ISTANBUL — Former New York fashion student Deniz Yegin won the first prize in this year’s Istanbul Textile and Apparel Exporters’ Association (ITKIB) Young Designers Award in Turkey.

This story first appeared in the June 22, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Yegin’s six-piece winning collection was dedicated to the modern Turkish woman and was called “Snowdrops.” Yegin kept the designs simple, teaming in one instance a cream high-waisted pencil skirt with a flowing chiffon blouse in the palest of pinks, while adding interest through details such as the blouse buttons, which continued up the neckline and along the scooped back.

A pale pistachio chiffon dress with a flowing, pleated skirt revealed a cutout detail in the back from under a short cape fixed with an enormous button. A pair of slim-line brown trousers were teamed with a cozy white knit, while a floaty pink pleated sleeveless top and white multilayered skirt combo were toughened up with a heavy white coat. Other ensembles also were topped with ivory coats or jackets, with one belted variation bringing to mind a play on Sixties Givenchy as worn by Audrey Hepburn.

In fact, the liberal use of pleated chiffon, chunky wool, mischievous wool-ball and crocheted accessories and extra-large buttons to soften an essentially lean silhouette made Yegin’s whole collection feel like the wardrobe of a ladylike ingenue. Rather appropriate, considering the inspiration for the designs: Ayse Kulin’s book, “Snowdrops,” about the achievements of young girls plucked from impoverished eastern Turkey and given scholarships in an attempt to integrate them into the modern fabric of the country.

Yegin paid homage to the girls in a prose poem attached to her entry: “They are fragile yet strong, ready to make that dream come true.”

“That dream” — the competition’s theme was “Dreams” — was of a future where the voices of free and educated women could be heard throughout the country, of independent, cosmopolitan women who sought to better themselves.

“I felt that I was woken up by reading that book — I wanted to do something related to that idea,” said Yegin, who only recently has returned to Turkey after studying at the Pratt Institute of Art & Design in New York and working as an intern at Dolce & Gabbana there. “Everything, including the colors and my choice of fabrics — heavy coats and felt to show their strength, silk chiffon to show how delicate they were underneath — was inspired by those young women.”

If this year’s ITKIB finalists were anything to go by, Turkish women are in the ascendant in the country’s fashion world, with only one male among the final 10 and all three prize winners being women.

Compared with Yegin’s pastel looks, second-place Yasemin Aytar went for a darker interpretation, making black the dominant color in her collection of miniskirts, high necks, asymmetric lines and big, heavy drapes. Hande Evrenos, who came in third, went for a much more fanciful take on the theme, creating a colorful, eclectic look, complete with gladiator helmets, fur and ruffles, to illustrate her early fantasy of becoming the hero of one of the cartoons she watched as a child.

Many competitors’ designs were clearly made with wearability in mind, in contrast with the quirkier, conceptual output of recent years, when Turkish fashion students in the Istanbul-based competition more strongly reflected their debt to their idol, the Turkish Cypriot Hussein Chalayan.

Former competitor Arzu Kaprol, now one of Turkey’s leading designers, said she had noticed a marked improvement in this year’s hopefuls. “The attention to detail and subtlety of the choices made by the finalists is very noticeable,” she said. “This competition is becoming increasingly important in terms of international relevance.”

Indeed, the ITKIB contest is one of the flagships of Turkey’s attempts to scale the heights of design, leaving behind the low-budget market it can no longer dominate in the face of cheaper suppliers such as China. ITKIB chairman Suleyman Orakcioglu weighed in by offering the competitors and audience his own dream: “The benefits of global brands to their countries cannot just be measured with balance sheets,” he said in his speech, which alluded to Turkey’s 30-year progress up the fashion ladder. “But now, our horizons have widened. My hope is that the determination of my colleagues will combine with the talents of our designers to take our industry to a much better position than today and, one day in the near future, make us world leaders.”

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