Photographer: Richard Kaby @richardkaby Photographer: Lady Lionna @ladylionna Photographer: Matteo Mario Fashion Designer: Cansu Odemis @madamefairy Model: Emily Stoner @emzstoner @imm agency Model: Tia Xiao @tiaxiao @IMM Models Hair Stylist: Elena Katsarova @elena_elegancehairstyle Hair Stylist: Yiyi Tien @yiyi_makeuphair Makeup Artist: Iga Wasylczuk @igavaseline
Cansu, could you tell us who you are and your story, how did you get involved with fashion?
I am a London-based fashion designer and creative director of my eponymous brand. I set up my business after completed my master’s degree in fashion design at my dream school Istituto Marangoni –London which is the world’s one of the first and most renowned fashion schools.
I was just a kid when my fashion journey has already started. I have been drawing, designing, and sewing since I could hold a pencil and a needle. I believe some people are just born with this talent and I was one of those lucky ones. My talent was first has been discovered by my parents and then by my tutors. They direct me to enter various art and design competitions. I received my very first award when I was in primary school. First I have been awarded in my city, right after that around the country and then finally I got my worldwide awards. I remember the days when my parents and my tutors were attending more than five different award ceremonies with me just in a week. After that, my talent started to be recognized by many others. We all knew that I was born to be an artist. This was not a hobby, this was my life purpose. It was the milestone that is going to create my whole future...
My professional journey in art began when I started to study in Fine Arts High School. After four years of education in art, I graduated from Fine Art Highschool as the top student. Then I wanted to combine my art education with my passion, fashion design. I applied to T.C. Yeditepe University which is one of the best fashion schools in Turkey-Istanbul. I got accepted in the first place and this success led me to obtain a full scholarship from the university. At the end of my fashion journey there, I got my Bachelor’s degree as the top student of both the Department of Fashion and Textile Design and the Faculty of Fine Arts.
Right after my graduation, I got my acceptance letter from my dream school Istituto Marangoni-London. Then I moved to my dream city London in 2016 to do my master’s degree in fashion design. I have been admiring Istituto Marangoni since my childhood. The great fashion leaders such as Moschino’s founder Franco Moschino, Dolge&Gabbana’s founder Domenico Dolce and many other legendary designers all have studied there. It was a tremendous honour to study in such an internationally recognized school. It allowed me to go further and deeper in my fashion journey. I have completed my master’s degree with two diplomas, and I had the opportunity to work for one of the top luxury fashion brands Ralph & Russo in London. I had a chance to work on the designs for many celebrities such as Hollywood stars, singers, supermodels, and royals there. It was a great experience for me, but my childhood dream was to run my own brand, create my own designs. I continued to chase my dreams and set up my own business in London.
Now I am providing haute couture, ready-to-wear, costume design, and accessory design services from London to worldwide. I am also giving lectures, conferences, and seminars to fashion students at universities to help them to reach their goals and dreams.
What is fashion for you and what do you want to achieve through fashion?
Fashion is the way to express myself, my thoughts, my own reality, and especially it is the way to make the world a better place to live. My style is quite playful, quirky, colourful, eccentric, and avant-garde. It is playful because life can be too hard sometimes and my fashion is definitely my playground. Unfortunately, I am not a superhero, I can’t save the whole world but I believe that I am a fairy in the fashion world. A fairy who has a magic wand and with this magic wand I can turn all the sad reality into a fantasy. I can help people to get away from today’s chaotic world with my fashion and sense of humor in my playful designs.
Generally, I get my inspiration from society. Life itself is the biggest inspiration for me. I like to interpret real-life problems in a fairytalish manner. Actually, I am telling sad stories but always in a fun and artistic way. I want people to think while they are enjoying my designs.
My designs are colourful because I believe that life is too short to wear only one colour. The world presents us various colours and there is no single reason not to use all those magical colour palettes. I have always been a pretty optimistic and colourful person. As a designer, I aim to spread this spirit to the whole world with my style and designs.
At the end of the day after I spent countless hours on my designs when I see people are smiling and enjoying my designs, I feel like the world is turning into a Wonderland and this is actually all I want to achieve through fashion. I don’t need any words to communicate, my fashion is the most effective communication tool to connect with the whole world.
Your collections are very profound and seem to have hidden messages all over them. Could you please tell us the deeper meanings behind your eye-catching collections?
I believe fashion is one of the best communication tools that can really make a huge change if you put your creativity wisely and meaningfully out there. In my designs, I always use my art and designs to bring attention to serious issues by interpreting real-life problems in society via my collections.
