A pioneer of ‘designed in Turkey’

A pioneer of ‘designed in Turkey’

Bülent Eczacıbaşı, the head of the Istanbul Culture and Arts Foundation (İKSV), said a very interesting thing when we were talking about the city’s Design Biennale, to be held Oct. 13 through Dec. 12.
“Many things will have changed when the day comes that we say ‘designed in Turkey’ rather than ‘made in Turkey,’” Eczacıbaşı said. Today, the contribution of design greater than that of production, so he was 100 percent correct. According to Özlem Yalım Özkaraoğlu, the curator of the Design Biennale, even the Chinese are making major efforts to replace “made in China” with “designed in China.”

A few days after my conversation with Eczacıbaşı, I received an e-mail from Gaye Çevikel, whose works I have been following closely for years. “The Financial Times, in its weekend edition, mentions our brand Gaia&Gino in an article titled ‘Intelligent Design.’” When I checked the website link Çevikel sent, I was happy to see a photograph of the Cali vase created by famous designer Karim Rashid for the brand Gaia&Gino. I should also mention that the very same vase has been used in the decoration of the Huber Villa, where Turkish President Abdullah Gül stays when he is in Istanbul.

Çevikel, who has been working with world-famous designers since she created the brand in 2004, has every right to be proud, because the New York Times had mentioned a week earlier that the “Star Collection,” also by Gaia&Gino, had been ordered by popular British architect David Adjaye. At the suggestion of Çevikel, who has for years been trying to create a “global design language” using local materials and craftsmen, Adjaye used the copper plates.

Adjaye, who designed the Peace Center in Oslo, the Contemporary Arts Museum in Detroit and the African-American National History Museum, an upcoming addition to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., has benefited from the local craft styles used in the “Star Collection.” Products by Gaia&Gino, for which Çevikel has worked with design gurus such as Rashid, Andree Putman, Arik Levy, Jaime Hayon and Defne Koz, have also been purchased for the collections of 13 different museums. After reading the articles in the Financial Times and the New York Times, I asked Çevikel about selling products that fall into the “luxury design” category. Çevikel said that while she eyed the U.S. and European markets more in the beginning, she is now much more active in Middle Eastern and Persian Gulf countries due to the global economic crisis.

“The balance has shifted; 70 percent of our orders come from Middle Eastern and Gulf countries, while 15 percent come from the U.S. and Europe, and another 15 percent come from the Far East,” Çevikel said.

I consider Çevikel a pioneer of “designed in Turkey,” because she uses local materials and craftsmanship and motifs that reflect local culture motifs, although she works mostly with foreign designers and architects, but I want to be fair: Hiref, whose designs have been selling in Gulf countries, is also a similar case.