‘We are a nation that crushes its own culture’

‘We are a nation that crushes its own culture’

Switzerland has watches; Belgium chocolates; Germany has its non-breakable machines; Italy has its cuisine, fashion and furniture…

Well, do we have, as a country, sectors that lead in the world, brand marks that are known worldwide?
No, we do not.

We have to outgrow being an “intermediate country” and must prioritize design to become a brand.
If we cannot blend innovation with creativity, then we cannot move beyond machinery.

Since 2000, the designer, in the world, has become the individual who produces good products, who turns innovation into a product culture. One of the best examples of this is what Jonathan Ive did in the Apple group. Apple not only produces goods; it is marketing a culture.

Even only from this we can see how the designer in the world has become such a strategic individual. Now, the designer is the person who creates the brand and brands are the inventors of cultures that make countries a soft power.

Let us accept that we cannot produce products. Well, then, why can’t we produce our culture?

China has made the wok a worldwide product. Wok is very much like our folkloric steel pan. Everybody in our country now who is above a certain segment does not buy the traditional steel pan anymore, instead they buy the wok.

Designer Hakan Gürsu said, “Our culture has not been able to become a brand. We are a nation that rapidly adopts the Western culture, while crushing its own culture. Our architecture is like that. We have a lot of architects; but there are no distinguished buildings, there is no style, no identity…”

The Research and Development of Turks has been more of a “Go, copy, bring it home” type… “We go to fairs, collect samples and bring them home. In the TÜBİTAK [Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey] versions, the name of this is nationalization, technology transfer. The world has passed this; somehow we have not been able to pass it for 25 years.”

There are exceptions, but Gürsu’s words are not totally wrong. What we kindly call “imitation” is producing the same identical thing, which we are masters of.

Actually, don’t we even boast that we make better imitations than the original brands products themselves? Was it for nothing that this slogan was derived? “Lacoste fades; Turkish Lacoste does not.”

We are the fourth biggest imitation market in the world.

Here, what we call a designer is someone who digitally transfers the samples brought from international fairs and compiles products in accordance with the wishes of the bosses?

This starts from what our industrialist understands as design. If you ask them, they do hire many designers. But, how? Is there a suitable infrastructure to evaluate quality design?

Recently, Ümit Benan told İzet Çapa: While his design was not even in the first 300 in the İTKİB [Istanbul Textile and Apparel Exporters’ Union] contest, the same year it won the Pitti competition in Italy… Same mentality…

In democratic societies where humans have a value, similarly ideas, creative thinking and art products, which are derivatives of humans, are also valuable. For your design to gain value, your people should be valuable. As a matter of fact, design is a human value.

Is it the Turkish designers or Turkish industrialists who boast about being such a big firm that they have the capacity to hire Italian designers?

“There is a ‘Design Turkey’ competition in this country… There is no other competition anywhere in the world where the contest is named after the country but where half of the judges are foreign,” said Gürsu.

We have not been able to outgrow this colonial mentality.

And he cited a very important example:

“For years, we have built and operated French holiday villages; we have indexed tourism to ‘holiday village concept.’ Instead of making ‘holiday villages’ we could not develop this into a ‘holiday in a village.’ We could not do something where the Westerner would milk a cow, pick up a tomato and collect eggs. We have knocked down, destroyed every place. We are building holiday villages for the unemployed tourists of the world…”