When he was barely a teenager, Kutoglu began to design clothes that made it onto store racks and quickly built a following. “I paid close attention to what people were wearing and I started to make fashion sketches,” he says. “I was supported by my art teacher and my classmates; the girls used to choose my sketches of outfits to be sewn by their mothers.”
By age 15, he was working as a trainee after school at the eminent Turkish clothing brand Vakko. “They were big. At the time they were collaborating with Karl Lagerfeld,” he recalls. “They produced some of my designs for their stores, despite my age.” Just three years later, he began freelancing for Turkish retailer Beymen.
After college, Kutoglu was offered a job as a designer at Vakko but he declined. Instead, he enrolled in the Vienna University of Economics and Business to get a handle on the bigger picture. “I had ambitious dreams of founding my own brand and becoming an international designer,” he says. Today, Kutoglu has emerged as one of Turkey’s most celebrated designers, with bustling ateliers in Istanbul and Vienna.
A few years later, he was invited to show at a retrospective of Gustav Klimt in Vienna’s Belvedere Museum, where his ornate designs were exhibited alongside Klimt’s paintings. It was a fitting pairing, as the Austrian artist has had a strong influence on his work.
he says. In 2006, Naomi Campbell walked the catwalk in his New York show, which was a turning point for him. “She wore a pink-and-black-striped asymmetric dress which made headlines,” he says. By the late 2000s, he had become a fixture on the international fashion circuit.
These days when he’s not traveling, Kutoglu often retreats to the south of Turkey to work on designs. Lately, he is also spending more time in Istanbul. “The contemporary-art and fashion scene has become very lively here,” he says. “I started to use the Conrad Istanbul Bosphorus as a second address. It’s very inspiring; the view over the Bosphorus is spectacular.”
He often hosts high-profile guests, such as Austria’s Princess Camilla Habsburg-Lothringen, in the hotel and plans to hold regular fashion shows there each season. This month, he held a glamorous charity fashion show. “All the young Turkish jet-set girls were competing to get a ticket,” he says. In many ways things haven’t changed; just as was the case in his teen years when his classmates were clamoring for his sketches, women still can’t get enough of his designs.