In the first of an occasional series looking at new retail concepts abroad, Clare Dowdy visits Istanbul to check out a lifestyle emporium with a modern slant on the traditional bazaar. The result is a one-stop-shop for modern design
Turkey has not traditionally been associated with contemporary design, at least when it comes to home interiors. There are a few product and interior designers who are making waves internationally – Derin for homeware, Autoban’s furniture, Mahmut Anlar, Emir Uras and Gokhan Avcioglu for restaurants and bars – but most of what actually goes on in Turkey is less than cutting edge.
However, the hunger for contemporary, European design is there, as is the spending power, according to local entrepreneur Funda Akin, who has set up the country’s first design emporium. Called Addres Istanbul, it consists of three floors of furniture and lifestyle retailers, many of which have never had a presence in Turkey before, or have never operated their own store.
Addres is relying on a growing appetite for homeware from Turkey’s middle class consumers. As Akin explains, at 9 per cent, home decoration is the third biggest retail sector in Turkey, and it is an $8bn (£4.5bn) market. ABC1s account for 60 per cent of consumption for home decoration, compared with 40 per cent for clothing, which is a $7bn (£3.9bn) market.
‘What’s more, I could tell that the home decoration sector was going to grow, because Turkey was starting to stabilise and, once an economy stabilises, the real estate and mortgage markets boom,’ says Akin, who previously worked for the management consultancy McKinsey in Istanbul.
The Turks are rapidly evolving from a nation of tenants to a nation of homeowners. Mortgages were recently introduced and 400 000 houses are now being built in Turkey each year.
All these properties will need decking out and, until Addres opened in November 2005, the homeware offer was fragmented, to say the least. The city is dotted with the odd B&B Italia showroom and an Ikea opened in May, but for contemporary design, that was about it. Addres itself is the work of well-respected local architect Emre Arolat. The 120 000m2 space includes free-standing glass boutiques, polished – and slightly hazardous-looking – raised concrete walkways between the stores, an exposed ceiling and room for the tasteful café concession Kitchenette.
The whole $4m (£2.2m) emporium is darker and slower-paced than a conventional shopping centre, and that, says Akin, was intentional. It aims to act as a destination, not just for shopping, but for the whole lifestyle package. Hence her plans for regular design and art exhibitions, and a gourmet section on the ground floor, with wine-tasting and cookery classes.
The overall impression is a modern day take on Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar – street upon street of traders, grouped by category. The category here may be lifestyle, and the environs less cramped and more serene, but it still works as an analogy.
Akin struggled to attract the big overseas names to Addres, for those that already had an Istanbul presence were not prepared to open another. Instead, she signed up some of the best-in-category stores, such as Bang & Olufsen for home audio, and local company Step for carpets. Other retailers using Addres as their first foray into Turkey include Maison Riviera from The Netherlands, Hilker from Germany and Becara from Spain.
Meanwhile, some Turkish brands are choosing to trial their first retail offer at Addres. QTOO, which produces Scandinavian-style homeware and supplies Ikea, is one such retailer.
Akin has a sense of responsibility, not just to the success of Addres, but to the success of the Turkish homeware sector as a whole. ‘It’s very immature,’ she says, ‘We need to upgrade the sector’s image.’ So she has plans for loyalty cards and direct mail, all backed up by Addres’s advertising strapline, ‘you are your house’.