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Q&A with Evren Doğançay, Founder of Punicana

July 20, 21

Q: What inspired you to start your own brand?

A: I usually have such a crazy agenda and always feel in need of chic, unique and special, but at the same time easy, uncomplicated and versatile pieces. The travel bans during the pandemic made it possible to create my own brand.

 

Q: Tell us about the name of your brand. Where does it come from?

A: The name Punicana comes from the word punica, which is the scientific name for pomegranate. In Turkish culture, the pomegranate is a symbol for good fortune, abundance and fertility. It is said that only a hundred years ago pomegranates were used as a metaphor for marriage proposals. The story goes that when a man wanted to propose to a woman, he would send her a basket of pomegranates as a gift. If she accepted the fruit, that meant “yes.”

 

Q: Your clothing is made from silk/cotton ikat and kutnu fabrics handwoven for centuries by the same method.  Can you talk about the importance of maintaining these artisan skills and techniques?

A: Due to their difficult and slow production process as well as their narrow widths compared to factory-produced fabrics, ikat and kutnu are not cost efficient enough for big commercial brands. They are so beautiful and so luxurious, yet I very rarely see them used in fashion collections. These fabrics are truly works of art and so kind to nature that I think women should be able to wear them every day and for every occasion, from beach times to cocktail hours. Both fabrics are sustainable and eco-friendly.

 

Q: What is special about ikat? When did you discover this fabric?

A: I have been in love with ikat since my teens. Even though ikat is made in Uzbekistan, it is easily accessible at the historic Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Creation of this fabric is a very difficult and slow process. First, silk and cotton are tied into bundles. The patterns are then hand-drawn with coal onto these bundles by a craftsman. Then they are tied again for dying the patterns. This is repeated for each color. At the end, the dyed yarns are handwoven into silk/cotton or cotton cloths. The touch and feel of the fabric, the colors and the patterns make it incredibly rich and luxurious. Historically in Central Asia, wearing a garment made of ikat—with patterns that have been used for centuries—was considered a status symbol.

 

Q: How did you discover kutnu? What is unique about it?

A: I discovered kutnu at the Grand Bazaar while on an ikat hunt and fell immediately in love with the fabrics’s rich colors. I was surprised to learn that it is woven in Gaziantep, a city in southeast Turkey where my father was born. Kutnu is made by a few expert craftsmen exactly in the same way as in the sixteenth century. It is also known as the “palace fabric” due to its use in caftans of Ottoman sultans.

 

Q: Tell us about you.

A: I am a fashion buyer with over ten years of experience working with retailers all around the globe. Throughout my retail career, I learned exactly what, when and how women like to dress in their everyday lives. This really helps me create the Punicana styles. 

 

Q: What is your vision for Punicana? Where do you hope to see your brand in the next ten years?

A: I would love to see women wear Punicana every day--just casually throw it on and feel sophisticated and amazing. I would love for Punicana to be the go-to piece for every occasion from beach to city to cocktails. It’s really important for me that Punicana is wearable and for real women.

 

Q: Why is it important to support female owned and run businesses? What does “the future is female” mean to you as a female fashion entrepreneur? 

A: As a female fashion entrepreneur, I am keenly aware of the challenges we face, particularly in countries where Punicana is sourced and produced. Ikat weaving is a profession typically pursued by women, providing them with a crucial source of income and presenting an opportunity to support their empowerment. For me, ‘the future is female’ is not just about representation and equality, it is also imagining a different future, where femininity and power are not contradictory, but aligned. Punicana’s story is tightly interwoven with the female nature, with the pomegranate a symbol for fertility but also abundance and creativity, representing a more ‘female’ future in a sense.

 

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