As a citizen of Istanbul, I always felt grateful to live in a city where the famous Bosphorus constitutes a natural border between Asia and Europe, bridging the cultures of the two continents. This culturally diverse environment inspired me to work on a project reflecting socio-cultural interactions and evoked the spirit of the Silk Road, which was one of the oldest trade routes connecting East and West. The Silk Road not only paved the way to increase the welfare of the communities by allowing the exchange of goods, ideas, religions; scientific, artistic and literary knowledge through the interaction of traders from different cultures; but also resulted in the spread of intolerance, slave trade and diseases like the plague. The Silk Road topic was specifically interesting and inspiring to me, as I am a student in London, where the modern Silk Road originates, and a citizen of Turkey, which is located on both the ancient and modern Silk Roads.

The Silky Connection

The Silky Connection project ironically refers to the tough conditions the traders faced during their travel on the Silk Road contrasting with the smooth nature of silk, which gave its name to this famous trade route. With this project, I would like everyone to look back at history, be aware of his/her own cultural heritage, realise that we become more enriched when together and it is possible to create a real “silky connection” – not an ironic one – to re-establish a more beautiful world. In my designs I used patterns, colours, fabrics reflecting the experiences throughout the journeys on the Silk Road.

A Visit to Buyukcekmece Caravanserai in Istanbul, Turkey

Caravanserais are roadside inns where travelers (caravaners) could rest and recover from the day's journey. They supported the flow of commerce, information and people across the network of trade routes.

A Visit to Kursunlu Han in Istanbul, Turkey

Kursunlu Han is another caravanserai in Istanbul and is now used by the local traders and handymen. It was a great opportunity to be able to have a chat with a turnery master. Unlike the other "rooms" of the caravanserai his workspace was not renovated.

The Courtyard of the Caravanserai

From my discussions with the local people at this place, I found out that the rooms on the ground floor were used for the camels and the upper floors would be where the caravans have a sleep.

Trying Out Buddhism Poses

Buddhism has also spread through the Silk Road via people travelling and figuring out about it. So I wanted to try out some Buddhism poses to be a part of the process instead of just reading about it.

Buddhism Clothing Research

I also examined the draping clothes of the Buddhist monks and nuns.

Slave Trade on the Silk Road

The trade throughout the Silk Road was not only confined to goods but also involved humans (Frankopan, 2018, p. 55). Similarly, the slave trade was also observed in other parts of the world (Kress, 2014). In his exhibition “Cash Crop”, Stephen Hayes aimed to attire attention to the human rights violations including the slave trade (Kress, 2014). He showcased an art piece composed of 15 real-size sculptures of his friends and family members reflecting the inhuman conditions that the African slaves experienced on the route to the United States (Kress, 2014).

Slave Trade on the Silk Road

Stephen Hayes’ “Cash Crop” communicated the idea of slavery very well and gave me the feeling of being helpless, locked-up and restricted.

Slave Trade on the Silk Road Pattern

ornamenting the garments with buckles and belts tying around different parts of the body (Fig 8 – B, D, E). In addition, I created a pattern that symbolized slavery by repeating the picture of my own hands tied with a scrap of calico fabric, which I eventually used in a sweater in the final collection.

3D Sample Inspired from Black Plague Doctor Masks

Sewing this collar gave me a much more understanding of the construction of individual garments.

3D Experiment with a Pillow and two Belts

This was an experiment to give ideas for my designs.

Design Development

These initial design development ideas came from the huge bags and stuff the caravans must have been carrying with them while travelling on the Silk Road.

Design Development

The inspiration for these ideas came from the saddle bag which were used quite often by caravans to carry essential items on the camels.

Design Process

This is an example of one stage of my design process. I do eliminations between my design ideas regularly throughout projects and eliminate not so good ones and focus on the details I want to take further.

Colour Choices

Artists Takako Saito and Ernesto Neto used spices in their artworks, Spice Chess and Madness is part of life, to point out the power of smell in interaction and communication of individuals. Inspired by that, I decided to name the colours within my colour palette after various spices since they were among the major trade items on the Silk Road. These included turmeric, cumin, cayenne, caraway, pepper, thyme and sage. According to me, most of the spices have the potential to evoke positive sensations in humans not only by their smells but also their colours. This is another reason why I included spices in my designs strengthen the message of my collection. The other three colours in the palette referring to different components that travelled on the Silk Road, namely plague, jade and paper, emphasized the contrast between the negative and positive outcomes of the journey on this route.

Colour Test for the Final Line-Up

I tried different colour combinations from my colour palette to find the perfect matches that could create a good overall colour balance

Final Line-Up

My project consists of a collection of two dresses, four pants, four skirts, six blouses, two t-shirts, a sweater and a jacket.

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