My first visit to Istanbul starts with a cab ride from the airport straight to the opening of my friends’ new sneaker boutique. Rushing through traffic I am overwhelmed by the view and the over all mayhem of this gigantic city. We are driving by night so what stands out the most are the lights and on this particular route it seems like everything is lit up! Huge add signs covering up construction sights, the palm trees on roundabouts, the enormous bridges over the Bosporus, whether it’s the one you are crossing or the one you spot in distance a few miles down this impressive sea. But the lights that stand out the most to me that evening are those of the hundreds of cars, busses, vans and motorcycles. As a new visitor to this city it seems like all it’s 14 million inhabitants are on their way somewhere at that exact moment.
As I enter the party, the scene is familiar. This could have been the crowd at an opening of any high-end street wear store in Europe; perhaps SOTO in Berlin or Precinct Five in Amsterdam. But this is Lastik Pabuc (Turkish for “Plastic Shoe”) and the party has all the necessary elements to make it measure up to the two afore mentioned stores. The music mix of old school hip hop tracks with contemporary indie rock bands, the sponsored beer being drunk straight from the bottle, the artworks on the wall, the army jackets, the vintage t-shirts, the bright colored sneakers; they are all accounted for! I’m lucky, it’s an internationally oriented crowd and most guests speak English. I meet a photographer for the Turkish Vogue, a filmmaker, an art director, a choreographer and music producer. It’s a good first night in Istanbul!
By day I am presented with the contrasts of this city. The fact that Istanbul is spread over Europe as well as Asia and that there is an obvious divide between those who live a more contemporary life and those who are more modern makes it that I encounter both men corporately dressed in suites with oversized shoulders as well as girls that could have walked straight out of an American Apparel add. Both are a great homage to the eighties and their use of color is extraordinary. Apparently mustard yellow had never gone out of style!
I’ve now been back to Istanbul several times and what I love most about this city is that there are so many traditional cultural elements everywhere (like the mosques, the architecture, the food, the street markets) yet there is so much potential for something new; both culturally as well as business wise. My friend for instance has turned his sneaker boutique into a chain of stores and has now moved on to an new endeavor, making aesthetically yet practically designed maps for tourists with walking routes in cool areas with all the hip stores, gallery’s and restaurants. I am obviously not the first tourist to visit this city, yet somehow it feels so undiscovered. This has given me the confidence to skip some of the more obvious touristic sceneries (and save them for future travel!) and try to experience and create my own visual of this city. As a stylist I am inspired by beautiful patterns on tapestry in a small dusty furniture store, the color of a head scarf a woman is wearing as she bumps into me on a busy street or the way a girl has tied up her blouse she just bought as she walks out of a vintage store and I wonder how I could possibly one day contribute to this beautiful city the big changes that lie ahead.
Ramona Marroquin Hawley