Interview: ‘Ebru Sari’ owner and designer of Atelier ExC
Could you briefly introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background that lead you to fashion designing?
Let me start by mentioning my mother who is a couture designer, my father and brother are men’s suit sellers, my grandfather sells fabrics and my aunt is a seamstress. I guess you can say I grew up around fabric. This may be incredibly cliché, but from a very young age, fashion has always been an interest of mine. And not from a “what should I wear” perspective, but more so from an artistic and creative perspective. It’s funny as a few weeks ago, my parents found a picture of me and my brother when we were six years old playing dress-up. However, instead of dressing up in Disney Costumes, we were dressing up with my mother’s real clothes! So I think it must have been around that time I decided to go into fashion design. Apart from that, my mother has always been really stylish and she has had a huge influence on me. I gained a lot of practice in my mothers boutique from a small age. I grew up in Ghent, a historic city in the Flemish Region of Belgium. I was good at learning and I could draw well, so after finishing my Humaniora at Sint-Bavo, I decided maybe against my own aspirations to go the University of KU Leuven (Sint-Lucas) and started studying ‘Architecture’, that’s initially what I thought I would end up doing as a career. However, 4 years into my ‘Architecture’ I felt that it was interesting but not completely fulfilling my dreams.. After 3 years I got my bachelor degree and started my master, I realised that I was unhappy, then I decided to follow my heart and switched to ‘fashion styling’ and haven’t looked back since! A new chapter had begun for me! As a result, the styling followed as a natural progression: I like creating outfits and, for those that know me, I have no issue speaking confidently of my decision making, so family and friends started listening and soliciting advice. And here I am. In 2016 I started my own label ‘Atelier ExC’ (Ebru X Cagdas). ExC are the initials of the name of my husband and mine. My husband is my right hand, I am very lucky with him, that's why I wanted to honor him and also refer to him in my label.. After working hard in 2018 ExC Fashion House became a fact!
Describe your designs for anyone who doesn’t know your work yet.
Working in the fashion industry ensures that no day is ever the same and that time moves quickly. Inspiration comes from different areas however we find imagining our muses' different moods and evolving personality helps us creatively. If I have to explain my creations in 3 words : ‘Mature’, ‘Vivid’, ‘Feminine’. I love simplicity and clean lines, clothes that can be styled up to bring out the personality of each client. With a lot of hard work and many inspiring people around me, I try to become not only a better designer but also a better version of myself. The ability for growth is self-knowledge and to never underestimate yourself. A simple but elegant and inspiring message I want to spread into the world.
What is your favourite material to work with?
My favorite material is rhinestones, I love handicrafts and I spend many hours sewing different types of crystals. They give life to a creation.
Which item of all your collections/designs is your favourite and most significant for you?
I designed my favorite creation 2 years ago, a red silk dress. It was unforgettable to me because it was my first creation for an international election to represent Belgium. The dress was successful and stood in many newspapers, it was a dream for me! Every year I also get the initiative to make creations for the biggest miss election of the world ‘Miss World’ and ‘Miss Universe’ to represent Belgium.
How do you want wearers to feel when they put on your clothes?
To me, clothing is a form of self-expression, there are hints about who you are in what you wear. Self-confidence is the best outfit, rock it and own it!
In your opinion, why is lingerie so important to the modern woman?
Wearing lingerie underneath clothing makes a woman feel sexy, makes a woman feel more like a woman. It celebrates sexuality no matter what size she is. That is exactly how we want our customers to feel. Being a woman is not about looking like one, being a woman is about feeling like one. Lingerie helps woman feel feminine! Another reason why lingerie is important, is how much support it provides. Push-up bras and sports bras keep everything in place. It’s more than just clothing, lingerie can showcase a woman’s personality. It helps to define a woman as beautiful, feminine, strong and elegant. It creates a sense of excitement every time she puts it on.
What makes you passionate about your brand?
It’s vital that the customer feels confident. I love to design wedding dresses, when I see the result I become very emotional. Making people's dreams come true at their most important moment of life is unforgettable! Making people happy makes me even more passionate every day... My work brings huge personal rewards as I am helping people enjoy their clothes and feel confident in their appearance. It gives me great pleasure and satisfaction when my clients share with me the compliments that they receive from other people. There are clients who think I am a magician :)
Describe your creative process.
For me approaching new clients should start with a good chat, over a cup of tea. It’s important for me to get to know their personality. I really believe that style is a reflection of a person’s character. Everything is such a collaborative process. I’m a massive fan of continuity and telling story, so having lots of conversations is the key. My work allows me to enjoy meeting and getting to know people from all sorts of fields and backgrounds. I love watching people for inspiration! And not with the intent to judge, but just to observe. I love seeing the various styles and mannerisms, how people carry themselves. It might be bizarre, but it’s effective for me. I use Pinterest because it’s a good space to interact with clients for visual interpretations, but I genuinely try to avoid it for my own inspiration because it takes away from my originality.
What is your most productive working time/style?
I know, it seems obvious, everyone works somewhat differently, but when we started to break down what each person was doing, what we found were very different strengths and weaknesses. Let’s put it out there first, everyone works differently, and not “one style” is the ideal. It is however, useful to think of your “working style” as something that has unique strengths and weaknesses, and use that as a basis to analyze and improve upon your own productivity. You have to keep yourself updated and I do that by looking at the shows every season, going to Fashion Weeks, keeping up with the trends, analyzing the trends, research the magazines and work of other stylists and photographers.
Tell me about a time when a client didn’t like your work.
I’ve been lucky sor far! Maybe I’ve subconsciously blanked them from my memory :)
What was one of your favourite shoots or projects that you worked on recently?
