Turkey: Smooth operators

By Justine Tyerman

Justine Tyerman meets some magicians in Turkey...

Korhan, with my bag over his shoulder and the jacket over his arm, talks to the boss about an 'extra, extra special price for the Kiwi journo lady'. Photo / Justine Tyerman
Korhan, with my bag over his shoulder and the jacket over his arm, talks to the boss about an 'extra, extra special price for the Kiwi journo lady'. Photo / Justine Tyerman

The glitzy fashion show, the glass of wine, the good looking guys, the charm and flattery... it is just like a seduction scene.

You know the minute you walk into the exclusive leather garment showroom in Turkey, that you are going to be worked on by some smooth operators but it's irresistible.

There are 15,000 leather coats and jackets at Populer Leather in Selcuk, Izmir. Not to mention the handbags, wallets and belts. The choices are mind-boggling.

The parade with four stunning models - two guys, two girls - rock music, smoke and strobe lights, features the 2014 collection for Harrods.

A dizzying array of stunning, high-fashion, fully-reversible coats and jackets are walked up and down the catwalk. The two cheekiest members of our tour group are co-opted to join in and do us proud with their stuff-strutting.

Suave Mr Leather, Cetin Bey, explains with great pride that his factory makes garments for Prada, Gucci, Armani, Bulgari and other top names.

The Italian designers send him samples of what they want, the Turks manufacture the garments efficiently and cost-effectively and send them back to Italy where the label of the iconic fashion house is attached along with 'Made in Italy'!

Salesman Korhan attaches himself to me. He is not only handsome, he is also highly amusing.

I don't want to buy anything, in fact I explain to my salesman friend, I'm a journalist just wanting to write about the leather industry, the history and the craftsmanship... but an exquisite bone-coloured silk leather jacket seems to be in my possession as I board the bus an hour later. Those lads are magicians.

He isn't pushy but his salesmanship is impeccable. He leads me round the showroom wearing my handbag, camera and other paraphernalia, leaving my hands free.

I try on many a gorgeous garment but keep returning to the same jacket, a lamb skin product, soft, light, crease-proof, washable, waterproof, extraordinarily beautiful... and a perfect fit, "made just for you", Korhan says.

Soft, light, crease-proof, washable, waterproof... Justine Tyerman's lamb skin jacket has earnt her envious looks from friends. Photo / Justine Tyerman
Soft, light, crease-proof, washable, waterproof... Justine Tyerman's lamb skin jacket has earnt her envious looks from friends. Photo / Justine Tyerman

My attempt at being practical, trying on a standard leather jacket, fails abysmally. I explain I have worn my last leather jacket for 25 years and I'm looking for something similar - in mock shock, he tells me habits like mine are a threat to the whole Turkish leather industry and the economy could not run on such a premise.

He laughingly refuses to sell me what he describes as an inferior garment and goes off to talk to Mr Bey about an extra, extra special price for the Kiwi journo lady.

They dazzle me with figures and conversion rates and smiles to the point where the deal looks so attractive, my credit card suddenly pops out of my wallet and completes the transaction. As if by magic.

The rest is history. When I arrive home and unwrap the jacket from its special pouch made of the same leopard-skin fabric as the jacket lining, I purr over it and pat it with pride... a Prada jacket for about a third of the cost. No regrets.

Every time I wear it, I see a delicious covetousness in the eyes of my friends. I relive the episode and chuckle about the clever Turkish salesmen. I'm not surprised their economy is healthy.

What exactly is in that wine? I wonder.

Justine Tyerman travelled on a 10-day Ancient Kingdoms Classical Turkey tour, courtesy of Innovative Travel Company. The writer flew Emirates.

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