Irish-Turkish designer Umit Kutluk has “expensive taste” – and it shows.
His custom pieces can cost you thousands, from €595 for a pair of his best-selling palazzo pants and €1,635 for a caped jumpsuit, but they are made with painstaking detail and each piece takes a minimum of two weeks to complete.
And in our new, cash rich economy where restaurants are booked out on Tuesday nights and there are waiting lists for fur-lined Gucci loafers, Kutluk has been playing the long game – earning a stellar reputation in years of economic recovery, emerging as an industry leader when there is money flowing again.
Since moving to Ireland in 2009 and setting up his eponymous label in 2011, he has become synonymous with celebrity attire – Amy Huberman wore his €2,500 floral appliqué dress to the 2016 IFTAs, Amanda Byram chose his fuchsia caped jumpsuit to host Dancing with the Stars and Kathryn Thomas stood out from the crowd in a structured floral dress at the 2016 VIP Style Awards.
Name a well dressed star and chances are they’re a fan of his work.
When I ask about the steep prices of his collection, he laughs endearingly, “Well I have expensive taste!”
“When I set up my label, I wasn’t thinking of a luxury brand but I’m fussy about detail and quality. We put silk lining leather bags or evening dresses,” he says.
“I think the market is bigger and women are getting more designed because they know what they need. When they find the right product and style, they always spend.
“They’re spending money for the better clothes. The industry is changing, high street brands are very popular but you might buy them and two weeks later, they’re worn in. When you buy classic pieces for luxury brands, you wear them for years. When you look at those pieces, they’re timeless.”
Kutluk is keen to see his pieces become more accessible without compromising on quality, which is the reason behind his latest launch, a boutique at Kildare Village’s SÓ Collective, a hub of Irish designers at the discount outlet.
“There are good prices here. We have a minimum 33-piece collection and prices start at around €500. We have a leather jacket here for €450, down from €950,” he says.
“This is our first experience with shoes, bag, casual pieces, evening wear – we’re trying to make it wider to connect to more people. The idea was to open the store with many exclusive pieces.”
And it’s arrived just in time for the summer racing season, which, along with wedding guest attire, is his biggest moneymaker.
“Dresses for racing and weddings sell especially well. Our gowns and jumpsuits are very popular, our palazzo pants have been selling really well every season, that’s currently our biggest seller,” he explains. “They’re very comfortable and there’s no seam on the side. They’re very comfy.”
While his designs are an Irish red carpet staple, it’s particularly his work with legendary, and famously private, singer Enya, as a badge of honour. In fact, she chose to wear a custom number by him to last year’s Grammys, where she was nominated for Best New Age Album.
“I worked with her before when her last album came out, her stylist contacted me and we began building a wardrobe for her new album,” he says.
“I sketched so many dresses for her and she came in for a fitting. It was all very easy. The last time we did a dress was for the Grammys and that was just one fitting. She liked this because it’s easy for her. She mentioned my name at the Grammys too.”