[MIKARA] You spent the early part of life in London and Istanbul and just recently started living in United States (NYC at that) in 2012. How was the culture shock for you? And how did you adjust?
[BUSE] I’ve had been visiting the US quite often while I was living in Istanbul; I’ve attended summer camps where American kids went to, so there wasn’t as much of a culture shock as some might expect. I was more affected by the lack of people I knew here in the US, as I left my best friends and family back in Turkey, I think that was the biggest shock of all. But with schoolwork and creating pieces for my website (www.buseozler.com) I was able to adjust well.
[MIKARA] Did the move increase or decrease your creativity for designing clothes when you first arrived in NYC?
[BUSE] It has surely increased creativity. Even though it comes off as cliche, I truly believe travel and change of scenery in general can inspire artists in many ways. For me, I was able to derive inspiration from the contemporary and versatile NY; its architecture, museums and its appreciation for art! The collection that I used to apply for colleges was done at the Parsons Summer Intensive Program I attended back in 2014, and the collection was the paradox between Istanbul and New York. So a lot of structural elements and original patterns were the main focus.
[MIKARA] Was Pratt Institute your #1 choice of design school in USA? Why?
[BUSE] Pratt was in my top 3; the campus is very beautiful, safe and can act as a relaxing scenery during times of stress (which is quite often at an art school). Pratt’s fashion program is also one of the best in the world. The professors’ attention to teaching students the technical aspect of being a designer as well as the artistic side sets Pratt designers apart. A Pratt graduate fashion designer can construct as well as they can sketch/illustrate, and I personally value and appreciate that side of Pratt. Aside from fashion classes, I was also exposed to a lot of other class options which I was thrilled to take, such as: Footwear Design, Machine Knitting, Business of Fashion and Poetry.
[MIKARA] When did you know you wanted to be a fashion designer?
[BUSE] I started sketching and styling at age 10. I used to get my mother’s outfit ready for work, the night before. I would also pay a lot of attention to what I wore to school. Around these times, my parents realized that I had an eye for fashion and started to support my dream of becoming a fashion designer, and have my own brand one day. My great aunt was a furrier and dressed many princes and princesses. And my grandmother studied to become a fashion designer herself. She was actually the one who taught me to sew in the first place.
[MIKARA] Describe Buse Özler’s ideal client in 3-5 words?
[BUSE] Multi-cultural, comfortable, sophisticated, open-minded and nonchalant.
[MIKARA] Out of all of your products, what would you say is your most proudest item & why?
[BUSE] The proudest product of mine is the patchwork jacket. It took the longest time to construct for sure! It’s made out of vintage Turkish headscarves that have been in my family for decades, and they’ve been sent to me by my aunt in Istanbul. I later cut the scarves into strips, rearranged them to create a new pattern, and stitched them to make my own fabric. That jacket literally has a piece of my family history and Turkish heritage right on it, so that makes it even more special.
[MIKARA] On your website, there was a statement that stood out to me, “I WASN’T IMMERSED IN THE TURKISH CULTURE WHILE I WAS LIVING THERE. WE WEREN’T TAUGHT TO EMBRACE OR CELEBRATE IT. INSTEAD, THE CULTURE WAS SOMETHING CORRELATED WITH THE LOWER CLASS, AND CELEBRATING THE TURKISH CULTURE WAS SEEN AS SOMETHING DEMEANING. I REALIZED THIS WHEN I MOVED TO THE US BACK IN 2012.” You described your last experience from a “tourist” mindset, how did that inspire your senior thesis collection from Pratt Institute? (From the material, pattern, embellishments, to photographs)
[BUSE] In my statement I speak about how I’m a mixture of an American and a Turk as well. I appreciate both countries and cultures, and I think they’ve made me into a strong artist. But when analyzed, my life didn’t involve a lot of “Turkish-ness” as it could’ve. So my senior thesis became an outlet for me reclaiming my “Turkish-ness” and celebrating it in ways I haven’t been able to do before. By doing this, I was able to combine both my Turkish and American cultures and create looks that is culturally rich and contemporary enough to be worn today. Aside from the vintage Turkish headscarves, the coins and the shoes have also been sent to me from Istanbul. The shoes were custom made for me by artisans in Istanbul; they’re a combination of hand-carved wood hammam sandals and a contemporary sneaker (they’re also on sale on my website: www.buseozler.com).
[MIKARA] What luxury designer/brand do you admire the most and why?
[BUSE] Currently, I’m in love with what Jacquemus is doing. He’s keeping the brand about his family, his culture and therefore he gets to showcase a unique brand with strong characteristics and mood. Family and culture tend to mold the artist, so by sticking to what is true and authentic, I believe an artist can become more appreciated and can produce their work with integrity.
[MIKARA] How do you describe fashion?
[BUSE] Fashion divides into two: mass fashion and fine art fashion. Mass fashion is for the people, it must be inclusive, accessible, diverse, comfortable and exciting. That’s where I want to be as a designer. I want my customer to look at a piece of mine and say “I can wear this and look incredible and I can also be comfortable.” (this goes for shoes as well). Fine art fashion is the extravagant runway pieces or the couture that goes into the museums or the red carpets. A contemporary fashion designer should keep these both in mind and create pieces that draw inspiration from other art as well as the people. Durability, comfort, versatility, quality of fabric and mindfulness of one’s effect on the environment are crucial and substantial for the future of fashion.
[MIKARA] Outside of fashion designing, what do you do for fun?
[BUSE] I spend a lot of time watching movies and tv-shows, as their cinematography and costume tend to inspire me (I’ve also dreamt about becoming an actress since I was little). I’m also a true lover of music, I scout the internet for new sounds every day and I do some mixing myself as well. I have been trained to play the piano and guitar and sing. My dad is also a drummer and a sax player on the side, so you could say it’s in the family! I try to travel as much as I can; I’ve visited countries in Europe, Africa, South America and the Middle East but have not yet been able to visit Asia, so that’s on the top of my bucket list for sure!
[MIKARA] Where would you like to see your brand, Buse Özler, in 2 years ago?
[BUSE] I hope to start producing and selling my pieces to consumers soon. The shoes from my senior thesis are already up for sale! A deal with a department store or meeting with some investors or even a collaboration opportunity would be a great booster for the brand name. Starting a business is hard, and getting your name out there is even harder, but I believe I have the potential and creativity to do so with a little help from the outside!