30 Jan

An Inspiring Talk with Upcoming Talent Sebnem Günay

A few weeks ago, designer Sebnem Günay came to our attention with her catchy, and colorful collection. In case you missed the article and you need to virtually escape these dark winter days, we suggest you just click on this link.

New brands seem to be popping up like mushrooms. It’s a trend we can only support because the more, the merrier. However… we need to admit that a rather high percentage of these new appearances aren’t that appealing to us. In between all of the same same but different, SEBNEMGUNAY jumped out. Her collection presents a touch of freshness and individuality that gets us excited.

Sebnem is only 23 and born in a family working in the fashion business. During her short career she won the Best Design Award at the Who’s Next fair in Paris. In March she’s about to throw her fifth runway show during Istanbul Fashion Week. Let’s say it was about time to ask this interesting young lady a few questions.

Through your family you were in touch with the fashion business from a very young age. Have you always known that you wanted to pursue a career in fashion or become a designer?

Initially I never thought about creating my own brand, I rather expected to go work for my father on the business side. Also, I grew up in a small village in Belgium where there wasn’t a school nearby to study fashion at such a young age. So I chose to go for a degree in commerce instead.

Things changed when I reached the age of 17. Like every summer we went to Turkey for the holidays but after a few weeks of chilling my sister and  I got bored. So my father signed us up for a summer course in fashion design. There I met my teacher Raf Stesmans, who graduated at the Royal Academy of Antwerp. He was the one who convinced me to start a bachelor in fashion design in Istanbul after I graduated from high school in Belgium.

Why did you decide to study fashion in Istanbul and not London, Antwerp, Paris or Brussels?

Antwerp was actually top-of-mind. But it’s one of the best fashion schools in the world and some experience is required when you want to get in. I had never even taken drawing lessons before that summer course. It was thanks to Raf Stesmans that I chose to move to Istanbul and take my chance at the Moda Academy. The initial plan was to go back to Antwerp afterwards but things turned out quite differently.

During a summer course in London I was seriously considering to do my final year over there. But after three weeks I just had the feeling that I didn’t need to be there so I returned to Istanbul. Honestly, I never regretted my decision to stay in Turkey because I wouldn’t have reached what I have reached now.

Interview Sebnem Günay
Interview Sebnem Günay

You both studied fashion design and a master in fashion management. Would you recommend this to people who want to become a designer or start their own label?

I would definitely recommend combining both of these studies. In fashion design you learn how to draw and make a collection but you have no knowledge of pricing, marketing, planning and so on. You can make the  most beautiful collection but if it’s not commercial enough, there’s just no future. I always had portability and pricing in mind while I was designing, even as a graduate student. For me it was essential to be able to wear and sell my collection.

How do people look at fashion in Istanbul? Is the style from youngsters in Turkey different than in the Western European countries or the U.S. and does this affect your creative process?

The past 4 years things have changed in Turkey, people are creating a style true to their own person. Also, youngsters in Istanbul dare to dress more out of the box. In Belgium you don’t see a lot of color on the streets, that’s totally different in Istanbul. The Turks have more of an “I don’t care” mentality. They don’t necessarily want to play it safe. If you have a look at my collection, I’m quite sure this way of dressing inspired me.

At the moment your style is very 80’s, 90’s inspired, influenced by street style and hiphop which resulted in beautiful colored sweats and puffers. How do you see your style evolving in the future?

I don’t know how the shapes will evolve but two things that will always return are bright colors and at least one striped print. Of course some basics will be added but color is very important to me. And the plan is to also add accessories like shoes and watches to the collection and open a few stores in the typical colorful SEBNEMGUNAY style. A collab with an international brand such as Nike or Puma would also be a dream coming true.

You’re 23 so you grew up in the social media era. How did Instagram, Facebook,… help to build your brand?

If I have to be completely honest, I never used social media for me as a person. I had a Facebook and Instagram account but I barely posted any pictures. Even when I just launched my business, I wasn’t extremely focussed on social media. Till 5 months ago I only had around 1700 followers. This left me with the impression that it would take loads of time to grow a social fan base. Everything evolved when I launched my online shop, this commercial change made me delve into Instagram because I needed this social medium to sell my collection. At the moment I have more than 10K followers and it keeps on growing. Instagram just became an important part of my job.

What do you think about influencers who want to promote the brand? Do you still believe in this business?

That the right influencers can help  boost your brand is undeniable. It  ‘s thanks to famous Turkish celebs / influencers that SEBNEMGUNAY has grown on Instagram. A few weeks ago a famous TV personality wore my jacket on TV and it sold like crazy afterwards.

How do you maintain a healthy balance between your work and private life?

I have to admit that at the moment I don’t really have a personal life, I work at least 12 hours a day. A few years ago I used to go to the gym at least two days a week, now it’s maybe twice a month if I’m lucky. My family and friends aren’t too happy about it but building my brand is just very important to me right now.

We’re sure you had your fair share of failures, like anybody else. How do you react to failure? And what do you do to get back up?

It may be a weird thing to say but I haven’t had real failures up to now. Or  maybe it’s also how I see things. When something bothers me, I can be sad about it but I always try to move forward instead of dwelling on the negative aspects in life. Of course I have been disappointed in certain people or situations. But that’s also a part of life I guess.

What positive and negative things did the business teach you? And which lessons will you remember for the rest of your life?

Definitely a positive side is that I get to know a lot of new, interesting people. One of the negative things I learned is that besides yourself, you can never trust anyone for 100%.


What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a career in fashion or start their own brand?

For me school has been essential, everything I learned to start my career was while studying and getting help from my teachers. Also, you really need to want something and work very, very hard.

INSTAGRAM: @sebnemgunayofficial

FACEBOOK: Sebnem Gunay Official

Photo credits: ENFNTS TERRIBLES, Elien Jansen

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