What inspired you to go into fashion? Ece Ege: “My father had a jewellery shop in the south of Turkey that was open only in the summer. As a young girl I would design one-off, handmade pieces. I always planned to go to GIA [Gemological Institute of America, in California] after high school but I ended up in Paris studying fashion. Dice Kayek features similar elements to my jewellery – everything we do embodies this concept of handcrafted luxury.”
Why branch into couture after 20 years? Ayse Ege: “Growing up, our grandparents and parents had everything made for them by hand – it’s part of our culture and know-how. From the start so much of our ready-to-wear collection was handcrafted. We knew we wanted to keep the brand hard to find and exclusive, so couture seemed a logical step. Besides, our clients kept asking us for it!”
Does your Turkish heritage inspire your designs? Ece: “We draw inspiration from our country, its traditions and places, but Dice Kayek is about embroidery first. Not many people know this but most of the workers in Paris’ couture ateliers are from Turkey. They emigrated in the 1970s and now work as cutters or embroiderers at the big houses. Nobody understands this heritage quite like the Turks.”
Who is buying couture today? Ayse: “Everybody. On one hand, it’s niche with women who exclusively buy couture. But recently we did a sale on Moda Operandi and regular women were buying pieces online that were over US$30,000! Our clients tend to be Middle Eastern, Americans or Russians. Nationality aside, one thing they have in common is a desire to be different. They are fanatical about quality and understand it. Even though they are young, they know what they want.”
Do you think couture will disappear? Ayse: “It shouldn’t die and won’t die. Yes, couture is expensive to handle, but if you do exceptional things you will always have a niche clientele. Many maisons have stopped doing couture because it is very time-consuming. There will always be a demand but you can’t always supply because of the time [it takes to produce the goods]. Recently we have seen more haute-couture schools pop up in France because young people are interested to learn. This is a good sign.”
Do you think there’s a place for technology in the world of couture? Ayse: “In some ways it can work. It’s helped in terms of advancements with textiles and fabrics, but cutting and stitching should always be done by hand. Hands can feel, robots can’t. Before you finish a jacket you have to feel it, see it and wear it, before you can perfect it. A computer can’t do that.”
Ece and Ayse Ege were in Hong Kong to launch their ready-to-wear line at Harvey Nichols.