix that with the London sustainable fashion scene. All our fabric comes from Turkey and we make everything here in London
2. Your designs blend influences, fabrics and techniques from both London and Istanbul. Which of these have you brought from Turkish culture?
For example there is a specific fabric that is hand woven and there are certain ways of dying the fabric and washing it and this is what we’re exploring this season. Also there are some specific details on the garments such as a scarf where the print references come from an Ottoman painting from the Ottoman Empire era and we want to bring these references to our streetwear
3. What have you taken from living in London, in terms of both artistic and technical influences?
We were born and raised in Turkey until high school when we moved to London and living in London completely changed our way of thinking and all of a sudden, we were in this different culture, meeting and getting to know a whole new level of influences. London has crazy influence and it’s 50/50 between here and Turkey in how our we have been influenced
4. Your previous SS20 collection and this one could be worn on the streets of Istanbul and London. How important to you is that you make garments that can cross cultural barriers and also have that cross cultural wearability?
In the era we live in people are all about travel and we design for people who travel who are trying to find something original something new from different cultures so it is cross cultural and it’s also genderless and make most of our pieces are unisex and so there is no such thing as gender.
5. How do you feel about the move towards genderless clothing?
It’s amazing. People being open to everything. It’s just like one of the best things about this century it opens up a totally different open-minded perspective the chioce of wearing what you want and the likes of boys and girls’ stereotypes are a thing of the past. On our website we have to show men’s and women’s collections separately solely because of patterns and for customers to understand the fittings but their are certain products that are one size fits both men and women
6. It must be hugely rewarding seeing so many people here at your presentation and the feedback that you’ve received, so what’s next for Harem London?
To be honest we love this more and more and we want to explore what more we can come up with and the most important thing we are focusing on is to create a community of people who understand us and appreciate the experience. We want to get closer to our audience and have many ideas for the future
Getting closer to their audience is something I have no doubt that Harem London will achieve. I look forwad to seeing what the future holds for this label whose relaxed and versatile silhouettes translate from beach to brunch, from departure lounge to drinks on arrival. Big thanks to Dee and Begum for taking the time to chat with me mid- presentation and to Millie and the guys at Black PR for introducing me to the brand.