Turkish Designer Bora Aksu Talks The Creative Machine And The Language Of Fashion

Bora Aksu SS17
Bora Aksu SS17
Photo of India Doyle
24 October 2016

As part of Culture Trip‘s Behind The Seams series, we catch up with London Fashion Week star and Think Pink trendsetter, designer Bora Aksu.

How do you begin the creative process for each collection?

I never use an inspiration formula before I start designing my collections. The inspiration sources are always very personal stories and somehow linked with my childhood. I usually start with a thought, idea, concept, or a visual image. Other times, it will begin with a story line or even a word. I’ve never designed my collections as an abstract statement. It is spontaneous because it reflects what I think, who I am, and how I live. I cannot do it any other way; what I am is a fashion designer, so the way for me to express a message is to make clothes. When I am making a dress or a jacket, I am actually proposing something.

Bora Aksu SS17,

Why were you drawn to womenswear?

I don’t really think there was a time I thought that was ‘it’, and that I wanted to be a womenswear designer. It all developed very naturally. It sounds a bit of a cliché, but I had been drawing people around me since I was little, but I think it was during my teen years that my interest in fashion developed fully and my drawings started turning into fashion illustrations. I guess that’s the time that I was fascinated that these 2D drawings can actually become 3D objects. I believe that fashion is a visual language that enables you to communicate without using actual words.

How has the fashion landscape changed as you’ve established your brand, and what challenges have you faced?

Fashion had a much slower pace when I first established my brand. There were fewer designers and the internet has not yet gained its mega influence around the world. Over the years everything became much quicker. The designer’s signature has become so important as this is the only way to differentiate yourself from others, so each designer has to refine their language and emphasise their strengths. For me this is how it developed. My design language is based on folk romantic styles and my customer would like to see this story develop each season. For a creative, having to work under such restricted schedule and calendar is not easy and I still struggle to switch on and off my creativity. I think I have found the right balance: in the past year we have opened 6 stores in Asia; and the expansion will carry on through Europe, UK and finally in the USA.

Bora Aksu SS17

Your SS17 colour palette was very distinctive, how was this developed?

The SS17 collection was inspired by my late grandmother who grew up in a small town near the Aegean Sea surrounded by beautiful olive trees and nature. The long hot summer days spent on the coast of the Aegean Sea are the most prominent. Stretches of white sands, bobbing fishing boats, sun-faded houses with lush gardens and hidden village markets are the main colour inspiration sources. I do like colour resulted in unexpected combinations, but fabric choice ultimately influences my designs. The drape, texture, colour – these are all helpful in moulding my ideas. The texture through layering and feather light fabrics such as silk tulles and silk organzas contrasts with brocades, creating a reflection of light through textures. Special woven laces and hand-embroidered fabrics in lush and intense shades are offset by a combination of sandy nudes, pale pinks and contrasting blacks with striking effect, while whites, blues, egg yolk yellow and tangerine and cherry pinks and corals add drama and romance.

Bora Aksu SS17

Why did you choose to incorporate floral crowns into the show?

When my grandma was growing up she spent a lot of time in the gardens. In fact most of her memories and stories were about these magical gardens, so for me the idea of the head pieces came from my grandmothers happy memories. I wanted to create small gardens as head pieces that carries summer breeze and essence so the memory’s always alive

What are your favourite materials to work with?

I like working with materials that creates contrasts together, fluid materials such as silk, silk tulle, silk georgette. I create three-dimensional structures that define my creativity and my own path. I have numerous convictions and seek difficult answers based on body, cloth, and the space between and around them. My aim is to be a perfectionist, which requires tireless efforts on improving a design over many, many times. For me the ability to cut cloth to produce abstract and complex shapes brought to life through experimentation and imagination is what my design language is based on.

Bora Aksu SS17

My ability to drape cloth, at times directly on a person, has also resulted in accidental design ideas which is at the heart of some of my most important work. I started out manipulating fabric and draping it on dress forms to achieve a certain shape or silhouette, almost like a sculptor would. If my ‘inspiration’ passes this ‘incubation’ and ‘evaluation’ phase then I go straight into the actual work. My collections do not have a well-planned drawing or ‘skeleton’ as their foundation. Sometimes I begin by draping in countless ways and other times I ignore all this and just do what ‘feels right’ at the time.

Bora Asku SS17

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