Written by Jake Wright
London Fashion Week season upon season reinforces itself as the home for emerging talent. This season saw ‘Harem’ launch their first collection. Shown as a presentation in Victoria House, the new home for Fashion Scout, Harem is the name behind the work of Dee and Begum Ozturk, a sister duo from Turkey, where one looks after the design aesthetic of the brand and the other manages everything behind the scenes. The brand showed a number of monochrome looks, consistently drawing inspiration from their Middle Eastern heritage.
Earlier this year I visited Morocco and the materials and geometric patterns on the clothing closely related to what I saw in Marrakech. However, the inspiration for the designs lies in London, with streetwear being the brands key aesthetic.
“For us it was all about comfort first and foremost, I think it’s the same for most people when they dress now. We also didn’t want to overcomplicate our designs, we wanted our clothes to be multi-use for styling.”
The thought of going into the fashion industry wasn’t part of the original plan for the sisters,
“we were selling tea towels made from organic cotton for some time, we were getting great feedback on the quality. So, we thought what else could we do with this.”
From that point on the brand was born, now the organic cotton is used throughout the collection and the team told me it’s made on top of a mountain in Turkey.
Much of the final designs come out of their studio in Dalston, enabling them to be consistently creative. Dee describes the brand as a cultural miss match,
“we merge what we love about Turkey with the things we love about London. The vast amount of possible materials from our homeland gives us constant ideas whilst the everyday style of London forms the basis of our work.”
Coming from Turkey you wouldn’t necessarily expect them to look straight to organic materials. Much of the clothes we wear on a day to day basis are made in various factories over there. Likely meaning cheaper prices for start up brands, but this wasn’t the case.
“Being women ourselves, we care about women across the world. We like to think of ourselves as global citizens. We don’t want women in factories and in terrible conditions making our clothes. No one would gain from that.”
By using organic materials, they not only help the people of Turkey but also the environment. Harem are a brand with ethics at the forefront of what they do.
The brand also notes that the collection isn’t made for either gender in mind, they instead left it up to the person wearing it. Although, she does note that one shirt does appear “slightly feminine.” Being a sister duo running a fashion brand, I did wonder if they encountered any difficulties along the way,
“We have a really tight connection and we both want the brand to grow and do really well. But sometimes being so passionate can be difficult. We have our roles in the brand and neither of us try to cross over to the other. It works for us.”
Having two people that wholeheartedly care about the growth of an emerging brand is an important factor, being family only magnifies the effort you put in.
Harem showed a lot of potential in this first collection, I really respected their focus on being ethical first and foremost. I got the simplicity vibes for styling however moving forward I think their designs will need to be a bit more complex. I’d also loved to have seen a bit more colour, especially in a Spring/Summer collection. However, there is no denying that this is a brand that will continue to grow and develop, just look at how far they’ve come already.
Photos: Fashion Scout, Victoria House, London UK. 15th September 2019. Harem London shows their Spring Summer 2020 designs. © Chris Yates