I recently did an ‘Exclusive Magazine’ cover shoot with Angeline Flor Pua (Miss Belgium 2K18) and that was really an honor to work with a publication I was always excited about. It was a dream come true, right off the bucket list. I’m grateful for the opportunities to do my job to its fullest potential. But the most memorable project was my very first fashion show that I organized last year in Antwerp. It was a great success and it was in the spotlight in many newspapers.
Do you have a supporting team/staff or do you work solo?
At our Atelier our design team works closely together with our own pattern makers and seamstresses to produce the highest quality craftsmanship. My biggest trick is having an incredible hair and makeup team which you can collaborate with. It’s like the icing on a cake, the outfit comes to life when every aspect is polished and perfect.
What has been the worst rewarding moment of your career, so far?
Seeing women move from a posture of dreading all things fashion due to inadequacy of budget, body shape, creativity to a posture of “I got this!”. I simply seek to equip and educate women on fashion in such a way that is applicable for them and to expose the lie that fashion only works well for those model-type, wealthy women.
Where do you see your brand in the next then years?
Being on the top... Working for luxury fashion magazines. I am dreaming about shooting for big international Magazines like Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar and being able to make beautiful editorials and see ExC Creations published in these magazines... However everything that’s happened to me so far wasn’t planned and sort of just happened. So who knows what the future holds for me!
What do you like outside fashion?
There are many things one can like outside fashion. I like helping others, talking to myself basically introspecting myself. I like dancing. I like reading (on wiki, quora etc). Sometimes, I just like sitting quietly and to observe others and to listen to others (because most of the people just hear, they don’t listen ). On this universe, there are plenty of things. I like helping my family members. I like either keeping myself busy with my thoughts during boredom or watching TV ( who doesn’t like watching TV, everyone does). Everyone has a different liking and everyone should respect that. Some like playing violent video games, it’s okay! Always do things that give you pleasure! :)
How comfortable are you working hands with models and other designers?
Atelier ExC is an official partner of Miss Belgium. For our shootings, we usually use their models. Once we have found the model we want to use, we talk to her about what we want to get out of the shoot and what she’s comfortable doing. This step is especially important if she’s a friend of yours. If it’s a swimsuit shoot, she’s going to want to know that beforehand. For a professional model, this kind of information will be laid out when you’re hiring them. But I always like to go through it one more time to make sure they’re comfortable.
Do you always do fittings?
It’s your dress, make sure it fits you! I use two fittings for one, very important reason. It’s your dress and it must be fitted to your satisfaction, not mine. I’m not the one who’s wearing it. You are. If I’m styling an individual, the most important part is assessing their body shape and finding the most flattering design to accommodate that. When it comes to wedding dresses and night dresses, you want to make sure you have a perfect fit. That's why it's so important to buy your dress early on (about nine months before the big day), giving you plenty of time for wedding dress fittings and alterations. I usually like to do some research on my client. I get a feel for their personal style and what they have done in the past. Then, I like to have a meeting with them and discuss the project and direction. Sometimes the client is a company and there are many other facets involved from branding a color to creating a custom piece. I then take into account a person’s body shape, season, and trends that I am feeling which will make my work standout and my client happy. For me, styling is something spiritual, it comes from within.
Being a wardrobe stylist as well, do you have a favourite fashion era?
My favourite era was the minimalist early nineties. After the conspicuous consumption of the 1980's less became more at this time. I love the understated elegance of designers such as Jill Sander, Prada and Calvin Klein. The look was simple and pared down focusing on high end materials and refined tailoring.
Being a fashion designer and wardrobe stylist, what kind of clothes do you like to wear yourself?
There are looks I put together that I think, “Hey I really love this for myself”. Also, when I am shopping or pulling for a client I like to hold the pieces up in front of a mirror, or even try them on to get a feel for it. Many things can look awful on a hanger and fabulous on the body. You have to believe that caring about your appearance is a plus in any situation and literally opens doors. My magic word is care. You always have to care about yourself, your hair, makeup, hands figure and the type of clothes you wear and how you wear them. Don’t fool yourself when you hear things such as, your brain counts more than your appearance, they both count as much as each other and you should use your brain to improve your looks.
How would you describe your signature look as a wardrobe stylist?
My personal style is very mood inspired. Some days, I feel very rock and roll and other days I feel very classic and sophisticated. Some people wear their emotions on their sleeve, I guess I literally wear mine on my body. Know your body type and what colors really flatter you best.
Your worst work experience as a wardrobe stylist?
No trauma that I still remember :)
If there ever comes a day in which you’re given a choice of being a wardrobe designer or a fashion stylist for the rest of your life, which would you choice?
’Fashion designer’ of course! Because fashion designers reflect the status, character and lifestyle of its adopters as well as the times they live in. Explaining it in simple words, a fashion designer is a person who creates new clothes and is the hands and brain behind establishing a new fashion trend. On the other hand, fashion stylists are people who study these fashion trends and select clothes and accessories to style models/celebrities for events, fashion shows as well as photoshoots.
What’s next for you? What can we expect from your next collection?
At the new collection you can expect a lot of feathering and handicrafts. I love feathers and try to make a small collection with this top material every season. I do not want to reveal much ;)
To come to an end, where can our readers follow you and your work, any social media platforms?
Instagram is an amazing way to refresh your mind, find new designs and keep on top of what’s going on. Don’t forget to follow us on instagram (@atelier_exc) to explore new ExC Creations! Or come take a look at our Fashion House, Address : Antwerpsesteenweg 235, 9040 Sint-Amandsberg • Mail : firstname.lastname@example.org • Tel. +32 484 55 51 30 • www.atelierexc.com