Souq Dükkan’s Christmas market at Soho House Berlin
As part of Little Istanbul Week, members had a chance to fill their stockings with gifts by local artists and makers at Yaprak Aras’s curated marketplace. Here, we talk to Aras and designer Olivia Ballard, one of the makers who took part
By Ollie Horne. Photography by Emmanuel Ofori
Soho House Berlin recently invited Istanbul-based boutique and retail platform, Souq Dükkan, to curate a Christmas market at the House. The founder, Yaprak Aras, launched Souq in 2014 as a side hustle alongside her position as features editor at Vogue Turkey, before quitting her job and pursuing Souq Dükkan full time. As well as holding regular markets in Istanbul and Berlin, Souq now has permanent stores in both cities and a flourishing online retail presence.
Among the makers present at the Christmas market was Olivia Ballard, a Berlin-based designer who launched her own fashion brand in 2020. She creates unisex clothing out of mesh and celebrates the tactility of textiles.
We catch up with Aras and Ballard to hear how their respective brands are going.
How did you go about curating the recent Christmas market?
‘We always centre our markets around different themes, and this one was “rare”. We had to find designers and businesses that were unusual, but also fitted with the Christmas concept to ensure visitors could find pieces that would work well as gifts. We try to be as inclusive as possible and give space to brands who are not widely represented. Making sales is of course the ultimate goal, but we aim to inspire the visitors as much as possible with our selection.’
How did you first start Souq Dükkan?
‘I was working as the features editor at Vogue Turkey; I had lots of vintage clothes and wanted to sell some, but Turkey didn’t have that kind of market culture at the time. Istanbul Fashion Week was approaching and my partner and I decided to make a lounge nearby for the fashion week attendees to hang out in. What started as a small vintage pop-up turned into a series of mini festivals. We began holding markets with different themes each month: Souq Handmade, Souq Natural, Souq Street, and so on. It became a hub for creative people; many brands, start-ups and ideas emerged from the markets, and some of those we featured now sell in renowned boutiques around the world.
‘After two years, we opened our first permanent store. We now have a physical and online store in Istanbul, and recently opened our Berlin shop in Prenzlauer Berg.’
How do you think your background in journalism contributes to your work?
‘I always strive to come up with new and interesting themes, just as I would in my editor days. I do a lot of research on the artists and brands we feature; it feels like making a new magazine issue with each market. My journalist skills help me curate the markets – not having too much of one thing, and balancing different lifestyles and tastes.’
What’s next for Souq Dükkan?
‘We’ve recently opened our Berlin store, on Kollwitzstraße 54. It’s still a baby and we’re constantly working on it. Alongside that, we’re working towards launching our Berlin-based online store. After that we’ll go with the flow.’
How did the Christmas market go?
‘Events at Soho House always bring in a good mix of people. This market had a range of products, from records and cashmere to wine and flowers. It was great to see what people gravitated towards, and what they were getting as gifts for themselves and their loved ones this year. Having those face-to-face interactions with customers is always lovely, chatting about the festive season, as well as meeting potential clients and collaborators.’
How did you come to launch your label in 2020?
‘I come from a background in sculpture, having worked as an artist’s assistant in many different studios. My label came about as an experiment in an unfamiliar medium. I never studied fashion, but during my first years in Berlin I was teaching myself how to sew in my free time. Creating the brand has resulted in the perfect combination of my interests: dance, performance and the body, material exploration, and marketing and creative direction.’
Can you describe the process of how you create your designs?
‘The label is based entirely in Berlin: all of the sewing, dyeing, marketing, sales and communications are done out of our studio in Neukölln.’
What are the key concepts behind your designs?
‘Making what is usually hidden visible – taking the construction and flipping it outward to become an aesthetic feature. I love work that lets its viewers investigate the process in which it was made. The designer Max Lamb does this very successfully with furniture, which I find so inspiring.
‘Working honestly with a material – allowing its characteristics to be present in the final form rather than trying to hide or manipulate it – is where you get the most successful results. What attracted me initially to working with mesh is its ability to hug and move with the body as a second skin; it simultaneously covers its wearer and provides a window to what lies underneath.’
What do you hope people feel when they wear your clothes?
‘Unbashful elegance. Fashion has the responsibility of representing as many diverse ideas of beauty as possible. Clothing should work with the body of its wearer; it should elevate and make comfortable what is already there, rather than act as a facade that is imposed on top.’