Interview by Irıs Işık
Photographer: Melisa Su Akar
We have known you as a director in different art galleries in Istanbul and New York; For the last few years, you have been creating designs with meticulous details under the brand 10:AM. So what brought you to 10:AM on your journey that started in the art world? What is the story behind the brand?
I can say that I found the most missing aspect of the art world at 10AM. We opened a group exhibition in Chelsea, New York in 2013, there was a work of Andy Warhol in it, we planned a grand opening, and our visitors that night did not even exceed 200… So sorry that you can reach the audience in the art world even if you choose the work of one of the most well-known artists in the world which can be very sterile. On the other hand, with the new world, new interaction equations and the power of social media, you can get 1,000,000 views in a day when you produce products that you convey your ideas to. I think I can sum it up better by answering a stereotypical question; Is art for art? Or for the people? Actually for both; Unfortunately, the absence of one prevents art from existing. Even the invoice of my first company had the words "If Something is beautiful, everyone sees it". I believe in this very much. You should always be very good at what you do and have a promotional space to bring it to the masses. 10AM has created a world for me that connects these two worlds and allows me to breathe.
When we look at the slogans and illustrations in the 10:AM collections, we can see that the brand bears traces of its relationship with art. At what point do these two different fields converge and begin to feed each other? There is a process that extends from the formation of the idea to the fact that it is put on paper and takes its place on the hanger. How is this process going at 10:AM?
I think the artist; A person who deals with issues related to his/her life uniquely and aesthetically. As an old artist, I can say that I discovered a way to convey my ideas by creating myself in a field that I do not want to call "fashion". There are many issues related to myself and the world that I am interested in. Most of the time, I get stuck when I can't transfer those issues completely. The starting point of all designs that I can convey my ideas to is already ready in my mind. When I knead some ideas and visualize them, I share them with my team. The decision-making process among the alternatives proceeds by exchanging ideas with my team, since I am a manager/designer who wants everyone to be involved in the process. Except for the designs, the process is; since product groups are already determined one year in advance, the whole team knows what product will be released in which month, category and color variations. In fact, most of the time, we finalize it with consensus and start to discuss the marketing field, then the side that reflects on you. The subject of the month is detailed, the appropriate shooting mode is drawn and the planning begins. Our biggest plus is of course Sude Alkış's eye and Instagram dominance. In order for us to get the great interactions I mentioned above, each image and video is planned and implemented one by one with every detail.
The digital world also requires multidimensional thinking. Especially for storytellers… What kind of formulas do you construct the story/message you intend to deliver with 10:AM? What determines your strategies from the first stage of design to social media communication?
Storytellers is a very accurate definition. But for us, it may be more accurate to say that we are still searching our story. Sometimes when I look for an image, I scan our past posts and realize how much we've improved. Not in a technical sense, but because we can express our problems more accurately and pass them on to the other side. I think the most important formula in the overall 10AM world comes from being ourselves. 10AM has been always in its own way and has continued like that, we always have had our own problems and we always tried to convey it. For example, our need for a swimsuit arose from the lack of a comfortable sexy form of swimwear; We do not support the "risky" swimwear trend and want our comfort back! We built a story on it, demanding more revisions to suit it, and produced bikini and swimsuit patterns that we brought to the perfect form, we wanted everyone to be natural and comfortable even during the shootings. If you take a look at our current feed, you can feel how calm, raw yet sexy it is with the raw and comfortable frames without retouching.
There is a business world where a single professional identity is not enough. In addition to being a designer, in which areas do you need to be most present as a founder and director of a brand? Or let's say: in which areas do you like to produce, if we put your founding identity aside? What is the priority for you?
I actually had a lot of experience in management as I've managed so many projects and teams before, but for two years I've actually been learning to run a company and it was something that totally changed the game. In fact, I have to be everywhere at any time, I have to plan and follow everything in advance, but I have to admit that it is very tiring to manage finances and also design simultaneously. For example; Even a single piece of swimsuit has 12 different details that need to be approved, not to mention other things that only apply to product production. But I love the production side of the business and I would even like to be only on the production side. The infrastructure of our company in Turkey is established and works smoothly. When the system of our company in New York is fully established, I want to transfer the management part and only be on the design-production side. It is an indescribable feeling for me to design a product out of nothing, bring it to life and see it on our community.
The modest influence of street culture on fashion trends in the 1990s has become quite dominant over the past few years. We can see bold styles that are fed from different identities and do not hesitate to express their thoughts everywhere. So, what kind of discourse does 10:AM have in street style? What messages do you want to send?
First of all, I would like to say that we do not and will not follow any trends, because we do not position ourselves in fashion. We are a brand that prefers to distribute our ideas with textile products. Textile is just a tool for us and I hope it stays that way. Our bond with street culture stems from our closeness to sociology. In 2009, I opened an exhibition where all my works were seen at the same time, I was awarded the Young Artist of the Year Award (Akbank Contemporary Artists), and for the first time, my work was included in a very good collection. I received this award not only because my work is well painted and beautiful, but also because it has a story. I would like to add a very short excerpt from an interview I gave at that time;
‘’ Sometimes I just capture photographs. I see old cars around that look like they have aged. They are not appreciated by people who use them. Until now I haven’t met anyone who dreams of acquiring an Anadol car. This is what I paint in detail. In the background there are sometimes more luxurious cars, a grocery market, a house with blue blinds and trees, somehow like the little inconsistencies in our lives. I do not make car paint- ings because I like them. What interests me about them is their outsider status, their solitude. ‘’
Even back then; I was relating to the story behind it, not a house, a car, or clothes as a product. And you can see that this hasn't changed in the world we've created.
