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In the Bag: Ilkin Kurt

Words by Yu Mei

Ilkin Kurt with the Ch'lita Bag in Croc

Ilkin Kurt wears many hats, and all of them are fabulous. As a fashion stylist, Ilkin’s work encompasses everything from creative direction to styling, buying to brand strategy, and sees her work across offices in Europe, America and Australia. We were first introduced to Ilkin when she featured in our Yu Mei shoot for INPRINT magazine, and she’s been a firm friend since then, always keen to lend a helping hand and a wise ear.

Read on to hear about Ilkin’s love for great design, Turkish baths and watching films in a language you don’t speak.

Career

I have always been a very curious person, which has led me to try different things throughout my career. The most surprising thing for me personally was deciding to stay in Australia, as I always thought I would have continued my career in one of the fashion capitals. Another thing I wasn't planning on was coming back to ‘freelance life’ — I have always liked working with teams, and being part of a company has never bored me. Now I control everything on my own, which is a bit challenging — it definitely has its pros and cons.

I’m driven by collaboration and curation. The word “curate”comes from the Latin “curare”, which means “to take care of”. Putting together a project and taking care of things on the way — in order to show them to the world — is pretty special. When you do this in collaboration with other creatives ( 1 ), it’s always more productive, and the end result is always more effective. It’s also a huge learning curve most of the time, but I love that challenge. The best lesson I’ve learnt in my career is how to say no. The best advice I have is that when you enter a room, leave your ego at the door, work hard and aim big.

I have been into cinema more than ever lately, and in a few years’ time, directing a short film feels like it could be a great outlet, where I could translate all my interest and knowledge into one platform: art, music, script, architecture, costumes and interior design.

Design

I’d describe my style as impulsive, experimental and very intuitive ( I don’t know how people plan outfits the night before ). I’m a huge vintage collector, so improvisation is very important. I like to go into eras like the 90's, 00's, and sometimes even the 30's ( 2 ) — always with a touch of chicness. I like carrying and passing stories via my clothing pieces.

My style has evolved over time through lots of trying and failing! Jokes aside, I am glad that I have never been an ‘only’ woman: only shirts and pants, only dresses, just black...etc. My interests have evolved over the years, and as a reflection of that so have my outfits and my vision. These days it is all about comfort and practicality, quality over quantity.

Design plays a huge role in my life. I believe no other discipline contributes to the positivity of humankind as much as design does. It is everywhere — in your mug that you drink your everyday coffee from, the door handle you grab every morning, or even the sound of the rain when it hits your umbrella. It’s the only practice that mesmerises me on a daily basis. To me, design has two important purposes: to make your life easy or to make it pretty. They don’t have to go together, but when you get both at the same time, that makes me a happy person. Practicality is a new word for me, and I love exploring it.

I get a lot of inspiration from artists and designers like Thelma Golden, Hans Ulrich Obrist, John Baldessari, The Antwerp Six, Ai Weiwei, Cecilia Alemani, Yves Klein, Alvar Aalto, Ezra Petronio, Elizabeth von Guttman... the list goes on and on. All these names have had a vast impact on my career and personal development. Reading, watching and seeing what they do is simply a joy.

Life

During the pandemic, I gained a habit of watching a lot of interviews with artists, directors, scriptwriters and architects. Listening to the process of a film or a project always makes me feel better about myself, as so much work, time and energy goes into them. In a way, hearing about other people’s struggles makes me calm and gives me a sense of moral support. They’re always inspiring.

Utility

I’m quite an organised person. I love having things in order, and being prepared. I know what works for me. The only thing I have become super unorganised about is travelling. I used to make lists of what to see and where to eat, but that habit is completely gone. Now I just go where the wind takes me...

I normally don’t like big bags, as I tend to fill them with super unnecessary stuff, but recently i've discovered how useful the right big bag can be. Generally speaking I just carry my laptop in my hand, or in a canvas tote. But the Yu Mei Teresa Tote has changed my view on this — now I'm going everywhere with it ( 3 ) Especially on my latest Resort 23 trip to Paris, it was a life saver.

Recommendations

My grandmother has had a big impact on my beauty routines. Grandma and I used to go to a Turkish bath — a hammam — every week until I left my hometown to go and study. It is something I crave a lot in Sydney. The heat in a hammam opens the pores of the skin, and all the sweating helps the body get rid of toxins, and stimulates skin renewal. The changes you see to your skin after a Turkish bath are immediately visible, as it helps the body shed the layer of dead skin and gives you an instant brightness. I take a bath quite often at home, and use Turkish silk gloves to remove the dead skin. I use Such Skincare’s Balance Oil after every bath.

Lately I’ve been taking a huge break from Netflix and the likes. Being in Europe has been such a blessing, and all I watch is the local movies at outdoor cinemas when I’m in Italy or Turkey. It’s almost more enjoyable when you don’t speak the language, because you pay closer attention to the gestures, expressions, costumes, and so on. Everything becomes so new and fresh.

When it comes to my favourite stores, I really like Andreas Murkudis and Voo Store in Berlin, Poepke in Sydney and Palais De Tokyo’s bookshop in Paris. Each store has its own vibe that they’ve maintained for so long, and I highly admire and respect that.

[1] Like Sinead Boucher, Ilkin Kurt is driven by collaboration. She notes that creating with others is always more productive and effective. A view we can agree with!

[2] One of Yu Mei's founding principles is the idea of utility, being able to carry your laptop and lunchbox with ease is essential for a modern woman, and the Teresa Tote is the perfect accompaniment.

[3] Ilkin describes her sense of style as impulsive, experimental and very intuitive. An avid vintage collector, she ventures into fashion eras from the 90’s to the 30’s — with her wardrobe rule being quality over quantity, an element important in Regeneration.

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