My first big collection “Melody of Ocean” has a very emotional story behind it. In today’s world, every place where people touch gets dirtier, and this collection focuses on underwater to explore this challenge. The collection was about the carnage in the oceans. My designs were telling the real story of mother dolphins who are imprisoned in aquariums.
Dolphins that can swim 40 km per hour, dive 300 meters deep, swim 130 km a day are imprisoned just because they smile. Even the biggest pool cannot be as big and free as the ocean. Moreover, female dolphins give birth while swimming fast in their natural atmosphere. As these creatures cannot swim 40 km per hour, dive 300 meters deep, or swim 130 km a day in the aquariums, hundreds of mother dolphins have miscarriages because of stress. Never do believe the smile on their face. They still smile when they are dead… Most importantly, I gave a mouth and a tongue to sea creatures to express themselves, which might be their first scream… I wanted to put their message out there via music notes. Because I believe music is such a universal thing that really connects us no matter where we are, which language we are speaking… In Melody of Ocean, I have written music sung by underwater creatures. They tell us ‘ The Best War Is Peace’.
In my next collection “Happily Never After”, I got my inspiration from contemporary problems in popular culture. Nowadays, as selfie obsession is popularized through social media and celebrity culture, people are becoming more obsessive about their physical appearances than ever before to reach more followers, to get more “likes” to win appreciation and approval. Plastic surgeries, eating disorders, social and psychological problems such as; self-harming, drug addiction, etc. are reaching epidemic proportions in society and especially in generations Y and Z. I analyzed this reality and presented it with my own reality. I have always believed that fairy tales are the purest thing in this world. But in today’s world, it is impossible for fairy tales to remain as innocent as Disney's interpretations since social features, perceptions and problems are changing so rapidly. So, I started to write contemporary fairy tales with my own designs. You can see anorexic mermaid, unnatural Cinderella, drug-addicted witch, alcoholic Alice, selfie-obsessed evil queen, self-obsessed Belle, depressed princess, and more in my collection.
My recent couture collection “God Save The Queens” is about gender equality issues, women rights, being a woman in a male-dominated society, and always being brave enough to express yourself, fight for your ideologies and freedom despite the patriarchal system.
As we all know violence, harassment, and varying degrees of inequality have been experiencing by a lot of women all around the world for generations. I wanted to analyze the empowerment of women and promote gender equality through fashion. Women rights are human rights and I believe, gender equality has to be an issue for both men and women for your sisters, mothers, and daughters to be free from prejudice. By saying equality, I meant equality for women, equality for all genders, equality in the workplace, equality at school, equality to sisters and brothers, equality to wife and husband, equality in finance, equality in parliament, and many more. I used strong queens as a starting point, especially the queens who were executed in history to explore the woman power in a male-dominated society. I aimed to be the voice of those inspiring woman figures, celebrate the independent modern female, and rewrite history by giving them a better destiny and freedom that they deserved via my designs. I believe that celebrating these legendary women who made a huge impact in the world’s history is extremely important especially for young generations since we are still working to close the gender gap.
Your designs are created and made to last for years, even decades. Is this your approach towards beating fast fashion and building on sustainability? If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?
Yes, definitely there are some important issues within the fashion industry that we really need to pay attention to. The main problem for me is the fast fashion which is the cause of child laboring and unethical approaches that extremely harm nature. If I could change, I would love to change this situation immediately.
As a sustainable fashion designer, all the embellishments, embroideries, and print designs in my collections are my own hand-drawn illustrations. All my designs are hand-beaded, hand-stitched, or hand-painted pieces since I aim to design special and timeless pieces which can be worn for generations. Unfortunately, fast fashion is completely the opposite of it. It is a waste of money, time, and energy. I have seen many times that people who purchase from fast fashion brands generally wear those garments a few times. Then, they get bored of it, and mostly it ends up in the bin. I prefer to create highly detailed, dazzling embroideries and embellishments to decorate the silhouette that makes people keep those pieces forever like a treasure in their wardrobe. When the time comes, they can give it to their children. This cycle can continue forever, immortalize my designs and become a family inheritance.
I understand that not everyone may afford the designer’s products, but there are amazing charity shops out there that are full of treasure garments. Shopping from charity shops is one of the best ways to prevent the harm of fast fashion. I hope more people will understand the importance of slow fashion and the sustainable approach in the near future.
How is working in fashion different today than from when you started out? What did change in your fashion career?