10AM is not yet transparent and bold enough, or I would say not in my understanding. But sociological readings and reflections will always continue.
One of the factors in the adoption of street culture even by high fashion is that everything that comes out of the street is unique and individual. What aspects of street culture dominate 10:AM the most? How are the colors and sounds coming out of this reflected in the 10:AM collections?
As I said, the street is an area where we live and it is impossible not to be affected by it. In my designs, on the other hand, I am more interested in silence, apart from colors and sounds. We worked on this in the Fear of What? series as well, and I want it to continue. I think that the clear facts that we know, live and that will affect us in the future are never spoken and everyone is silent about it. For example, there is a huge generation that uses drugs intensively and nobody talks about it. I'm working on a design related to this right now.
Street wear comes to life with various perspectives in different geographies. For example, while the Japanese take a more innovative approach to American street fashion, European brands approach streetwear conceptually. Where does 10:AM position itself in this world?
I can talk for hours about American and European contemporary art approaches, but unfortunately I can't say anything about the fashion world. 10AM is not a fashion brand and does not position itself in the fashion world though.
Although trends actually tell us a lot to understand our day, they can sometimes be seen as "instant" and "temporary". How do you follow trends? When it comes to prominent trends, what do you buy and what do you quickly move away from in designs?
I think trends are so boring and not subjective at all. It is not a world we want to be in, managing the masses by homogenizing and directing consumption. That's why I do not follow. I always prioritize style over trend. It's hard to believe, but I'm not someone who likes to shop at all. Our dream is to only wear 10AM one day. Even when I was a little girl, my dream was to have my own tailor when I grow up, to make the clothes I want.
Fear of What, your ninth collection of t-shirts that you released last April, invites everyone to find their own nature and live themselves as they are. It promises a future that does not allow to be ruled by taboos and leaves fears behind. How do you think it is possible in the dynamics of today's world to break taboos, get away from fears and become truly free? In this sense, what does 10:AM's new collection tell us?
Yes, I prepared that design inspired by the "Social Animals" exhibition that I curated in 2013.
“Sociology begins with two simple elements: human behavior has a regular and repetitive pattern, and human beings are in fact a social animal, not an isolated creature.” Ely Chinoy
In order for you to understand the story that we want to give with the t-shirts, I should talk a little bit about the exhibition.
Social Animals was an exhibition focusing on the dialogue between ethics and human values through social psychology, an interdisciplinary field that bridges the gap between psychology and sociology. The definition of truly liberating is very broad and can be drawn to many places, but self-emancipation is certainly possible. You can say this is easy to say but difficult to implement, but we did it, we worked hard, we questioned a lot, but we did it. I can't say in only our country because the most difficult thing in the whole world is psychology and the most difficult question is who are you actually? Concepts of self-definition and self-liberation. That's why we follow people and their psychologies, not trends, we want to reflect our thoughts on our products and create a community with those who think like us, and we want to strengthen and support each other.
This collection also feeds on your curatorial identity and is based on the Social Animals exhibition you curated in 2013. In the exhibition, artists Mehmet Dere, Sibel Diker, Süha Şahin, Merve Şendil, Halil Vurucuoğlu, Lara Ögel paint a society that can live the lives we live away from questioning and seeking balance. In which details do we see the traces of this society in question in the Fear of What collection?
Each artist was presenting a process of negotiation between leaving the existing as it is or questioning and identifying the problems. One of the artists, Merve Şendil (who is also my close friend), prepared reflections and demonstrations on how desires and expectations are formed in daily life and how they are staged. The most striking title of this t-shirt is the embossed Fear of What lettering on the back, followed by "Its 2022, You can live as you desire." We really wanted to question and remind that the year is 2022 and we still cannot live as we dreamed. On the front, under the logo, we chose a side, Right? Wrong? Neither? Here, we stated that the concepts of right and wrong are variable and that we are always on the with the "neither" option. Because we wanted to underline that everyone should have their own truth. There is also a little Andy Warhol inspiration under the t-shirt; one of his first graphic works and he founded The Factory, which brings together everyone who is similar to him. That's where our full company name, 10AM FACTORY, comes from. Andy Warhol is my great source of inspiration with his life, not his work. What I learned from him is that I can say "You can live as you desire".
Fear of What and Raw&Sexy are fairly new collections, but since we know how productive you are at 10:AM, we have to ask: What other projects do you have on your agenda for the near future?
Of course, we already have a lot of designs and product groups for the 2023 season, but there is a pop up store project that excites us in the near future. As you know, since we are a brand that came out with Corona, we only had sales from 10am.shop, we are creating a pop up store where you can physically contact our products for the first time and we plan to continue throughout the summer. But the big news that really excites us is that we are moving to New York with Sude. So, you will now see more of the 10AM team on the streets of New York with new projects.