A fashion brand from southeast Anatolia: Argande

A fashion brand from southeast Anatolia: Argande

The Southeastern Anatolia Project, known as GAP, which started toward the end of the 1970s as “Turkey’s biggest development” project, is a never-ending story for most of us.

With the dams to be built over the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, the hydroelectric power plants (HES) and irrigation channels, the region will finally meet water, but more importantly, GAP was an important socio-economic development project “focused on people.”   

Especially toward the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s, it was a huge attraction. Starting from the media, everybody was rushing to the region to see what was happening. GAP tours, including the Atatürk Dam, were quite “in.” 

We believed that the region would change rapidly. I also imagined that tourism and employment would boost, the feudal structure would change and most importantly women would be liberated.

If we look at GAP today, starting from the physical conditions, while 1.7 million hectares were planned to be irrigated, this figure stands at 420,000 hectares today.

If you listen to GAP President Sadrettin Karahocagil, the entire infrastructure of irrigation will be finished by 2018. Well, indeed, to the cost of losing historic Hasankeyf to the waters. One of the most negative aspects of GAP is that while promising welfare, cultural and historic heritage will be swallowed as if by a monster in certain places. Like the beautiful Halfeti which is under water today.

At the end of the day, the slow moving GAP has an important success story in its human development dimension.

The Multi-Purpose Community Centers (ÇATOMs) were formed with UNICEF in 1995 to get women out of the house. The number of ÇATOMs in the GAP region has reached 40 and they have reached out to approximately 250,000 women.

This story takes its name from the only goddess of the Commogene Kingdom that reigned in Mesopotamia, Argande.

Argande is the product of a joint project of GAP, the UNDP, financed by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) enabling women in ÇATOM to join the workforce.

It is an urban female clothing line you can buy at Mudo stores in Istanbul. It is possibly GAP’s most important brand. It is the UNDP’s only development project through fashion.

Outstanding designers of Turkey design the models for free; famous models wear them at fashion shows for free. At ÇATOM workshops, women produce them, working with incredible cooperation and sacrifice.

The designs reflect the cultural richness of the region and local arts. Local fabrics are used in Argande collections. Mount Nemrut or Göbeklitepe are inspirations for the collections.

The biggest achievement of the brand is that it has multiplied its turnover, though small, by five in one year.

Argande can easily go international at a time when women consumers opt for women producers. It can easily set an example for women’s projects in the world.

Watch out for Argande’s achievements.