PassengEarth - Travel Blog - Slow Fashion
Textile is such a big thing in Turkey. It weights for more than 40% of the total industrial production of the country.
We had many encounters with merchants at the Bazaar in Istanbul but also Izmir, Göreme, Fethiye, Cesme...
There you can find anything from cheap to premium quality clothing (silk, linen...) and of course wedding dresses!
Back in Istanbul for the 3rd time we finally had the chance to meet with Jennifer and her team. Her brand, Jennifer's Hamam, has made a name for itself. They produce handmade towels using a unique technique that was invented by the Ottoman weavers in the late 17th century.
The store is located Arasta Çarşısı, Küçükayasofya Caddesi No:135, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey.
Hello Jennifer, who are you and what were you doing before?
"My name is Jennifer. I'm a Canadian. Prior to that I was in Thailand for seven years teaching English. Thailand is also a great place to go to for textiles. In 2006 I moved to Turkey. My first business here was a café and art gallery, which was very successful. There was nothing like this in the area. So we were very lucky, we had great clients. I sold the café in 2009. Shortly after that I had the opportunity to get a shop in the Bazaar, which was a difficult thing at the time."
What happened then?
"At my café everyone kept on asking about the famous Turkish towels. Turkey is famous for towels, because they invented the technique of making loops. And our modern day thick towel is a copy of what that really is. The Turks invented the original technique, and when it's done on a loom (traditional machine), it's much stronger. There was nowhere in sultanahmet (where the Bazaar is) to buy the famous Turkish towels and I kept thinking it was a great idea for the next business. Hence once I had the shop, I decided to go and look for weavers making Turkish Towels the traditional way on looms. Bursa, which is the capital of textile in the country was the first stop, but there was not a single loom left, only big factories. The same unfortunate situation was discovered after visiting Denizli. After six days of driving around the country side almost all hope had been lost and the shocking knowledge that this special art was gone was very disappointing. Then, while wondering on a small village street, I heard the sound of a loom, ‘click-clacking’ away. This one man had several looms going and led me to another 8 people that were still running workshops. That was the meagre beginnings of Jennifer's Hamam."
Can you tell us more about the traditional towel makers?
"From generation to generation mothers were the home weavers, teaching sons and daugthers the tradition of shuttle weaving. Sons would enter commercial settings as apprentices when of age and daughters would grow up to become their home’s weaver and teacher of the next generation and so on… Unfortunately, as industrialized machines starting hitting the scenes and the consumers started choosing to purchase the cheaper, more accessible factory made items, the looms left the houses and we lost all of our women and teachers. For 40+ years now, no one has learned the art of weaving. The few people we found 11 years ago were the last of their kind and were on the brink of bankruptcy. In fact, I met the man who heads the workshops that weave our thick-looped towels just 10 days before an appointment with the scrapyard to give away his looms. Had we not met, that special technique would have been lost forever.”