London, being the eclectic city it is, is home to people and cultures from all over the world. It was no surprise, therefore, to see London Fashion Week regular Bora Aksu bring his home country, Turkey, to the UK capital for his latest show. We headed backstage to meet Bora post-show, where the designer ran us though some his inspirations, design notes and the importance of looking back at our roots with a fresh pair of eyes.
Bora Aksu On Showing His SS24 Collection At LFW
Hi Bora, it’s post-show – congratulations! How are you feeling?
Thank you! Emotions are running high at the moment.
Could you please run us through some of the inspirations behind your SS24 collection?
This season I wanted to go back to my roots, my family, the time that I grew up and how my whole designer identity was crafted over time. Crafts were particularly important for me here – they were something I was so used to seeing growing up, so they were really normal for me. My mom was making all of these blanket squares, creating her own knitted dresses, and my auntie was helping her make dresses. This was all around me while I was growing up and I took that as a normal thing.
But when you do grow up, you kind of grow apart from these things and it makes you appreciate them more. I wanted to go back to that time and bring it with me into the present, bringing my identity back to life again.
You mix these elements of nostalgia with newer themes from recent collections, like the monochromatic colour palette and gothic details of last season.
Yes, that’s right. When I was thinking about the collection, I had to keep asking myself questions like: are you bringing your memories and culture into it? Does it still work for today’s woman? I didn’t want it to just be an illusion of the past, it had to have some parts of illusion and some parts of reality. Some parts past, some parts present. It was about finding that key to balance them all.
The themes of nostalgia, growth and retrospective come together for you with this collection – were there any specific memories that came up a lot during the creative process?
I think my mom was my main muse. I thought about her a lot while I was putting the collection together. She’s retired now, but she used to be a doctor and at that time she found it hard to find clothing that she could wear. She knew how she wanted to dress, but couldn’t find the things to make up those outfits. It was a different time, like the 60s and 70s, so she started making her own stuff and she learned how to knit. It was such an inspiration for me that she didn’t want to fit into a box, but she wanted to create her own means of self-expression. She was like the central muse in all of this, and then it extended to my grandma, my auntie and all the women that were there while I was growing up.
You also took a trip to Istanbul as part of your research. How did this inform your collection?
When you grow up in a culture and see it every day, you stop appreciating things. I think you take things for granted. I’ve been living here [London] for so long that it felt like it was time to go back and see things with a fresh pair of eyes. I did a lot of touristy things, like visiting the Topkapi Palace – places I knew, but wanted to go back to to get a completely different perspective. I wanted to bring that angle to it because you don’t have it in you anymore, so you see things with a new viewpoint. I didn’t want the collection to be based just on memories, I wanted to see things with my new, fresh eyes as well.
Like last season, you continue to use vintage and limited quality fabrics to build your collection. Is this is a practice that is getting bigger and bigger for you?
It is bigger now, especially with our crochet pieces. My mom sent me a box of all of these blanket squares, which I incorporated into the collection. For me, it’s not about producing more and more each season. We’ve already produced enough fabric and materials to last us years and years, so why don’t we go back and visit them and bring them back to life? I think that’s the whole idea. And you’re right, it’s getting bigger and going into different elements of my practice, like the crochet – but God knows what’s coming next!
I also love the idea that you are bringing all these pieces together to form one whole.
That was the whole idea, really. I think I have a passion for things that are rejected. I see them and think, ‘oh no, I want them.’ I want to discover them. When I started using fabrics that have been rejected, things like rejected stock from decades ago, suppliers didn’t want to show them to me. They wanted to show the newer things. And I said no, I wanted the older pieces, no matter how faded or discoloured or how good they were. That passion started a few years ago and it’s growing our business, because then you realise the beauty is not just in the new. You can make anything good.
Embroidery also plays a huge role for you this season. Why bring this technique to the forefront?
It’s the whole handcrafted element – I wanted to bring it back. Embroidery is part of it. In Turkey, there is a craft culture, but it’s disappearing. Unfortunately, no one has time anymore and machines can do a lot of the work people once did. It would be nice to bring back that time when you could spend maybe an hour or two creating something and be happy with it. It’s nice to leave something good for the next generation. It’s not about the quantity anymore, it’s more about creating something unique and individual. I’m still up for it.
How do you live a life in balance?
I think, first of all, you need to love your life, or have the ability to love what you do – although I know it’s a struggle. I see this sometimes in my friends, where they try to do something career-wise and separate the things that they love from it. But it’s important to bring all those parts together and try to love everything you do, even the things that aren’t that fun. Loving and having that passion for everything you do is how you can create that balance. Life is too short, and there are so many obstacles already, so it’s good to bring that boost of positivity.
Featured image: Bora Aksu SS24 (c) Stefan Knauer and Jason Lloyd-Evans