1. Our founder is an architect.
AnatolianCraft was founded by Bilge Can, a fashion-loving entrepreneur, devoted mother of three, history lover, and an all-time aficionado of exquisite shoes. Bilge is an architect by training. In the past, she had run an architectural firm alongside her late husband who was also an architect. Bilge says that studying architecture at the Istanbul Technical University broadened her worldview and developed her ability to understand and appreciate good design. It was during college that she started frequenting museums and developed her interest in and skills of visual esthetics and design.
2. The inspiration for the business was a pair of delicate heritage slippers Bilge’s grandma carefully kept in an old wedding chest for decades.
Here is how Bilge tells that story:
"Since both of my parents were full-time teachers, my grandmother used to look after me on weekdays. Grandma had an antique wedding chest, which, for me, was the ultimate treasure trove. If I kept begging, she would open it and allow me to explore its contents. Only if I promised to handle everything with care. Under all the antique textiles, lace brooches, embroidered duvets and pillowcases, crochet curtains, satin nightgowns, and hand-painted porcelain sets, deeper into the wooden chest, was the one family heirloom that enchanted me more than anything: a stunning pair of hand-embroidered shoes.
I was told that the shoes used to belong to a very special maternal family member named Zehra Aylin. Miss Zehra was one of the beloved adopted children of Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey. This young girl, who was born in the Black Sea region, had eventually died on her way back to Turkey from London while she was traveling on the Callais-Paris express.
My grandma used to tell me that when I grew up, that pair, which she called “the palace resident,” would be mine. Years later, those petite, delicate slippers did become mine, but unfortunately, they were a bit small for my feet. The timeless elegance of those hand-embroidered slippers would stay with me for a lifetime and become my biggest inspiration for creating my fashion brand, AnatolianCraft. I knew I had to design the heritage slippers I wanted to wear. And that is exactly what I did."
3. We are a woman-owned and family-run small business.
We are a mother and daughter team. Bilge, our founder and creative director, is the mother. Begüm, our international sales and marketing director, is the daughter. She is the marketing maven behind our global operations. Bilge lives and works in Istanbul, Turkey while Begum is in Vienna, Austria. Of course, she travels to Istanbul frequently to visit her mom and brainstorm with her the next steps for growing AnatolianCraft.
4. All of our products are truly handmade and custom-crafted by our artisans after we receive the order.
We do not mass-manufacture. Our products are 100% handmade and hand-embroidered. Each item is custom-made by hand after a customer completes their order. An order requires 7 to 20 working days of production time depending on the complexity and type of design. With no two items fully identical, each product is a one-of-a-kind piece of wearable art.
Read more about our process and the materials we use.
5. We praise and practice slow living and slow fashion.
We believe in slow fashion and mindful living. We take our time to design, cut, sew, embroider and package each product with care. Hand-embroidery is an age-old craft that requires much time and effort. It takes days, sometimes weeks, for each pair of threaded magic to be handcrafted stitch by stitch. Each of our embroidery designs has a story of its own that is rooted in the rich cultural heritage of the land we call home. In the age of fast food, mass production, and mindless consumption, we take our time to create and connect slowly so that we can focus on what matters—in life and business.
6. We are committed to empowering local women artisans.
Empowering women and changing the world one pair of shoes at a time informs every single action we take. Our motto in life and business is, “A woman can transform a family, and a family can transform a community.” This is the idea we live and breathe as we grow our brand and run our business. It is an important mission of AnatolianCraft to bring as much work as possible into our community and to our local women artisans who can work from their homes, make a good living, and be in charge of their own lives and families. We collaborate with local independent artisans and create well-paying employment opportunities for women in rural areas where it is harder for them to make a living. We currently partner with 33 women in Eastern Anatolia and provide them with good wages. We aim to collaborate with and support 81 women artisans in all 81 cities in Turkey by next year.
7. We have a manifesto.
When we sat down to create our new website, the first thing we wanted to express more clearly was why we set out to build this unique business. In other words, why we do what we do, what we believe in, what we feel is non-negotiable, and what motivates us every day to keep going. As we continued to brainstorm, the AnatolianCraft manifesto appeared word by word. It describes the world we want to live in and the world we want to help build.
Read our manifesto.