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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Press Snippets: Politics of Style and Culture

By Adelind Osmanlı reporting from Munich, Germany

Screencap of reportTurkish paper Milliyet has published an interview with the latest female stylist to work with Tarkan, Ceyda Balaban (see left pic).

In Pelin Çini's article for Milliyet, 33 year-old Balaban reveals that after showcasing her jacket on Tarkan at his Taksim show, the messages have been flowing in to her Facebook and Twitter accounts, which have made her want to "cry from joy".

Media blog TarkanPLUS - recently relocated from Blogger to Wordpress - has published Balaban's account on Twitter as http://twitter.com/jadabalaban.

The Taksim Jacke'T'

Tarkan's jacket in the Turkish pressIn the report, Balaban talks about the making of the metal studded jacket Tarkan wore for the Taksim concert with the word 'Istanbul' studded into the back and a large 'T' to signify Tarkan, which garnered wide coverage in the Turkish press.

"I didn't measure Tarkan. I can tell a person's measurements just by looking at them. That's the way I work. I just need to take one look."

Explaining that Tarkan's shoes, jeans, belt and gloves were purchased by her assistant in England, the fashion designer added that they worked with Adamo Leather and Fur in Turkey for the jacket.

"We made the jacket from a very special leather ... it was feather light for ease of movement, waterproof just in case it rained at the concert, and chemically aged to enhance his bad boy image.

"I didn't give the people attaching the studs a wink of sleep for two days. When it got to 600 metal studs they called me, I said, 'Carry on.' Finally they call me and say, 'There's now six thousand of them, have you gone mad?' I said, 'It's not important, we're sewing for Tarkan. Carry on studding.'"

Balaban notes that she "nearly died" while she waited for the jacket to arrive on the day of the concert.

"The roads were closing for the show at four-thirty in the afternoon, the jacket arrived at four. I don't make measurement mistakes, but still this is Tarkan we're talking about. Anyway, the jacket was a perfect fit."

Known for not liking smoking, Balaban says the artist showed his pleasure by allowing her to smoke.

"He turned to me and said, 'You can light up now.'"

"No Need to Dress Tarkan Up"

In the Milliyet interview Balaban also talks about working with Tarkan, and having known him summarily in the Nineties since the time of Tarkan's ex-manager, Ahmet San. "But this project is the first time we've worked together," she says.

Indicating that they started working on his hair first, and made the natural transition to his wardrobe, the designer says Tarkan is beautiful enough.

"He is a perfect gentleman. Polite, handsome, an exquisite man. You could listen to him speak for hours. That's why it was great working with him. We got on very well. I told him I wanted to see a Tarkan that's a little more crazy and natural. He agreed. The man is so handsome that there's no reason to dress him up anyway."

Although Balaban states in the report that working with celebrities is stressful and she is mindful it could make or break her career, she says she and Tarkan will continue their professional relationship, but she cannot say what direction the style will take.

Tarkan's Dame Designers

Tarkan has a history of working with female stylists and putting his image in their hands.

In 1997/8 during his Ölürüm Sana he paired up with nature lover and fashion designer Bahar Korçan, while during his Karma period he worked with fashion designer Dice Kayek - even taking the catwalk at her Paris fashion show in 2001.

In following years, the star took a hiatus from female designers to reportedly work with his own team, taking a more hands-on approach to his look.

Subsequent reports suggest his 2006 Come Closer look, and his more masculine 2007 Metamorfoz style was achieved with the help of his long-term male hair stylist Yıldırım Özdemir and male photographer Tamer Yılmaz.

Now Tarkan is back to working with a female designer - this time London based, Turkish stylist Balaban.

Who is Balaban?

Although Balaban's jacket for Tarkan's Taksim concert has been widely favoured by the artist's fan community, Tarkan Deluxe's variety reporter Kaya Turan had queried in a recent post Tarkan's teaming up with Balaban, when there were higher profile Turkish designers available.

The Milliyet article seems to speak in response to Turan's question, "who is Balaban?

"There is no doubt that [she] will dress up Tarkan well - but compare Balaban to another British stylist - Turkish Cypriot Hüseyin Çağlayan (a.k.a Hussein Chalayan) who has dressed the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Lady GaGa and Katy Perry - why not try and work with him?"

Balaban, having first worked with American R&B singer/songwriter Kelis and Turkish acts Kenan Doğulu, Yalın and girl group Hepsi, is also currently pushing her Jada Balaban label.

