Here’s a small sample of photos from a lifestyle shoot I did here in Istanbul with some stunning all-natural textiles hand-loomed right here in Turkey for Atolyia. The shots, which are being used for mail-outs and for the media will also soon adorn their new website too. The collection, which is produced using traditional methods, includes blankets, throws, hamam towels (pestemals), cushions and goat hair kilims all of which possess the sort of amazing lustre you can only really find in traditional craft textiles. On the two-day shoot I was also so fortunate to work with the multi-talented, knee-slappingly funny Selin Sönmez, a great friend from my days at 34 Magazine, as my stylist. With the combination of great content and a superb stylist, the photo shoot was really a rewarding experience.
Atolyia (previously Hamamist) has been enjoying big success lately, growing from both online retailing and wholesale operations and will soon open a shop in Sydney, Australia where two of the partners currently live. I’m really pleased and proud to help communicate the beauty of these unique products which are made using traditional Anatolian methods.
When I first moved to Istanbul I rented a flat in the Galata neighbourhood which was scruffy but interesting area on the city map. Later, like a lot of Beyoglu, it became a bit disillusioning. As we all know, economic progress doesn’t necessarily benefit a neighbourhood’s character or hospitality. Especially when the new businesses and residents decide to do a sad or cynical interpretation of someone else’s culture for the benefit of non-residents. So it became easy to give the Galata neighbourhood a miss without missing anything at all. However Serdar-ı Ekrem Sokak seems to have undergone a mostly positive transformation, comfortably mixing old and new and featuring design businesses and small boutiques which draw on the local culture and architecture as much for the benefit of Turks — at least so it seems from the people sitting in the street-side cafés and coffee joints — as for outsiders. Change is an inevitable consequence of urban life just like human life. Fortunately it’s not all for the worst with businesses like Georges Galata, which in my opinion has the ultimate night time supper terrace, summer or winter, as well as Sntrl Dükkan and Mavra, which provide good street-side perches to people watch in the company of your friends and neighbours while sipping a glass of wine. On this Sokak, at least, it feels good to be back in Galata again.
Today I just wanted to take some time to give a shout out to friend and frequent collaborator, Simon Johnson, who has taken his small, bicycle-delivered cult publication THAT from the streets of Istanbul to Art Dubai and now to the London Book Fair. A special LBF issue is about to hit the presses showcasing just a small portion of this city’s tremendous local talent and will be distributed throughout the fair, which runs from April 15-17 at Earl’s Court. The LBF is one of the world’s most important meetings of agents, publishers and authors, where deals are brokered and fresh talent comes to light. It’s also further indication that print, especially independent print, is still a very meaningful medium of expression. Whether you’re a writer, photographer, illustrator, or artist THAT continues to go places and take its contributors with it. Should you be interested in getting some good press for your work, consider submitting ideas to THAT Magazine via firstname.lastname@example.org (a.k.a Monsieur Editor-In-Chief). You never know where THAT will lead you.
How’s that for an alliterative title? I really wanted to call this piece: a diminutive demonstration of dilapidated doorways and decadent details in decay … but it wouldn’t fit in the headline space my template allots. Still, I probably managed to go purple enough with my prose style to describe the beauty of these passageways and halls which have lost none of their magic despite the neglect. Or has the neglect only enhanced it? The hallways and doors of Beyoglu, may go unnoticed in terms of restoration, but they still turn my head.
Today I had a chance to get a glimpse of a really interesting renovation in Beyoglu. While it might feel somewhat sparsely furnished with the cavernous ceilings, the ample light, and raw feel of the materials gives this place a real beauty. I’ve seen many Beyoglu buildings restored, but nothing quite like this. Its feel, and the amount of wood make this something special. The other feature which makes it special is the fact that its owners refused to use any concrete in the restoration process. Sedat Sırrı Aklan, who supervised the renovations, is adamantly opposed to the use of concrete on moral grounds, because it is both anti-artisan and only used for profit motives. One of the things I really appreciate is the light touch they’ve used, leaving some of the beautifully weathered surfaces exposed. Here’s a glimpse of this vastly different hotel. I’m eager to check out their rooftop eatery too which may well bear further investigation.
