Turkey’s Vakko links with Zac Posen, Istanbul

November 23 2006

Turkish retailer Vakko jet-setted New York’s social elite into Istanbul to launch its collaboration with Zac Posen this autumn. WGSN speaks to CEO Cem Hakko about global expansion, luxury chocolate and burlesque dancers.

Zac Posen for Vakko

Vakko chairman and CEO Cem Hakko, son of the fashion house’s founder Vitali Hakko, is, by all accounts, an action man – both in business and leisure. As well as being a sailing/skiing/boating enthusiast, he has extended the company’s holdings to include a leading radio station, and even fine chocolate, as well as bringing a younger image to its fashion offering, with youthful brands and multi-label stores such as Vakkorama V2K and Vakko-Gym.

Now, European expansion is on the cards. “I made a promise to my father,” Hakko told WGSN. “He said to me: ‘my son, you will sell ties in Italy and chocolate in Switzerland’. I think that will be possible now.”

In October, the company pulled out all the stops (to the rumoured tune of $2m) when it celebrated a collaboration with young New York designer, Zac Posen, by bringing together the movers and shakers of the Manhattan and London scenes, from musician Bryan Ferry and model Bridget Hall to fashion maven Isabella Blow and burlesque darling Dita Von Teese.

Debuting autumn 2006, Posen has produced exclusive prints and fabrics to be used in Posen’s current ready-to-wear collection, sold exclusively in Turkey at Vakko’s stores.

Hats and scarves – a Vakko history

Employing over 2,000 people – 600 of whom work at its expansive manufacturing site – Vakko has maintained a strong lifestyle brand image in Turkey in the face of stiff competition from international luxury brands.

“When people started to import luxury goods, we decided to keep our own label,” says Hakko, who believes that its strong manufacturing capacity results in better quality products and reflexivity in production. “Our factories only make Vakko products – we manufacture everything – and we can be responsive, day to day.”

The company, which started selling hats in the 1930s, now offers a lifestyle mix of labels, from the young Vakkorama V2K store selling Anna Sui, James Jeans and L.A.M.B by Gwen Stefani alongside its own line of fashion forward clothing, to Vakko Wedding, Vakko Couture and Vakko Shoes and Bags.

The brand’s latest store has just opened at Istanbul’s new luxury mall, Kanyon, soon to be home to an outpost of luxury UK department store Harvey Nichols. It has also begun opening concept stores, such as Vakko Dekor, that are designed to uphold the company’s timeless aesthetic, offering antique 18th and 19th century furniture as well as contemporary designs and fabrics exclusively created for Vakko by New York designer Antony Todd.

Global expansion
Not only is Vakko expanding in Istanbul, it has Europe in its sights.

“We hope to roll out our full range of products and grow to 100 points of sale in Europe in the next two years,” Hakko explains.

Focusing on Germany in particular, it has already opened stores in Hamburg and Frankfurt and a showroom in Munich. He believes Germany is very “quality-oriented” and offers a good market for Vakko’s scarves, ties and shirts. France and Spain are next on his list.

The Posen connection
The link-up with Zac Posen injects a dose of international creativity into Vakko, which Hakko believes is necessary for this growing brand. His Formula One racing analogy is apt: “The winning car may be Italian, but the driver is German and the engineer is French.”

The collaboration also caters to the changing tastes of the Turkish consumer.

“Vakko is 72 years old so working with a young designer like Zac is an unusual yet creative synergy. The label ‘Made in Turkey’ means good quality, but Turkey is not a creative centre like New York, Paris or Milan. You can’t be avant-garde in Istanbul.”

He adds that Posen’s collection already accounts for a significant chunk of Vakko’s designer sales in a market that he acknowledges is restricted in size.

“The problem with Turkey is that there’s not a huge amount of luxury consumers and they are mainly based only in and around Istanbul, Ankara and ?smir. This luxury customer is changing. At first, they wanted European brands – it had to be Prada, Gucci or Dior. Now, they want something unusual.”

Posen told WGSN: “It’s definitely a long-term collaboration,” adding that the partnership has given him the chance to work with fabrications and colours that he wouldn’t normally consider.

Dominated by soft camels, pale blues and warm, rich tones of burgundy and electric amethyst – as well as black and white, the cruise 2006 collection features Posen’s signature tailored separates and dramatic yet wearable eveningwear.

The designer, whose business received a reputed $2m cash injection from Sean Combs when the fashion entrepreneur bought a 50% stake in 2004, is also keen to expand his own brand and told WGSN that he’s looking to produce a furniture line. With industry veteran Barry Miguel as Posen’s first president, further growth opportunities – such as the link-up with Vakko – are sure to follow.

WGSN comment

October’s celebrity-packed celebrations in Istanbul may have been seen as an extremely jolly junket – think a cruise along the Bosphorus and a glamorous launch dinner punctuated by Dita Von Teese’s performances stripping their way through the rules of Ramadan – but it certainly served to highlight a capital city that is taking on a modern, European air and a homegrown fashion brand that is fit for global development or, at least, a home in the European Union.

“It must be,” says Hakko of Turkey’s hopes to join the EU. “Turkey is a big country with a population of 70 million, many of whom are young. The Turkish youth is very open to everything and this is good for business. Put them outside of the union and something else will pull them.”

Fact file

  • Turkish label Vakko is a vertically integrated lifestyle brand.
  • Vakko has collaborated with Zac Posen on exclusive prints and fabrics for his Cruise and spring/summer 2007 collections.
  • Vakko is set for European expansion with Germany already under way and France and Spain on the radar.
  • Vakko’s latest flagship store opened earlier this year at the new luxury Kanyon mall in Istanbul.
  • Vakko Dekor is a new lifestyle concept store from the retailer – opening in key Turkish cities.

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Zac Posen

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