Ozlem Polat’s Fashion Journey
Ozlem Polat has a surprising story. When you hear it, you’ll want to ask why a qualified Textile Engineer working for Swedish brand H & M would fly to Adelaide and enrol in a fashion designing course at TAFE SA. Because that’s exactly what Ozlem did. When the opportunity arose to study in Australia, the 33-year-old Turkish national didn’t hesitate.
Before she arrived, Ozlem’s qualifications and experience had already formed an impressive CV. She had been working for some of the biggest clothing brands in the world. Along with H & M, think France’s Decathlon, the sports sock company, and others. Ozlem’s work involved international travel, serious responsibilities and being surrounded by positive people with whom she loved working.
As a Textile Engineer, Ozlem was responsible for ensuring that the quality of yarns and fabrics could meet all requirements for functionality. After all, garments need to flow without tearing and sports socks have to stay up, right?
Fashion Designing Course
Less surprising, her primary reason for heading to Adelaide involved matters of the heart. But once here, this jet-setting fashion-savvy-tech-expert found something in the opportunity to study the creative arts and fashion itself, that her career until now had been missing. She enrolled in the Advanced Diploma of Applied Fashion Design and Merchandising at TAFE SA. This was the foundation of her plan to set up her own fashion business. It still is.
Ozlem is enjoying her course so much that when it ends later this year, she’s looking at extending her studies into a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Fashion) degree at Flinders University. “It’s only another year and a half of study,” she says, to convert her Diploma to a Degree.
Her enthusiasm for her favourite subject, Pattern Making, is directly related to her future business plans. “We’re learning about zero waste patterns and how to produce cool stuff and reduce waste at the same time. It’s giving me a clear understanding of what I need to know myself and be able to tell people working in production in any future business I do.”
“I’m enjoying meeting new people and learning new skills, especially photoshop-illustrator, drawing and sketching. I also enjoy the smaller class sizes. All the teachers have industry experience, as do one or two students. It’s so inspiring.”
With a keen interest in sustainable, slow fashion, learning about handcrafting is something that Ozlem feels is indispensable to running a fashion business in the future.
Like many others, Ozlem is concerned about fashion’s ranking as the world’s second-biggest polluting industry. Her unique combination of scientific qualifications, experience in Textile Engineering, plus skills and knowledge gained from her studies at TAFE SA means that she is well-placed to be a change agent in her field. She is drawn to naturally dyed fabrics and small-scale production and has already experimented with a small hand-dyed accessories label she started with a friend in Istanbul. While that business is currently on pause, all the dots for the next one are starting to fall into place.
Along with that, she’s always wanted to be able to make a difference to the lives of women. The factory floor can be an unrelenting and often unfair work place. Ozlem plans to change that. Her planned business model involves small scale production where the workers are engaged and empowered, not exploited. Her goal is to be able to apply everything she’s learnt to establish a local, small scale, hand-made, sustainable fashion business that makes-to-order. Based on her previous experimental business, wool is firming up as a key fabric as are natural dyes and unique Japanese dying techniques.
While the details of her plans for her own business may change as Ozlem continues to study, one thing is certain. She’s advanced a long way down the track towards achieving them.
A short time ago we posted a story about Abby Potter and House of Campbell. It turns out that Abby is also one of Ozlem’s teachers at TAFE SA. You can check out that post in Destined to Design.