I don’t know about you, but I like a well made shoe. In fact, I prefer a pair. These days, however, it seems you have to go to Italy or Spain to find a good handcrafted shoemaker … or so I thought. Skeptical? I was too. Despite a tip from my friend, Metin — a man of substance and style —I learned about a fine shoemaker in my own backyard. Much to my amazement, beneath Yeni Camii (New Mosque) in Yeniköy, there is, in fact, an artisan shoemaker. He is also turning out some extremely stylish men’s boots in supple leather and silky soft suede, and has been doing so for no less than about 50 years. To my embarrassment, I walked by his shop for almost two-and-a-half years without a second glance. Perhaps it’s because it seems like a relatively modest storefront and workshop. Let this be a lesson to me to be more attentive. Osman Usta has clients from as far afield as England, France, Argentina, Spain. Now the term usta (master) is somewhat overused in Turkey as it can refer to anyone from the guy slicing slivers of döner off the spit, to a second-rate carpenter, or to a man like Osman. In this case, however, the title is well earned. While I sipped a tea I had the pleasure of watching him work. It’s truly something to behold. I will definitely be seeking him out the next time I look for a new pair of suede or lea footwear. In fact, I can hardly wait to put in an order for some shoes from the Master beneath the mosque.
Küçüktepe Sokak No. 15, Yeniköy, Istanbul +90 212 262 3760
In a recent post I described what I’d do with a leisurely day left to my own devices, and in it one of the places where I said I’d finish my day was Cochine. On Saturday night, however, I was able to put the place to the test with 15 friends for dinner and drinks. From now on, If I have my way, I will never veer from eating out anywhere but owner-operated kitchens. It makes all the difference. Food preparation is a kind of alchemy. It’s not just the ingredients, or the measurements, it’s the spirit of the people putting it together that determines whether or not they create gold. There’s a lot of gold at Cochine, located on Kumbaracı Yokuşu, thanks to the complementary talents of its owners Melis Onderoglu Maxwell (pictured immediately below) and Chris Maxwell.
It would be all to easy to walk past Cochine’s discreetly marked doorway. From the street you can’t see inside and the entrance is just around the lane with a heavy door and buzzer monitored by a camera. But don’t be intimidated by the speakeasy appearance of the door or the decrepitude of the graffiti-spattered street. Inside is a welcoming interior put together by the owners, exuding their charm and good taste, bathed in golden-red light. The staff that greet you offered the kind of relaxed welcome you want when the heavy iron door swings open. Now don’t waste anytime. The first thing you need to do is order one of their signature Earl Grey martinis, without a doubt my new favourite cocktail — and don’t be deterred from trying it even if you don’t like the tea of the same name. It’s the best way to shake things up a little before dinner.
And the verdict on the food? In a city where disparate far-east Asian cuisines are all too often lumped together and served under the same roof — Japanese-Chinese-Thai from one kitchen? — it’s nice to see one small but adept kitchen focusing on providing food from one region, in this case, Vietnam. Chris Maxwell, who originally hails from New Zealand knows his way around the world of food. His years travelling the globe and working in some of London’s top kitchens have paid off. The vote at our table of 15 was unanimous. The food was a sensation we all wished to repeat. True alchemy. Now all I have to do is find out where they source my favourite vegetable in the world — Pak Choy.
By the way, if you don’t yet have plans for New Year’s this year, there are still some seatings available. I know I’ll be spending many hours in 2013 seated in Cochine. Oh yeah, and before I sign off … Happy New Year!
Tomtom Mahallesi Kumbaracı Yokuşu, Camcı Fevzi Sokak No. 36/A, Beyoğlu, Istanbul
+90 212 243 92 81
Many things have been done in the name of God, some good, some bad. I’d definitely say the Şakirin Mosque falls into the former category. This place of worship is notable for its extremely contemporary design sensibility and, perhaps more important, the fact that its interior was designed by Zeynep Fadıllıoğlu — a woman. Read More…
I’m pleased to announce that another issue of THAT MAGAZINE is hot off the press. Okay, perhaps I’m more than pleased, perhaps I’m a little self-satisfied because my Marmaray photography also landed the cover, and it’s always a nice ego boost to see your work in print. In addition to that there are essays, more of Zeynep Aksoy’s compelling India Emails, some fantastic art spreads and writing from the late Refik Halid Karay (1888-1965) eloquently translated from Turkish by Alexander Dawe. So if you’re here in Istanbul, keep your eyes open. THAT will be appearing again in your favorite swanky little watering holes and eateries.
Sometimes I wonder where the city of Istanbul begins and ends. I don’t mean officially, on a map, which it splashes across like an upended bucket of paint. Psychologically speaking, there’s a place where its growth seems to have stopped: Rumeli Kavagi. There’s something about this place that intrigues me, something I can’t quite explain. It could be paradise. It’s far from it however. There’s a desolate, decaying, end and edge of the world feel. It’s full of broken docks, listing boats, tumbledown buildings, gaping parking lots, and half closed fish restaurants streaked with gull droppings. Yet it’s in a magnificent position, full of unkept promise, staring across the Bosporus at its counterpoint, the much more alive feeling Anadolu Kavagi.
Despite its decrepitude, despite its cracks, I have a strange hope for this place. I can imagine how it might be one day. There’s something waiting in this seaside village, something just disguised beneath the patina of decay, something mumbling to awaken. I hope to see it one day.