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7 Questions with a Fashion Design Student: Ipek Onuk

By Maisie Abell

Special thank you to Ipek Onuk

Ipek is 21 years old and from Istanbul, Turkey. She is in her second year at Leeds Arts University studying Fashion Design. Aside from fashion she loves cooking and would happily live on a farm if she could.

What made you choose fashion design?

I was going to seminars to figure out what I wanted to do but I already knew what I wanted to do - I was trying to please people. I said I wouldn’t be happy with anything else so then I went into fashion. It was the best thing I did. I did art and design foundation - I did a short course in fashion in Cambridge because my parents didn’t know if I was sure that I wanted to do fashion, but really they weren’t sure. I was so happy and everyday I was calling my mum and saying I want to do this for the rest of my life. So, it was a passion I’ve had since I’ve known myself properly.

What or who are your main design inspirations?

I have a more minimalistic design style. I can go overboard if I wanted to but to my eye it feels more soothing and I think if you overdo stuff, it takes away from the other stuff. So, my main inspiration is generally earth and nature because everything is balanced in nature and it inspires me instantly. Even if I take a walk in the park it inspires me a lot. Also, I find inspiration from old-fashioned architecture because I think it’s so mesmerising how people achieved that architecture in those days. My step-dad is an architect and he inspires me a lot - he and my mum got married when I was five so I grew up with architecture and he has a simplistic approach as well.

What’s your take on the fashion industry right now?

It’s so hard to change some people’s mindsets, but I want the fashion industry to become genderless, because I see people suffering, even if they don’t want to change their gender. I suffer from this. For example, when I go to the womenswear everything is sparkly or pearly

or if I want to buy trainers it’s pink or a mixture of colours…

Why do we not have the same things for everyone because we are all people and I think changing fashion is going to change people’s mindsets about equality from a man’s

perspective and a woman’s perspective. I think both genders have flaws in this area. That’s one of the things I really want to do, but I don’t know how to achieve it right now.

Also, sustainability has become a huge thing since I moved to England and I’m seeing designers doing that but I think we can improve it and I think we have to improve it. So, I want to do more sustainable designs. I think our generation is getting better with this and we’re more open minded about sustainability - you shouldn’t buy something and wear it once

and throw it away, you have to repurpose it or even give it to someone that needs it. I’ve been brought up that way, I never throw clothes away even though I’ve wanted to. This has to change within the fashion industry and my approach is going to be this way.

Who are your current favourite fashion designers?

When I first decided that I wanted to do fashion I always thought that Burberry was one of my inspirations but then I realised there were so many brands. I really liked Christian Dior - you know when you have some stereotypes of brands and then you say “oh I don’t like that” but if you get into it they have so many designs. When you realise their aesthetic and their mindset you just feel mesmerised. When I had the chance to see the Dior museum, it was amazing.

How? How did he manage to do this? Also, Dion Lee, oh my god - I love those designs. And Iris van Herpen, I don’t know how she does it. It’s not within the design route that I want to take but she really inspires me. Even though I wouldn’t be able to do that kind of avant-guard design, I still look at her designs and draw stuff because I think they’re full of inspiration. Hussein Chalayan because he’s Turkish. I know he was born and brought up here, but if he can do it I can do it. It breaks my heart that not a lot of Turkish people are in fashion. Even though in Turkey we have so many fabric factories and we sell the fabrics to the bigger brands but because of the education level and the way people approach fashion, as though it’s the easier route to take, Turkish people are not where they’re suppose to be in that aspect. So, Hussein Chalayan is one of my inspirations for life generally.

Expectations vs. reality for a fashion design student

Many think fashion people always party, play dress-up everyday, that it’s all about shopping and that it’s an easy route to take. In reality though, even I didn’t expect this much work. It’s so much work - constantly designing, sewing, questioning your work and going to uni in pyjamas is my thing, especially close to deadlines. And if you’re only sewing all day you just don’t think about your outfit at all. I wore this blazer just for you, but usually I just can’t do it. Because this route is such a creative route, you never stop working. Even though you go home to rest, you can’t turn it off, even before you go to sleep, even when you’re dreaming you still design stuff. There’s no switch for that.

How would you describe your personal design style in three words?

Minimalist, edgy and united or global, because I didn’t want to say genderless - my designs are for everyone. In my jacket project I realised my aesthetic and values, that I wanted to do an ethical brand if I had a brand or work for an ethical brand. I then realised that I wanted to do something really global and for everyone. For the jacket project I did a big jacket but it has wraps around it so if it’s a really tiny girl she can wear it as an oversized blazer, but it can also fit a 44 sized man as well. I want to continue doing that as it makes me happy.

What do you want to do it the future?

I don’t know about my visa - it’s sad because the year group after us is allowed to stay in England for two more years after they graduate, but for me I have to leave the country within four months so I have to find a job in this small amount of time. But, if I have the chance I want to get experience in the industry especially so I can learn how to put these ethics into practice, and I don’t know anything about money issues. I did a small internship this past summer and in two weeks I learned so many things, it blew my mind. So, I definitely want to learn stuff. I want to present my country in a good way even though I judge it a lot. I want to use Turkish fabric and quality fabric in my brand, but sell it worldwide because it’s going to be a global brand - that’s my aim.

Click the following link to watch Ipek’s vlog from the day of the photoshoot for this article: