Finding the probability of overcoming the dichotomies and critical junctions that cause the existential crisis the fashion industry is in currently undergoing is difficult. However, identifying those junctions is an important beginning step. How much of the Earth’s needs we can fulfill through repairing and moving in slower steps? What creates demand? Who shapes the nature of demand? What may be factor that changes perspective? Can you find the middle ground through sinking and swimming? Ask your questions and then do your own ‘battın mı çıktın mı?’ test. In order to start from somewhere.
As the founders of Atelier Tenera, we (Defne&Ela) decided to interview each other and prepared questions to ask one another. We thought these questions might bring up interesting topics, take us to unexpected places and attract your attention (appeal to your interests.) Therefore we wanted to invite you to our intimate (genuine) chat.
D: First, let's introduce ourselves. I am currently on my final year in university as an architecture student, I joined the fashion industry through Tenera simultaneously.
E: Meanwhile, I study textile design. I majored in print and knitting, and this year I'm doing an internship and will continue my last year in college next year. We started Tenera in the summer of 2019, and since then, we have had this special thing that is like a baby to us.
D: Tenera, which we aim to develop consistently, started out as a textile design project. Aside from this, it turned into an organization where we can deliver workshops, attend various events, meet with people interested in our work, do lots of chatting, and aim to design other products that do not fall under fashion.
E: Tenera is a place where we can display our creativity. It's a project where we inspire from projects we have already been developing, our portfolios, and then tailor them to fit our field, that is, fashion.
D: Actually, in the beginning, the idea of starting Tenera developed from our state of constantly developing and our wish to utilize our work.
E: Absolutely, we were upset by the fact that at a time, we were in the same school benefitting from each other's work, our works stayed in the corner of our house and weren’t put into any use.
D: With these thoughts in mind, we rapidly created Tenera in about a month and a half in a summer vacation.
E: You know what, this was actually my first question to you.
D: Ask away.
E: When trying to define Tenera, are you challenged as much as I am?
D: Absolutely, I am challenged. When creating Tenera, our goal was to create an environment where we could see all the events we wanted to do, the products we wanted to design, all the techniques we wanted to try, prints we wanted to produce, the stories we wanted to tell….can come true.
E: Neither our photoshoots, our way of working, nor our production process was according to the rules followed by regular fashion brans. Our brand is also like a student, by the courage and experimental ways and a bit of an 'amateur creativity' yields of being a student ve created our own ways and rules.
D: Absolutely. In our shoots, our friends were always the models. We took the pictures; we did the editing. We make everything happen by constantly running around and working. In quarantine, in the days we weren't seeing anyone, we dyed our own products, produced them, and modeled them as well.
E: Yes...because of this definition, Tenera has always been a challenge for us
D: We always followed a more fragmental path rather than having the holistic mindset of many fashion brands that mainly cares about the finished product. The path we followed leading to the finished product has always been different than a regular fashion brand. Exploring unknown techniques and constantly pushing our limits. For instance, I tried to be a textile designer as an architecture student.
E: Well put. Tenera has been about the process for us rather than a product or a final destination. The people we meet in this process, the stories we hear, anything that helped or challenged us, everyone and everything had a say on the finished product. Maybe all fashion brands follow this path in the beginning, but it won't be this way for us only in the beginning but rather, this process will be constant in our brand because our identity is built on experimenting with new techniques and methods.
D: I have a question for Ela, how do you see Tenera in the future?
E: I think I see Tenera as an experience we create with people, something experience-based. Activities, creating something as a group, preparing events...
D: Yes, we really like to have a collective spirit. We value selling our products ourselves and meeting new people. In the future, I would love to appeal to different people with both the products we design, the techniques we use, and the way we present these. We finished our second year as a brand, and the previous year we did a project with Mor Çatı and donated the profits we made from the 'Ayşe Fatma' dresses we produced for this collaboration. This absolutely makes us feel a lot more peaceful and happy. We really want to continue down this road, share our experiences in events that encourage creativity, and move forward in a collective path.
E: Painting events, events where we explore the process of natural dying, we would like to expand in this direction. Expansion isn't necessarily being a brand everyone wears or wants to have, in my opinion. Tenera has always appealed to do people it crossed paths with in some form, and we would like to progress in this direction. I'm continuing then... What are the general expectations from ethical and sustainable brands, and how does Tenera stay outside the generalized opinions in regards to how an ethical and sustainable brand should look like?
D: That's a very nice question. I'll answer it. When you say you are a natural brand, people expect you to be more pastel and like flowy, less structured... I may have to blame Pinterest for that.
E: I agree! Please go to Pinterest and search for sustainable fashion. This really is what is expected of us. Some people even act as if the images they see on Pinterest are a direct representation of our brand.
D: I agree they do, but really it isn't even close. With natural dyes, dyes that come from stones or coal sometimes create a blue that you can never see when you search for naturally dyed products online.
E: I think here we can see that sometimes sustainability is redacted into a trend. A visual trend that displays sustainability as something that is intertwined with nature and can not be anyone but it.
E: On the other hand, I really love these colors and designs.
D: We really do love it
E: Some part of me, the anarchist within me, wants to make designs that look like disco balls and show that you can reach this aesthetic with ethical, natural ingredients. By the way, Defne knits sequined hats, but unfortunately, we haven't moved on to the mass production of them.
D: Of course, since we don't want to use plastic, we couldn't go into production for this product yet. But who knows, maybe we may even begin making natural sequin replicas.
E: Then we can move on to a new question. What was Tenera's biggest difference for you when comparing it to being an art student?
D: Everything... although I am living a student life with a heavy workload. I take my job really seriously. The only thing that surprises me every time is that in school, there are no such things as doing a quick project. In the projects I do, of course, it's also related to the fact that I study architecture; there is a serious and long process. Coming up with an idea, developing it bit by bit, becoming familiar with it, adaptation process, additions...There are multiple steps like developing it technically and visually. You can't rush them; you have to do one thing at a time.
E: So the tempo is the biggest difference?
D: Exactly, the tempo. I want it to be perfect when going through these steps. It's the same with Tenera. The same with ceramics. When molding the mud, I check five times to make sure there aren't any bubbles left inside. However, with Tenera, we have to make decisions and take action rapidly. Because we are not the only ones contributing to the process of production, there are third parties involved. We have to respect the schedule of those third parties like mediation companies and manufacturers etc. I think this is the biggest difference, the pace, tempo, and overall process.
E: Actually, our production process is a lot slower when compared to other fashion brands; in fact, one of our slogans is to 'embrace the slow'; however, the business world has a whole another tempo, and there are a lot of factors that aren't dependent on us.
E: We know fashion is one of the leading sectors when it comes to harming the world and humans. I want to ask what upsets you the most about the fashion industry today?
D: What upsets me the most is the horrifying working conditions of workers for 1 dollar an hour in large-scale fast fashion brands. It truly distresses me how they both use the earth's resources unconsciously and make one shirt for 5 dollars.
E: I agree; they treat those workers like slaves. Of course, people want jobs, they want to work, but unfortunately, they can't get the condition and wages they deserve in this sector. The demand for cheap labor even causes significant issues in terms of health in the sector.
D: Ela and I went to an exhibit in Paris. It was about the effects of new and advanced technologies on governments and craftsmen. Particularly in 'lesser developed countries, the people who used to make, for instance, leather craftsmanship, or fabric dyers know make fake phones, create cotton or polyester clothing for 1 dollar. As long as this is the demand, they have no other option to survive and make a living…... What upsets you the most?
E: The concept of trends. The 'trends' that are obligated to develop constantly being an outside factor that determines the way people dress and force individuals to consume because of the fear of being outdated.
D: The concept of trend is a fixed element of today's fashion because it's a significant force that increases both production and consumption and helps the fashion economy to remain stable.
E: I think the biggest war of 'sustainable' and 'slow' fashion should be against trends. Because the beginning of a change can be achieved through a shift in the consumer mindset and we can see that through new designers and producers inspiring others. People should really start dressing up for themselves now.
D: I agree; that is why I believe that local producers should be supposed more. This is currently one of the biggest discussion subjects in the world of fashion. Why don't we take advantage of local resources? Why are we so dependent on external factors? Do we necessarily need pieces from the latest fashion trends to appear fashionable?
E: And getting rid of them all next year and with a wish to have the current trends, start the consumption process again…
D: I have one last bombshell of a question. If Tenera were to be a song, what song would it be?
E: It would absolutely be something with a high rhythm…
D: I want to end this interview by playing a song. When I was discussing this question with my mom, she said that she thought it would be the song of Pulp Fiction. I totally agree. Misirlou-Dick Dale!
See you later:)
Defne & Ela