Turkish designers Mayruk and Şansal quit fashion and Turkey

The ‘Grand Couturier’ Yildirim Mayruk and his partner Barbaros Şansal have bid farewell to the Turkish fashion industry. Mayruk has been a leading figure in Turkish fashion since the 1960s, while Şansal has suffered attacks and legal troubles due to his political activism.

The designers said goodbye at a fashion show presenting the ‘Yıldırım Mayruk Jubilee Collection’ in Fişekhane, Istanbul. Mayruk has exhibited over 65 clothing collections in his career. Şansal said the event also featured 2 Miss World, and 18 Miss Turkey winners.

Actor Mert Fırat and presenter Tuğçe Sarıkaya Dağıstan hosted the fashion show, which featured 200 models wearing 1000 designs created since 1960. The materials for the outfits worn were reported to be worth around 15 million TL. 

The event was attended by well known celebrities from the music and fashion world, including the singer Bülent Ersoy. Ersoy enjoyed a career as a singer of classical Turkish music before undergoing sex reassignment surgery in 1981 to become a woman. Ersoy wore a dress and hat specially designed by Mayruk.

Şansal told Ahval that while he and Mayruk are moving all their belongings out of the country, they will still be involved with fashion in some ways. ‘We will try to make books about fashion and we may also turn to the education of fashion in Cyprus, not in Turkey. We are leaving couture, dressmaking, fashion shows, we are closed to press for now on.”

Şansal said he would be “working for peace in the Eastern Mediterranean including South and North Cyprus” using his connections to the Cypriot government including Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides, who he described as a ‘good friend’. 

On January 1, 2017, Şansal was deported from North Cyprus, where he had been spending New Year’s Eve, due to a social media post he had made criticising the Turkish government policies. Şansal was sent to Istanbul by plane, where he was assaulted by a mob on the tarmac at Istanbul airport. He subsequently spent three months in jail in Turkey.

Şansal said there was no more danger of North Cyprus deporting him to Turkey again. “I went to the High Court and proved my deportation was illegal, and now the head prosecutor is preparing a file against the ex-Interior Minister and police department chief”, Şansal said. 

Şansal is also the subject of ongoing court cases back in Turkey. He told Ahval that on the day of the fashion show on Wednesday, he had a court hearing at 9 AM, but that the judge did not bother to attend the hearing.

Şansal blamed a number of reasons for the decision to leave Turkey. He said that political harassment was partly to blame, but also the demise of high fashion. New designers were largely commercial, and there was less room for high fashion. “Our atelier was the last castle of high fashion in Turkey”, Şansal said.

“Taksim is finished. Yildirim started his business in Istiklal Street in the 1960s, and we turned back to the Taksim area 17 years ago, but Taksim is finished. Not only Taksim, Turkey is also finished. There is no need to continue the couture because even a pin we have to import it from the UK. There is no material to continue the art and the couture in Turkey anymore, it’s not possible”, Şansal said.

Şansal said that Mayruk’s company was not commercial, and the label would not be sold. “All our dresses are individual, custom made for a person specially”, he said. He said that the pair had sold all their assets and were looking forward to moving to Cyprus permanently.

Asked if there was anything he will miss about Turkey, Şansal said “I want to forget, I am divorced. Turkey is in the past. I have a brighter and calm future I believe. I forgot what Turkey has done to me so far. I don’t belong here.”

Şansal was pessimistic about the cultural and political direction of Turkey generally, saying “There is no rule of law, there is no democracy, there is no freedom left in Turkey, so how can we make dresses with our own thoughts and creativity?”