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Istanbul Reschedules First Fashion Week

Istanbul’s first fashion week, due to be held in mid-May, will be held in October to try to gain a spot closer to major international show weeks.

ISTANBUL — Istanbul’s inaugural fashion week, due to be held in mid-May, has been postponed until October in a bid by the main Turkish city to gain a place in the biannual international catwalk circuit and lure foreign buyers.

“We want to get on the international timetable after Milan and Paris so we need to show our collections around the time they do — Turkish designers have great potential and if we think big, get organized and act with courage, I believe we can do this,” events organizer and model agent Nelih Akay, who originally conceived the idea, told WWD. “The shows will now take place on Oct. 13-17.”

Istanbul Fashion Week now will overlap slightly with the Paris shows, which run from Oct. 7-15.

The recent emergence of a core of young Turkish designers, helped by a textile industry keen to develop branding and design in order to shrug off its image of cheap, derivative production, led to the idea of holding fashion shows here.

Several of the designers expected to take part — including Arzu Kaprol, who just launched in London and New York; Paris-based Evrim Timur, and the avant-garde designer, Umit Unal — have shown at CPD in Düsseldorf for the past few years and are eager for a chance to present their collections on home ground.

Turkish designers already established abroad also have been asked to take part, including Turkish-Cypriot-born Hussein Chalayan and Dice Kayek, who show in Paris; Atil Kutoglu, who shows in New York, and London-based Rifat Ozbek. The first three receive support from ITKIB, the Turkish textiles body, and they, in turn, have been giving their advice and support to the new generation of Turkish designers.

However, a mix of external events and increased ambition made for unsettled beginnings for the inaugural Istanbul Fashion Week. Initially, it was to have been a fairly small affair, featuring a handful of shows in March as a tester for a bigger event in the future. But the Iraqi war forced the first postponement to May. Even though Istanbul is several thousand miles from Baghdad, the war in the neighboring country would have scared off important foreign visitors.

Then ITKIB came on board, allowing the organizers to broaden their horizons.

“With ITKIB’s backing, we realized that we could put on a really meaningful event and use this as an opportunity to promote Turkish design and textiles to foreign buyers and editors,” said Akay, whose agency, Nat, is jointly organizing the event with another Turkish company, Ikon. “In this case, an autumn-winter show in May would have been too late, so we rescheduled in order to put on spring-summer 2004 shows just after the other big fashion cities.”

Akay said U.S. and other foreign buyers will be invited to the shows, although she conceded that it will not be easy for Istanbul to immediately establish itself at the end of an already exhausting run of shows.

“At the beginning, I believe a few particularly interested people will turn up, but in time I have confidence it will grow,” she said.