Rumisu is a beautiful fashion brand on so many levels, standing in a league all of its own. Not only do they offer the finest, exquisitely crafted and vibrantly coloured scarves, but the brand seamlessly blends whimsy and philanthropy. A rare quality, saying that you can have fun with fashion, while subtly reminding you that you can choose and make a conscious decision when buying.
The Istanbul-based brand was co-founded by sisters Pinar Yegin (who studied economics at Harvard and finance at Wharton Business School) and Deniz Yegin Ikiisik (a fashion design graduate of Pratt Institute, New York, with a masters degree in advanced fashion from Polimoda, Florence), following their passion for illustration. Each scarf is hand-illustrated (with its edges rolled by hand) and the witty and playful designs bear messages (and names) filled with humour and a little bit of magic, too – like a promise to wrap yourself in maybe one of your childhood’s curiosities, tales or even fantasies. That is the creative and whimsical part. The good comes in the form of the detachable crocheted charms (“amigurumi”) accompanying each scarf, thus aiming to present and preserve the traditional Turkish art of oya. Hand-made in Southeastern Turkey in cooperation with a UNDP project, they are meant to foster sustainable economical development of the region’s women.
I have recently had the pleasure to talk to Pinar and Deniz, trying to find out more about their beautiful endeavor in the fashion realm.
What is the story behind Rumisu? Why fashion? Why scarves?
We actually weren’t necessarily aiming for fashion, but were rather following our passion for illustration, realising that this was the language we wanted to use to communicate with the world. So we started creating prints with great pleasure and chose “the scarf” as our first blank canvas, as two sisters who adored to wrap themselves in huge scarves… And we have dreams of flirting with many other possibilities, on which we can print in the near future. We are dreaming of seeing Rumisu as a printmaking brand.
Describe Rumisu in three words:
Your creations seem like something very personal. Who do you design for?
We started it all to satisfy our inner children, so it would be fair to say that we cherish finding people who think and dream like us and spreading the playfulness that way… We never have a gender or age group in mind, let alone a certain type of customer, but rather enjoy being surprised to see who appreciates our work.
Your brand admirably uses fashion to give back to your community and preserve Turkish traditions. It certainly must feel rewarding to create design with a purpose, but are there any challenges to that in a fast-fashion world that so often is confined to consumerism?
It is a great satisfaction indeed. However, since our hand-crocheted corner characters (we call them “amigurumi”) are made by hand and take quite some time, it is challenging to find the skilled ladies who are both able and willing to work with us.
It makes a huge difference when something is made with love, as with all other things and it shows through the product.
Do you think customers will always respond to product first or do you sense a change of mentality when buying something that has some good attached to it?
Based on our own and close friends’ shopping experience, we think customers respond to the product first. We would not want to buy an item if it did not appeal to us with its look, colours, touch etc., even if it is ethically made. And we believe most people are like that. In any case, we hope to appeal to the eyes, hearts and minds of our customers, all at the same time.
Each scarf you create has its own story and your whimsical illustrations are what makes your beautiful scarves authentic, transforming a regular accessory into a daily luxury. What inspires you?
When we listen and look around intently, we find inspiration everywhere. A favourite book, an inspiring TED talk, a trip we take, a friend’s son’s obsession with dinosaurs, a historical documentary…
Where does the name Rumisu come from?
“Rumi” means ‘from Anatolia’ and we wanted to stay attached to our roots, while adding the word “su” into the mix, which means ‘water’ in Turkish. We loved the way they sounded together as well as the meaning. In Turkey, the way we wish a project good luck is to simply say “let it flow like water” so it all came together nicely and we managed to hid a lucky charm within our name.
Fierce and Well Endowed
What are the perks and challenges of a fashion business partnership, especially between sisters? What is the secret to a good partnership?
Deniz: Perks are that there is much more understanding & patience going back and forth (most of the time : ) And also when we are having a successful day, sharing it becomes that much more precious. Challenges are that you need to give effort, not to become just business partners and still spare some sister-time, when the work’s done. And that is hard, since we work a whole lot.
Pinar: Having 35 years of experience of communicating with each other is a definite plus. We don’t have to explain our actions or way of thinking to each other, as we can read each other quite well. Yet, we often need an ‘outsider’ to come in and jolt us out of our comfort zone that ‘thinking alike’ sometimes creates… Luckily, we both like our ideas challenged and critiqued… so we keep inviting everyone for feedback and criticism that Rumisu needs to grow up.
Your illustrations are hand-made. Do you feel that your work can be a response to the overly digitalized, retouched imagery we are fed to nowadays?
We wouldn’t call is a response really, but we could say that neither of us has been a fan of very digitalized imagery. We always have been more touched by naive & organic art. And we definitely do not plan on parting from our pen&paper combo for our process of creating anytime soon.
How can fashion make a difference? Are you trying, with Rumisu, to get a certain message out there?
We didn’t start this to make a difference, but to create something personal in a way we wished, giving ourselves the kind of freedom we have longed for. So, we first do this for ourselves and then enjoy the sharing part of it. The message we would give would be to not take life too seriously, even though we struggle with it as well from time to time. So Rumisu could be a playful reminder of that both to ourselves and to our customers…
My Deformed Demon of Geometry
Pinar, you have an education and background in economics and finance, and you have completely changed paths when you discovered your passion for design and illustration when you took over the family business in yarn manufacturing. What is your advice to someone who is thinking about taking this leap, without having the proper studies and training?
Just go for it. I did not “study” design or illustration, I am learning as I go along. “Trial and error” is the best teacher. Being curious and moving forward despite your fears – for me, it was the fear of looking silly in front of the whole world – is the only prerequisite to take the leap, and survive in a completely new field.
You have both lived and worked in different parts of the world. How does Istanbul influence you artistically differently than the rest of the places you’ve experienced?
Pinar: Sometimes you have to look carefully to ‘see’ something that you have passed by a million times before. It is both the danger and beauty of being ‘home’. You start to take things for granted, when you really should not.
Deniz: Traveling still is the most essential part of our design & inspiration process, therefore we are still very much influenced by a mix of places we have been (and even places we wish to visit), rather than being under Istanbul’s spell only.
What does style mean to you?
Pinar: Your true self.
You wish people appreciated more:
Pinar: Time & effort…
Deniz: Uniqueness in all things…
Words you live by:
Pinar: “There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen” – Rumi
Deniz: “There is nothing worth more than this day.” – Goethe
Name one favourite thing to do in Istanbul and which you would miss if you lived anywhere else in the world.
Pinar: Wandering around in the historical Eminonu area, shopping for cheese, dates and olives in a 500 year old chaotic bazaar.
Deniz: Taking the ferry on the Bosphorus.
Your favourite moment of the day:
Pinar: Early morning when the birds are still going crazy about the sunrise.
Deniz: Definitely dinner-time.
You can view all Rumisu collections here, purchase the scarves from the brand’s online shop and keep up with the new collections and latest news on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
photos: courtesy of Rumisu