The Milliyet article states that she hasn't had time to get a website for her label up and running at time of writing.

Swearing Off Style

Moving on - but not too far away - Meral Simson, writing for Yeni Asır has broached upon an ever increasing taboo subject of fashion and fur, in her article "Cold Air Chic" mentioning celebrities who have refused to swear off wearing fur.

Simson also talks about Tarkan as a trendsetter for males wearing fur in Turkey, after he was spotted with a fur-lined design on the cover of his 2006 English language début album Come Closer.

Under the sub-heading "Trail Blazer Tarkan", she writes, "Even if the men in our country are usually not as brave as their male counterparts in other parts of the world, fur has become fashionable amongst them, too. Megastar Tarkan, who has been living in America for the past few years, can be said to be the first among Turkish men to start this trend."

In her piece Simson fails to mention, however, that PETA campaigned against Tarkan getting him to swear off fur, with the recording artist reportedly taking part in a photo shoot for the global animal rights organisation last year.

Urban Culture Bites

In other reports, four writers in their columns discuss the intricacies of Istanbul's urban culture, with two journalists ironically querying Tarkan's role while, in contrast, two bloggers see Tarkan as an integral part of it.

Left-wing paper Radikal's Kaan Sezyum mentions the celebrations for Istanbul being awarded the title of European Capital of Culture this year, but not without a dig at Tarkan and the other celebrity choices for the inauguration.

Questioning what culture means, and coming to the conclusion that it is a process of accumulation, "Tarkan showed off our culture in Taksim ... but we could argue about how much part of Istanbul Tarkan really is," Sezyum notes.

And criticising the government for the insufficient way it has dealt with the sudden snow that has disabled parts of Istanbul, an article in socialist paper SoLpostaL can't help but hark back to the irony of the extravagant Istanbul celebrations.

"[The government] was criticised for flaunting 2010 with a Tarkan concert. But credit where it's due, Tarkan actually indicated this sad situation put forward by a few debilitating snowflakes. He uncovered all the false hullabaloo of those commercials, brochures, and political machinations."

Quoting from Tarkan's track "Hepsi Senin Mi" (Şıkıdım) (A-acayipsin, 1994), the article says with a huge dose of irony, "For those thinking they can hide the truth under make-up, Tarkan spoke with his cultured mouth, 'Come to me as you are, or don't come at all!' It was a send up in warning to a city that surrenders itself so easily to the cold, 'Don't dance, don't shake your body'..."

The TarkanPLUS blogsHowever, in its archives TarkanPLUS has posted that a Turkish TV station broadcast street reports which indicated that a majority of the public had no idea about the city's 2010 inauguration as a Capital of Culture until Tarkan got involved with the project.

TarkanPLUS suggests therefore that, notwithstanding the criticism of using popular culture, at least it helped to bring the word out on the street to the city's inhabitants.

The media blog has reopened after a brief period away, bringing news and opinion about Tarkan and Turkish popular culture to its readers from paper-based and internet sources.

It has also opened an English section, TarkanPLUS International.

Elsewhere, Milliyet blogger Ata Kemal Şahin, in his post about Turkish city life, talks about the eccentricities of its people, from its morbid fascination with other's misfortune to the risks of road rage.

Using Tarkan as an example, symbolic of the refined city person's taste, he writes: "As you're driving in your car listening to Tarkan has a minibus hit you from behind? You're going to pay even if it's impossible for that baby lorry to have gotten damaged from the impact ... and forget the fairytale that whoever hits you from behind is 100% at fault!"

Good and Bad Politics

Meanwhile, writing for Haberturk, Mehmet Ali Kılıçbay complains about the undeserved special status afforded to politicians in Turkey, and uses Tarkan as an example.

Touching upon the special grades of passport issued in Turkey, notably the "green passport" that is issued to public servants to allow them more ease in international travel, "What's worse world famous Tarkan doesn't have the benefit of a green passport, but a first grade public servant can," he points out.

And finally, another Haberturk report, also picked up by Hürriyet, covers the results from polling five countries in the European Union, which reveal that Tarkan is the second most well-known name amongst Europeans after the republic's founder, Atatürk, while beating the current Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who came in third place.

Additionally the five countries - France, Britain, Germany, Spain and Poland - polled show that the younger population look favourably towards Turkish integration into the bloc.

"Support grows as age goes down, and it becomes less as age rises," project coordinator Professor Hakan Yılmaz told a news conference on Saturday, Today's Zaman also writes.

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