I have to admit that there are huge differences between when I first started working in fashion and today. I have worked for the world’s leading fashion brands in London and Turkey-Istanbul before, set up my own brand in London. I am so grateful for all the industry experiences that I have gained in those brands. I would not be the person I am today without all these experiences, but we should accept that every brand has its own DNA and target market. Therefore, if you are working for them, you have to adapt your style to their style when you are designing. Unfortunately, it may cause you to limit your creativity. I have always believed that fashion is an art, and I have the soul of an artist. However, it was not really possible to make my own art when I was working for the other brands, as they all have specific design instructions that you have to follow. Limiting yourself is not an easy thing if you are such a bold and maximalist designer like me. But now, as I work for my own brand, I have no limit regarding my creativity. I can push the boundaries to the maximum. I am making art with fashion now, and nothing can make me happier than this.
The other fact is, unfortunately, the fashion world is such a competitive environment, and sometimes it could be a very harsh industry, just like in the movie “The Devil Wears Prada”. I believe it was such a good depiction of the fashion industry. When you work for luxury brands generally, you have to work day and night. You have to accept that sometimes you will never have lunch breaks, especially when the fashion week shows come closer. After you worked so hard, you may see the designs you have created at fashion shows, concerts, video clips, red carpets, televisions, etc. However, generally, they don’t give you credit as you are working under their name. I have been dreaming of putting my own label on my designs since my childhood. It is an incredible feeling to finally see my name under my designs on magazines, televisions, fashion documentaries, interviews, etc. which, makes the biggest difference in my life. Sharing my message behind my creations with the whole world, standing up for my ethical and sustainable fashion approach is a dream come true for me. The only thing that didn’t change is, I still work day and night, but this time, I am putting my own art through fashion out there, and this is definitely worth spending my all life on fashion…
Who are you designing your collections for? What is the most important thing you want your potential clients to know about you?
I am designing my garments for the people who are brave enough to be themselves, love to play with life, and enjoy every moment of it like a child, no matter how old they are. As I always say, my designs are “Only For Fairytale Believers…”
I want my potential clients to know that life is too short to wear boring clothes and accessories. Let’s celebrate life by bringing your dream garments into reality with magical touches of fairy hands. We don’t need any special occasion to dress up, life itself is the biggest party. Being on earth is an experience that is worth celebrating before our time is over on this planet. You can be sure that your dream will be interpreted by me and turned into a reality with highly detailed embroideries, colourful embellishments, and playful print designs, which are all my own hand-drawn illustrations. I believe that everyone should have a chance to wear their unique dream piece. My top priority is to create long-term relationships with people all around the world. For this reason, I have always provided my design service suitable to my customers’ budget.
What has been the biggest highlight in your career so far?
Running my own brand in London at an early age is definitely, the biggest highlight in my career. I also can’t deny the importance of prestigious magazines like Malvie Magazine and many other international publications’ great interest in my designs and the messages of my creations. My collections have been featured in many major fashion and lifestyle publications and in 2019 I have been awarded as the runner-up of the “ I’M Alumni Collections Revolution Competition” between candidates from all around the world, which made a great improvement in my career.
Do you have any unforgettable memory related to fashion that made a huge impact on your career?
Yes, I have such an unforgettable memory that made a huge impact on my fashion career. I was just a five and a half years old kid in a kindergarten who was dreaming of becoming a worldwide fashion designer. At that time, I was finding our headmistress’s style a bit old-fashioned, and that little me had to find a solution for this issue. I have decided to take an action. When I come back from school, I was secretly working on some new designs, nonstop drawing with great discipline and I was not showing what I have been working on to my parents. At the end of that week, I could finally finish my new creations. I got one of my father’s empty folders and carefully started to put the drawings of my collection in it.
The next step was the hardest mission for me. I had to show my portfolio to the headmistress. As kindergarten students are quite tiny, we were not allowed to go upstairs where the headmistress office was located. For this reason, I have waited till the lunch break, and during the break time, I found a way to secretly ran away to the headmistress’ office. I knocked on her door with great determination. She was shocked when she has seen the folder that I was carrying, which was almost bigger than my own height. She invited me into her office. It was the first time that I was seeing her office, which was such a special moment for me. I plucked up the courage and tried to tell her that she does not dress up stylish enough. I told her that I have a solution for it. I opened my portfolio and started to show her my collection that I have specifically designed for her. After I finished my amateur presentation as a small kid, I was a bit afraid of her reaction, but on a contrary, she reacted to my collection with great interest and admiration. She had an extremely big smile on her face, and she took off all the papers and photos that have been hung on her boards and started to hang my collection drawings. Her office’s walls were covered with my designs, it was such an unbelievable and unforgettable moment for me. She thanked me for those wonderful drawings and hugged me. When I come back home from school, my mother opened the door. She asked me whether I have gone to the headmistress’s office and I said “Yes”. Right after my answer my mum gladly said that she was so proud of me. I have learned that the headmistress has called my mother and told her that I have such a great talent. She has also said that one day I will become a worldwide fashion designer and she was right. Today I am doing my fashion worldwide. No words could ever express how I feel when I remember this memory. That was such a special day for me, and it will always be...
