Designers to Follow / Fashion

The Turkish designer mixing playful elegance and ephemeral art

Fashion's rising star, Tuğcan Dökmen, shares her thoughts on "new-age trash", mythical creatures and the art of layering.

“My womenswear collections have an ephemeral feeling,” Tuğcan Dökmen tells us “With an elegant, romantic and contemporary approach to the construction of the fabric, the shapes and the colour usage. You can say that I am designing for a modern woman with dreamy fantasies and aspirations. One of the main elements of my brand is a technique I have been developing since my BA Fashion at CSM, the Art Of Layering, the layering of transparent fabrics, organza and tulles creating patterns and shapes that can cheat the eye creating illusions of prints. Recently I have been developing it into a different level to make it fresher and elevate the aesthetic, and introducing the manipulation of pleated tulle and new cuts.” We caught up with the 29-year-old designer and RCA alumna to know to learn more about her process and future plans.

Hey Tuğcan! Talk me through the inspiration for your SS19 collection? What was on your mood board this season?

I admire the paintings from the mythological stories (mainly Greek and slowly moving to Turkish mythology). I find the Pre-Raphaelite era very inspiring, it is very dreamy with a subtle sadness and a very elegant grace. The combination of the colour palette and melancholy moves me and reflects what I am trying to capture in my work, that ephemeral feeling, with an enchanted brightness with the usage of colours that results in a lesser melancholy.

When I was bringing my SS19 collection together, I was looking at the paintings of nymphs and other mythical creatures, the naiads, the oceanids, the oreads, the meliads, the nereids and the list goes on.. I loved the aura of most of those paintings, the softness and elegance and I wanted to translate this for my own version of Pop Nymphs or Urban Deities.

Can you tease what we can expect from your AW19 collection…

For AW19 I will touch upon my own name, Tuğcan Dökmen, as it is difficult to pronounce for some people. My name has two letters and one of them exists in the Turkish Alphabet only. The letters “ğ” and “ö” are not easy to find on international keyboards and most of the time they are naturally ignored on internet/social platforms. Instead of avoiding these letters I would like to highlight and show my respect. I will also add other letters from the German, Danish, French and Spanish orthography. Consider it as a tribute to the letters that are left behind…

How does your mixed cultural heritage feed into your designs?

I was born and raised in Ankara, Turkey and came to London when I was 17 to study fashion design. I was raised by two psychology professors, so I tend to over analyse things, especially my work. I grew up with my parents’ large library, where you can find many books from History of Textile to Ottoman Dress Culture. They have so many niche books on certain Ottoman embroidery techniques, traditional Turkish wedding dresses or international carpet symbols and their meanings etc. Because I had these books with me since an early age, I think I do not want to look at them again when I design to avoid getting very direct and obvious inspiration from my culture. These images and information are still at the back of my mind but I am trying to use them in a not so expected way. For example, my MA graduate collection was about Turkish men’s love for striped polo-shirt. I enjoy the look of hairy macho Turkish men from all different backgrounds in colourful stripes every summer. Pink, orange, yellow, purple, red, blue… So I played around with it and striped the lines and layers until I ended up with the idea of creating my own lines through layering different colours of tulle on top of each other, up-to 20 layers sometimes. Now, when you look at my very feminine and delicate evening gowns and sheer cocktail dresses, you cannot guess where the inspiration actually came from. The combination of my upbringing and my life in London are feeding my designs.

When was the moment your first wanted to become fashion designer?

Like many other fellow designers out there, I realised it from a very young age. It started as an interest in drawing when I was around 4, and gradually it turned into obsessively drawing different types and styles of women. If I try to analyse it, I think I was trying to figure out and design which kind of woman I was going to be when I grew up. And this is a feeling that I still can not shake off. I am an adult woman now, but somehow I still have that feeling when I design. I am still designing for a future self, the future is here, but I still feel distant. Deep… As I said, my parents are both psychologists… Anyways, I am starting to break that feeling and wear my own designs more and more now.

What are some of your earliest fashion memories?

My mother was not interested in fashion, I did not grow up in a fashion conscious environment. It was a very academic life style in Ankara, that is why I enjoyed watching the vivid tomboy style of Clarissa Explains It All! I loved her colourful grunge style. Also, Spice Girls of course! Five girls in different styles and with different characters. They were my drawings come to life.

Your forever fashion muse?

It really changes all the time but I could say that more than personified muses, I have pieces of art that inspire me. At the moment, I am moved by the women in Pre-Raphaelite paintings. Like The Danaides by John William Waterhouse, or in a more contemporary context, I like the elegance of Rooney Mara; I really love the combination of a fragile feminine style with tidy, slick hair.

How would you describe your aesthetic in 3 words?

Ephemeral, Elegant, Dynamic.

Personally what’s your relationship like with social media, how is it good/bad for fashion designers?

I graduated from my MA studies only three years ago, and believe it or not Instagram was not such a big part of the system, especially when I was at CSM and later at RCA or at least we didn’t care about it that much. It took me some time to get used to it and to know how to use it properly for the benefit of my own brand. I know now that it can bring a lot to your business, and it’s the number one promotional platform that you can have, but it is a big job in itself, thinking about your next post is very time-consuming, you need to ensure that you give out the right message and engage with your audience with quality content so it could also extend your network and expose your work. But it’s also inspiring and helpful, so now I am starting to enjoy it.

Your top 5 Instagram must-follows?

Right now, I would say @historycoolkids is my number one go to account. It shows random stories from the past and it’s just fascinating. @sok_o_pop, it’s a friends account on 90s – 00s Turkish tabloid press, a guilty pleasure. But then for inspiration I like to look at @junocaplypso and the interiors of @charlottetaylr as well as the work of @nadialeelee.

What are the biggest challenges young designers face today? What is your top advice on starting out and growing your label?

Making the right decisions and finding the best strategy that suits your brand and your design are the biggest challenges as this is where your success is build upon. As much as annoying it may sound, it does take time, you have to be patient. To have the abilities and the artistry is great, but also being able to have a business mind, and that is a skill that can be difficult to learn and acquire, especially if you are not so much into.

Who would your dream person be to dress and why?

Recently I had the opportunity to dress Roisin Murphy, whose image and work has always been very present in my younger years. But thinking it as a professional achievement, I would love to dress an international music star who also happens to be a practising human rights attorney. Perhaps a combination of Rosalía and Amal Clooney.

What’s up next for you? Plans for the future?

I am working on two collections and an installation at the moment. My future plan is to to keep doing what I love, being a womenswear designer and to spicy things up a little bit, I am planning to also be a practising attorney which it has been in my head for a while now. Let’s see if… reading about “fashion law” is interesting.

The future of fashion?

I have been enjoying the “Newage Trash” that has been happening at the moment.. For the future of fashion, well I don’t think I could do that in only one word! And frankly, it’s quite unpredictable, but seeing how the scene looks currently, I would say not one but a few words, “strong eclecticism” and “inclusivity”.


12 February 2019