Fashion designer Sebnem Gunay

SEBNEMGUNAY is not only the name of a new fashion label, it is also the name of the young woman from Limburg behind the label. When she was nineteen, Sebnem went from Beringen to Istanbul to study fashion and today, at the age of 23, her first collection is almost sold out.  

Not many girls from Beringen can say that they have grown up with fashion. Sebnem can, thanks to her father. He moved from Turkey to the Netherlands at the age of nineteen to end up in Belgium. In Beringen, more specifically. Reason? Fashion. Today he still runs various textile companies that work for Zara, among others. And despite the fact that Sebnem never really had the ambition to go into fashion herself, she did it anyway. “I assumed that I would work in my father’s company: I did not even dare dream of that, it seemed impossible to me.” Everything changed when Sebnem attended a fashion summer course in Istanbul at the age of seventeen. “That was during our annual summer holiday, my sister and I were bored and dad decided to sign us up for a course.” It turned out not to be a bad idea at all, because the Belgian fashion designer Raf Stesmans turned out to be the teacher and convinced her to continue in fashion. “After that summer I had to attend my last year of secondary school in Sinte-Lurgarte in Beringen.” Exactly, back in Beringen. Because at home they would rather not have daughter Sebnem take the bus to another school.

Naughty dreams and shoes 

It was, therefor, a tough nut to crack after she left for Instanbul. “I wanted to go to the Fashion Academy there, there was nothing else I would rather do, the Business study I took at the time was simply not for me and I did not want to regret it later. I did not wanted to blame myself for not trying. ” It could also have been Antwerp, London or Paris, but that did not happen. And the plane to Istanbul turned out to be less of a problem than the busses to Hasselt. Father Günay had already moved to the Turkish city in the meantime, so a safe haven was no problem. “It was actually my intention to start in Antwerp, but to be admitted there you need some experience and knowledge, which I did not have so I decided to start in Istanbul and later return to Antwerp. “But obviously that did not happen either. In my last year I was taken on by collaboration with the London fashion academy to graduate there. I went, but after three weeks I realized that it was not for me. I realized that this school is a dream for many people, but for me it just did not feel right. I decided to return to Turkey, without any regrets so far. ”

Busy busy busy 

Sebnem graduated and got herself some extra backbone by studying Fashion Management. “I did not only want to master the creation side, but also the business side, so you might know how to design a collection, but then what? I knew that you did not get there by just creating a great collection. Production and ready-to-wear possibilities need to be aligned if you want to sell the collecton as well. When I was asked to design my own collection for ‘New Gen’ fashionshow as a graduate that was on one condition: it has to be ready-to-wear. And that’s what I did and they loved it.” “Cool, fresh and young “, calls loves to call her designs, “with lots of colors and new shapes.” The reactions were good and ended up online and in no time Turkish celebs walked around in Sebnems designs. And the rest followed, so do not be surprised if ‘sold out’ appears on your screen when you want to buy a piece hers online. But be patient because production will follow. The success is rather unreal to her as it all goes very fast. During the Istanbul Fashion Week this month she will show not only her fifth collection, which is also here second commercial collection. That same time her next summer collection is launched knowing that her previous collection is still in production. “It’s crazy, I see my clothes on Turkish channels and in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie-Claire and Elle, I would never have dreamed of that.

“There are a lot of differences between the Turkish and Flemish or Limburg way of living and working, and I think I discipline is something I have taken from Belgium to Turkey. When I say it is going to be done today, it will be done. This is something that amazes the Turks. During my training and now also on the shop floor I work hard and I do everything by myself, I do not have a social life at the moment because I am constantly working on the label, from designing to sending orders from the web-shop.” That is something to be proud of. She is definitely her father’s daughter. “He immediately let me go to fight my own battles from the beginning, just like he had to, and I’m grateful for that. He accompanied me to the Paris fabric fairs for six years to buy fabrics for my collections. 50 meters of fabric instead of 500 meters, people started laughing or the fabric was suddenly not in stock anymore. That did not stop me.

Plan B 

The future may bring more and more better moments for Sebnem. Limburg? That is Plan B. “In the meantime, my whole family moved to Istanbul, but we still stick to Be-rings, I grew up there, my friends live there, … I do not say I will ever or never return. I’ll go back once or twice a month, to meet up with friends and to follow up on the business here, and I notice a difference: it’s very small here, Istanbul is a large city and everyone tries to achieve something and just goes for it. ” And she? She just wants to go for that label. “People in Istanbul find it odd that my Instagram account does not have any pictures of me.” During press days or events, people have already come to me to ask who Sebnem really is. (Laughs) For me that’s all right. I want my clothes to be the most important, not me. ”