There was a time when Turkey's leather goods industry revolved around the production of counterfeits, while the real thing was made in Italy - but a recent revolution headed by young, Istanbul-based brands has changed all that. Along with Manu Atelier, Mehry Mu has grown in prominence as another female-owned bag label giving local girls and international shoppers alike what they really want.
"Some Turkish brands are finally understanding how to truly have a global approach," Mehry Mu founder Günes Mutlu told us. "And it circles back to Turkish girls having respect for Turkish brands with an international standpoint. There are still only a few brands that do this, but I think and hope that their coherence in style, positioning and professionalism will help pave the way for many more."
Previously, for many leather ateliers, refusing to create fakes in favour of working with young brands on original designs would have been unthinkable, but the new wave of Turkish labels has changed everything - resulting in a new wave of artisans learning the trade to meet production demands.
"The new-generation producers are my age and are true artisans because they have been doing this for more than 20 years, from a very young age," Mutlu continued. "They too are on Instagram and feel excited about the buzz that their client brands are creating and are proud to be a part of it. So they do not want to be involved with the fake industry any more. Lucky for us and them, we are able to provide our producers with the volume they need in order to survive, without going down that road. With the rise and success of more independent leather goods designers, the producers who are involved in the fake industry will be able to shut down that part of their business."
Mutlu - a mother of two - began her business as an online boutique retailing a curated offering of products by local artisans, but finding that reasonably priced, well-made bags were lacking, took it upon herself to create some.
"I went to a handbag producer with a few metres of one-of-a-kind ikat fabrics from the Grand Bazaar," she explained. "Ikat was not something so widely available back then and my idea was to make lavish leather totes with ikat lining, showing our beautiful heritage without being contrived. As time passed I realised there was so much potential for Mehry Mu and decided to close down the website and focus on the bags. The first few years were the organic growth phase; first there was the product and the love and support of customers and it evolved from there."
While beginning with larger leather bags, it is its smaller personalised clutches that have seen the brand catapulted on to the international scene as street-style stars and influencers pick up its monogrammed velvet and straw clutches, and new embroidered astrology-sign bags - leading to growth at home and abroad.
"Now the plan is to go global, in the true sense, and London is our starting point," Mutlu explained. "It is very accepting about new brands, and some of the chicest ladies I know are from here. I have been doing trunk shows in London for a few years now and our clientele has only increased. We are speaking with major retailers for placement for spring/summer 2017 now, and there is so much interest. My goal is to make this Turkey-based brand like the successful Greek and Lebanese brands out there, filled with heritage that is able to translate into a global language."