By  on October 5, 2006

ISTANBUL ­— Zac Posen and luxury goods house Vakko had Istanbul in a whirl with the launch of an exclusive collection by the New York designer.

During a series of parties and events in the last weekend of September, the 28-piece Zac Posen at Vakko collection bowed to enthusiastic Turkish customers. Six $2,000 bags were sold during the first weekend and Turkish film star Hande Ataizi snapped up two dresses — one day, one evening, with a skirt made of 18 feet of silk — before any of her rivals could get a look.

The limited-edition line was created by injecting a new color palate and adding fabrics and looks to items from Posen's cruise 2006 and spring 2006 collections. Dominated by camel, pale blue, chocolate and a rich claret color, as well as black and white, the collection's sculptured day dresses, including the "cascade" dress with its pleated neckline; "umbrella" blouse, with its voluminous folding sleeves, and high-waisted trousers proved popular at Vakko's new flagship at the Kanyon shopping mall, one of just two of the brand's stores to carry the Posen line.

The designer also created a dress, modeled at the launch party by fashion consultant and former Tuleh creative director Amanda Brooks, which had a caftan-like, flowing silhouette with a blue and maroon print.

Sitting in his suite at the new Les Ottomans Hotel, Posen described how he adapted his collection for Vakko: "The color stories are unique, some of the textiles — the silks and the jacquard — are unique to this collection. The development of prints into solids…that was something we did."

He said after just two visits to the city, he has been won over by the prevailing aesthetic, which balances the geometry of Islamic work mixed with figurative design, such as the tulip. "The geometry fits with my collection — the sculpture of it," he added.

Posen — who occasionally broke off to ask his mother, Susan, his company's chief executive officer, about strategic details — emphasized that a large percentage of his business is outside the United States as part of his overall aim of developing a global brand. He said he had been inspired by Vakko, a fully vertically integrated lifestyle company, because it is the type of firm he wants to build for himself.As to why he collaborated with a Turkish partner, Posen pointed to the country's increasing consumer activity. "Turkey is a huge growing market. It is at the crossroads of Eastern and Western culture, there is a huge history of commerce," he said. "There are more and more international customers coming here as well as the established Turkish customers."

The location of Vakko's store in Kanyon illustrates the point. Soon, the brand will be joined there by Harvey Nichols in its first foray into Turkey. The mall, which was designed to resemble a canyon and includes stores for Max Mara and Swarovski, has been buzzing with shoppers since it opened during the summer. Many other international names are opening elsewhere in the city; for example, Burberry opened its first store in Istanbul last year.

Vakko hosted 150 international guests for the Zac Posen launch weekend, including the singer Bryan Ferry, Padma Lakshmi, Bridget Hall and a large contingent of American Posen-ites only too happy to take advantage of an all-expenses-paid trip to Istanbul. But the introduction also was a chance to show how European and modern Turkey, or at least Istanbul, really can be — a cause dear to the hearts of many leading Turkish figures frustrated by what they see as an Orientalist view of their country by the West.

Organizing a welcome dinner at the Ulus 29 club, taking in a brunch trip along the Bosphorus on the yacht Savarona — which once belonged to Turkey's revered founder, Ataturk — and the final launch party at Les Ottomans, Vakko ceo Cem Hakko treated the guests to some of the best venues of the city.

The prestige of having Posen design for Vakko is undeniable. With turnover expected to hit $120 million this year and $150 million in 2007, the mood is good. The plan is to develop the brand, starting with its locally famous scarves, ties and shirts. Vakko plans to roll out stores and corners in other European cities, and a high-profile collaboration with someone of Posen's caliber was the perfect symbol of its ambitions, Hakko said.

"We want to raise our international profile," said Hakko, whose father, Vitali, founded the company in 1934.

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