In 2011 our family moved from the UK to Turkey - a beautiful country brimming with history.
Topkapi Palace first captivated my interest in Ottoman heritage but it was the imperial wardrobe that really astonished me. The stunning designs, the story behind them, and the weaving technology applied in the 16th and 17th centuries inspired me to create Ottoman Silks and go on to study Islamic Art at SOAS in London.
Unable to find the modern-day equivalent of those original imperial designs, I decided to create my own. Ancient Ottoman patterns have been used in fashion and interior furnishings for centuries, but the original designs deserved to be replicated authentically and most importantly in silk to capture the qualities that made the fabric so unique.
Initially, the challenge was to find a textile mill capable of jacquard weaving the highest quality fabric. I started looking in Bursa, Turkey’s original silk capital, where I found a mill weaving beautiful textiles for well-known fashion houses. Fortunately, this esteemed mill was happy to take on our unique project promoting Ottoman heritage. Better yet, whilst most mills need orders for thousands of metres to make such high-quality fabric, this mill was happy to produce our silks in 100m batches, making them even scarcer and special.
The first three patterns, Ayse, Saliha and Amina, all named after the mothers of sultans, took months to digitalise and many rounds of samples to get the colours, pattern repeats and symbols exactly right. I even met with the curator of Topkapi’s imperial wardrobe to check that all our designs were accurate and woven in the correct colours based on how they would have looked 500 years ago. It took over a year before the first three Ottoman Silks arrived and they were just as glorious as I’d hoped they would be.
First hurdle over, now what to do with all this wonderful silk?! I teamed up with a wonderful Turkish ‘Yorkshire lass’, Carol Karadag who helped me put together a collection. She was my local Ankara ferret (and still is!) for sourcing artisans in the alleyways and byways of Turkey, a task that is almost impossible unless you’re a native speaker.
Together we designed and commissioned a collection that we launched in 2014 at the British Embassy in Ankara. This was a big moment for Ottoman Silks and the response from our local expat friends was overwhelmingly supportive.
We have come a long way since then and now nearly 10 years later, Ottoman Silks Ltd is based in London and proud to have many happy private clients who have bought kaftans, waistcoats, cummerbunds, bow ties, dressing gowns, handbags and the rest!
We also work with prestigious organisations who have sold our products and supported the quality and authenticity of this project.
Going forward, the plan is to expand our designs and further our interiors collection. Perhaps we can even build a draw loom and teach a new generation of weavers the ancient skill before it’s lost forever.
We are a small company with a big heart and loads of enthusiasm for beautiful silks and Ottoman design. Talk to us – we would love to hear from you.