This is a great example that how we can change children’s life by saying the right thing at the right time. She supported me, motivated me with her words when I was just a little kid and, this led me to go further in my career and be the designer I am today.
We should always support the young talents. They may become the great artists of our future.
What would you like to say to someone younger who looks up to you? What is the key point of success for you, and do you have any recommendations for aspiring fashion designers?
Do not give up on your dreams, no matter how complex it looks. If you have a dream, go and get it. There will be up and downs, there will be darker days, but the sun will always rise in the end. I believe fairy tales are real. However, do not expect someone to make your dreams come true, be the hero/heroine of your own story, hold your own magic wand, make your own fairy tale true, and live there happily ever after. Trust me, the time will come as long as you have faith in yourself.
Talent is such an important fact to be successful, but unfortunately not enough. You have to support your talent and creativity with education and hard work. Always be patient because sometimes you may need to spend countless hours, days, and months on a single garment till you make it perfect, and most importantly, always enjoy what you are doing. If the designs that you are working on making your heartbeat even faster, if you are feeling the joy and excitement in your every single cell, that’s mean you are on the right path, and this excitement will bring you success soon or late. I believe it is the key point of success. This is also what I always keep reminding my students and interns.
What does life look like for you now, and where do you see yourself in the future?
Life looks bright now because I know I am doing the right thing. I am sure that I will continue to analyze and go deeper into many other important subjects in society via my collections. I believe my upcoming creations and their deeper meanings will reach out even wider audience in the future…
We can not know what the future holds for us, and I don’t prefer to make predictions about it because I love to live the moment and enjoy every second of it. I can only talk about the near future at the moment. Currently, I am working on my new collection, which is about such an important issue, child abuse, that we all really need to pay attention to make the future brighter for the next generations. I believe my upcoming collection will send a huge message through fashion and art to the whole world.
I am sure that one thing will never change in the future for me. I believe I will never lose my inner child that keeps me creative. As Peter Pan said, “Never grow up, it is a trap”…
God Save The Queens
In the couture collection “God Save The Queens”, strong woman figures through history, women rights, and gender equality issues were explored.
Violence, harassment, and varying degrees of inequality have been experiencing by a lot of women all around the world for generations. The “ God Save The Queens” collection analyzes themes of feminism, the empowerment of woman and uses fashion to send a message about strong women, promote gender equality through mind-blowing, rich hand-embroideries which consist of designer’s hand-drawn illustrations, colourful, mesmerizing print designs and glamorous hand embellishments with elegantly crafted pieces.
This collection uses strong queens as a starting point, especially the queens who were executed in history to explore the woman power in a male-dominated society. The collection aims to be the voice of those unfortunate woman figures who were brave enough to express themselves, fight for their ideologies and freedom despite the patriarchal system. It combines strength and femininity with its feminist statement, celebrates the independent modern female, and rewrites the history by giving them a better destiny and freedom that they deserved via timeless, unique designs.
It gives the message of “ There is no way to kill the strong woman, because the strong woman will always reborn again and again just like a phoenix in different forms, in different centuries, in different places…”
“God Save The Queens!” because every woman is the queen of her own kingdom…
Happily Never After:
In the "Happily Never After" collection, the interaction of the fairy tales which have been passed down for generations with the modern culture was explored. Nowadays, as selfie obsession is popularized through social media and celebrity culture, people are becoming more obsessive about their physical appearances than ever before to reach more followers, to get more “likes” to win appreciation and approval. It was impossible for the fairy tales to remain as innocent as Disney's interpretations since social features, perceptions and problems are changing so rapidly. With a changing sense of beauty ( plastic surgeries, eating disorders ), social and psychological problems (self-harming, drug addiction etc.) are reaching epidemic proportions. This collection uses fairy tales as a starting point to explore these challenges, through stitch, print, cut and detail, in a witty manner.