Born "on the same day, in the same hospital, with the same doctor," cousins Sena Çevik and Seray Cengiz named their new organic clothing line -- one of Turkey's first -- Boa Studio after their shared star sign, Taurus, or boğa in Turkish. Though their soft, playful designs are hardly bullish, they create plenty of optimism about a fashion future that's greener and cooler.
Getting a new business going is never easy, of course, especially when you're trying to set both style and sustainability trends. Though Turkey is the world's number-one producer of organic cotton, most of it is exported abroad, leaving a lack of supply in the past for the domestic market. And with big brands like H&M; and Mavi (one of the few Turkish clothing companies using organic cotton) snapping up mass amounts, it's harder still to find a producer willing to sell in the small quantities a start-up like Boa needs. Fortunately, the cousins had a family connection.
Organic Cotton T-Shirts
Sena, who designs the clothes, comes from a line of tailors. But it was Seray's father's textile business that provided the "in" -- and part of the inspiration -- the pair needed. His company was making organic cotton T-shirts for export to Switzerland, and when the two young women started talking about putting Sena's illustrations on some shirts, he was the one who suggested they make them organic. The family business now produces Boa's 100 percent organic T-shirts, dresses, light jackets, and other items, all hand-printed with organic dye from Turkey using in-house printers.
The whimsical imagery is key to Boa's style, which Sena and Seray describe as "simple designs, enriched with illustrations," though their line -- which includes jumpsuits and capes -- is deliberately not the "basic and boring" organic clothes they complain about seeing online. When we met last week, Seray was wearing one of their squared-off tees with soft, unfinished edges and snaps up the side -- "we're even getting rid of the stitches," she laughed.
Finding A Market In Turkey
Though their clothes would fit in perfectly in the boutiques in San Francisco's Mission District and other hipster neighborhoods in the United States, local designers like Boa, founded in 2007, are still finding their market in Turkey. The Beyoğlu shop Lazy, which started carrying the pair's designs last summer, is a trendsetter in terms of showcasing locally made clothes, shoes, and bags. And while it can be a hard sell getting people used to grabbing 5-lira T-shirts off street-side stands (myself included) to pay more for innovative and eco-friendly clothing, Boa also faces the opposite problem at one of its new locations.
Getting their clothes into the chic Turkish department store Beymen was a coup -- a "turning point," Sena and Seray call it -- but next to all of the high-end items on display, their reasonably priced fashions look almost too cheap. There's no chance of Boa turning couture, though. "We want design to be within people's reach," something that is a part of their daily lives, Seray says.
New Designs For The Fall
As they work on their new line for fall, and try to expand their brand -- lauded by the trend-watchers at Pukka Living and Inhabitat, and set to appear alongside Mavi on a "eco-chic" page in the September issue of InStyle Turkey -- both domestically and internationally, the Boa founders neglect neither big dreams nor small details.
One minute they're brainstorming eco-friendly packaging alternatives, the next minute Seray has stars in her eyes as she talks about how cool it would be to open a entire store for eco-friendly fashion, like Wertvoll, the Berlin shop that recently picked up their line. Sena has even more ambitious ideas to someday found a sort of eco-village/university where students work the land while learning about the environment. And, undoubtedly, while wearing comfortable, but stylish clothes.
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