How Cansu Aytac is fighting against feminicide in Turkey as a fashion designer

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Knitting flowers to protest for women’s rights: Fashion in it’s most meaningful form.

Forget about your grandmother’s knit. Turkish designer Cansu Aytac takes knitting to a whole new level, experimental, and most of all, political. Cansu is a witch from the most delightful sort, not because of her dark hair and flowy dressed but because of a weird attraction she has on people. Inspirational women are always welcome at Fräulein and Cansu Aytac agreed on having a talk with us about the message behind her first collection. With experiences as a design assistant at GmbH, Berlin’s most trailblazing fashion label, and recently graduated with a fashion design degree in knitwear at Central Saint Martins, she decided to use her platform to raise awareness against feminicide in Turkey. Powerful.

What is your background? How did you become a fashion designer?
Cansu Aytac: I come from a Turkish-Kurdish family but I was born and raised in London. I decided to study arts and fashion because it comes from my familial upbringing, in a way. Everyone in my family would always do bits of arts, making Persian rugs or crochet. In a sense, I found escapism through my work as a fashion designer. It helps me get away from the real word, that’s what brought me into fashion really.

What was the aim behind your collection?
During the pandemic I kept following the Turkish news. Feminicide was already an issue before the pandemic, but in this context the number of women being murdered by men was rising. I decided to do something about it, because fashion gives me a platform to say something and I wanted to use this platform to raise awareness on this topic. Especially because it is not so familiar and spoken on. This problem is global and does not only concern Turkey. Women in every country are being murdered by men every day, the numbers do not decrease, which is why I chose to base my collection on this subject. I decided to use 474 pairs of upcycled tights to create my collection – they represented the number of women who were murdered alone in 2019 in Turkey.

How do you feel about your home country?
I think being raised in London and coming from a Turkish background, I sort of grew up in an in-between situation where I have a different concept of life at home and another one outside of home. Being stuck in that parallel world is something, I suppose, I cannot let go. It will always be a part of me, as I was raised with that conception of life. The fact that I was born in the UK does not make me any less Turkish and it is something that influences my work. I have always been surrounded by rugs that my mom made when she was a teenager and all of the arts from her hometown. These objects have influenced me and my work in many ways by their colours and patterns. Because I come from a Kurdish family, there are a lot of symbols attached to them as well, which act like a reference in what I have chosen to do and how I do things. I am proud of my culture. Women in Turkey are very strong, which always motivates me. They make me want to prove myself that I’m just as strong. I do my best to support those women, who have to live with those struggles and for the ones who don’t have the freedom I have.

You are specialised in knitwear. What speciality does knitting bring to your work?
I think working with knitwear can get difficult, as I am not just using flat fabrics. Choosing this pathway has really given me the platform to develop my skills on fabric and fabrication, because as much as I love fashion, I also love textiles. Creating my own textiles is something that I always enjoy doing, along creating textures and combining them with different materials, such as resin. It is something that definitely added to me and that I really enjoy, because I sort of take it like a process. I do not need to plan exactly what I am doing. I just do it and explore what I can add to it. Working with flat fabrics restricts. I want to explore the material itself and take it to another level which is more personal to me. You can have a pattern and make a garment out of any fabrics whereas if you explore the material then it becomes more experimental from top to bottom and very unique.

How would you describe your style as a designer?
I think I have a combination of styles. I like to portray myself as strong, but I am quite soft inside. This comes across more in my designs than it does with me. Combining soft fabrics and flowers with resin really shows the person I am. My style is very experimental but shows my true character in a way. I would say I’m quite romantic but not in a naive way. I really enjoy using models to showcase my work and who are really subtle and soft, otherwise it would take away from the fragile side of my work and will take it somewhere else.

What is next for you?
I think I definitely want to gain more experience in the industry. I would love to work for companies to gain more skills or to be taught technical skills, ideally in a place like Savile Row. Later on, I consider going my own way with the skills that I gained from those experiences. Being a knitter, I didn’t study pattern cutting in detail as a menswear and womenswear student, but I would really like to combine this aspect of fashion-making with the skills that I already have. My ultimate long term dream would be to open a fashion school in Turkey. I think educating is a very fulfilling job by giving back the knowledges I had the opportunity to gain. That is very important to me.

Text by Marien Brandon
All imagery by Cansu Aytac

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