I am officially back from my overseas escapade.
A week in London and two in Istanbul was just enough to give me a dangerous (delightful) little dose of what it feels like to travel. I have subsequently already started saving for my next sabbatical, which will (with some hard-pressed frugality) be sooner rather than later. I realise that it is totally indulgent to call a three week getaway a ‘sabbatical’ but it feels grand and that’s how I like it!
It is most strange to be back in Cape Town, which is a calm, ordered and decidedly Western space compared to Istanbul. Unveiling the kilogram of Turkish delight that I was conned into buying, and chopping the fresh garlic I smuggled in my hand luggage into a curry have just made me yearn for all the accents, smells and the distinctive skyline that define Istanbul. To condense the fragrant, kaleidoscopic experience that was Istanbul into one post is impossible, and so I have chosen to try and divide it up into logical, light-filled snippets.
In true Pessimiss fashion, I’m starting with shopping. Spending four days in London during all the sales when I knew I had two weeks left in Istanbul was like telling me I’d won the lottery but had to wait a year to spend it! I started out so cautious, browsing on tiptoes with big eyes and a naggingly heavy purse. It was a polka dot shift from Zara that became the tipping point – my rookie fears allayed, I hit Oxford Circus with a vengeance, and emerged four hours later with a smile on my face and aching feet. Stop ins at Spitalfields, Selfridges and H&M also proved fruitful, and I surprised myself by arriving in Istanbul with LOTS left to spend.
I had been told that the shopping in Turkey was ‘good’, but I had no idea that I’d be so overwhelmed that I’d leave with about 10 Lira left in my purse (something I only realised when I finally checked my bank balance again at Atatürk airport upon departure. Surprise!) Istanbul has pretty much all the UK high street stores that you’d need – Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins, Marks & Spencer and H&M. I subsequently topped up on the Topshop bits and pieces I had forgone while in London.
Mango is also made in Turkey, which means that you can buy the current seasons’ range for literally a quarter of the price that you would pay in South Africa. We hit both of the city’s biggest Mango Outlet stores, on Isitklal Caddesi and in Kadiköy, and emerged with cut price suede jackets, cocktail dresses and bright knitwear. It’s not only the outlet pieces that are cheap – even the brand new pieces are a fraction of the price that you would usually pay in South Africa. I took serious advantage. My favourite Mango buy was a seriously elegant black shift with uber tight long sleeves, a low back and a gold clasp (pics soon).
Istanbul has a few of what I’d like to call super malls – huge, shiny palaces filled with everything from Harvey Nichols, to Starbucks, Max Mara, Gucci and more. Both Kanyon and the newly built Istinye Park are the places to go if you’re looking for designer stuff.
Abdi Ipekςi Caddesi (Road) in the trendy suburb of Nisantasi is the Rodeo Drive of Istanbul. Ferragamo, Von Furstenberg, Cartier and Mulberry share space with high street favourites and upmarket cafes. It was here that we found V2K Designers, an emporium filled with an eye-averting mix of design by edgy designers from across the globe. When I say eye-averting, it’s because the Alexander Wang, Christopher Kane, Opening Ceremony, Erdem and Halston that was draped lusciously all around the store was an instant thorn in my side.
My absolute favourites were these ghetto funk Perspex neck pieces by Turkish duo, Yazbukey. Started by sisters Yaz and Emel – who have work experience at Margiela, Lacroix and Givenchy between them – the collection has expanded from being an accessories range to include clothing and shoes. I love their playful pop culture aesthetic! A Lagerfeld brooch or one of their Surrealist hats would make my life. I was THIS close to snatching the Bowie one from the mannequin’s neck and legging it. Favoured by iconoclasts like Gwen Stefani and Bjork, it’s no surprise that it was love at first sight for me. If it was slightly more in my price range, I also would have snapped up a classic Halston pleated frock in blushing coral – the perfect companion for my new Topshop platforms.
The area around the famous Galata Tower in Galata is also filled with shopping gems – local designers like Pliée (gorgeous two-tone leather brogues and sky-bright T-bars) and also a vintage grotto second to none. We stumbled upon it down a rocky alleyway, and were completely overwhelmed by the volume of stuff inside. It seemed that they had just moved in, but if they had displayed even a quarter of what they had, it still would have been a lot. The hippie Turk that ran the joint told us it was an interesting job, and a glimpse at his selection of furs, boots and 80’s frocks confirmed the fact. I even spotted a pair of low-heeled Chanel beauties in mint condition (minute, of course).
After having spent a week in Istanbul without a glimpse of vintage, I was delighted to see just how much there was. That encounter was the catalyst, because soon afterwards we stumbled upon a street devoted entirely to antiques and vintage in Kadiköy. My heart aflutter, I nipped in and out of them, a little crazed. I left with two pairs of vintage sunglasses (one Jackie O, one John Lennon), a buttercup yellow silk scarf and a ruby red and gold braided evening bag (pics to follow in accessories post).
I also found another hidden vintage haven just off Istiklal Caddesi in Beyöglu, where I snapped up an exquisite vintage Marimekko-lookalike. FREAKOUT! I was pretty sure my card wouldn’t go through, and I still needed to catch the Havas (shuttle) to the airport, but karma smiled on me and I walked away with my final Istanbul purchase.
I know its semi torture to not include images of all of these things, but I promise to upload pictures of all the main gems later in the week… But, just so you know, Istanbul shopping is certainly something to write home about! If you ever plan a Turkish trip and need shopping advice, feel free to get in touch. I would be happy to expound on my finds in person.