Fashion Designer, Illustrator & Instructor.
After graduating from Tarsus American High School, Zeynep Deniz continued her higher education at the Marmara University of Fine Arts, majoring in Ceramics. In 1995, she continued her study in Florence, Italy, at Polimoda, Instituto Della Moda. She had been accepted for the International Fashion Design Programme of FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) New York, a leading fashion school globally, where she graduated at the top of her class.
Having worked as a designer in New York, Zeynep Deniz started living in Amsterdam in 1998 and worked at several leading fashion brands, including Tommy Hilfiger.
Returning to Turkey in 2004, besides designing, Zeynep started teaching fashion and gave several classes at La Salle Academy and Istanbul Technical University Fashion Design Major. In addition, she taught personal design, presentation techniques, technical drawing, illustration and portfolio classes.
Creating her fashion brand “Zeynep Deniz”, the designer still does design consultancy, freelance private label collections and gives private lessons in fashion design and portfolio.
Something is alluring about Zeynep Deniz; mystique, for want of a better word, comes to mind as you remove the Instagram persona. We met on Instagram, one of the many platforms used to showcase her unique talent. With no references to her personal life anywhere, I wondered how a 115,000 Instagram fan base could exist. I caught up with Zeynep at her studio in Istanbul, Turkey.
A Defining Moment In Time
At age five, Zanep’s mother dropped her off on the first day of school for what would be one of the most defining moments in her life journey. As the school bell rang to signal that it was time to be picked up and taken home, she watched her classmates dissipate in numbers. In the midst of that crowd, she observed that each child had somewhere to go and appeared to know exactly what to do. It bothered her that she didn’t understand why and was unsure what was going on until it was apparent that nobody was there to collect her from school.
Alone and scared, she remembered crying inconsolably, wiping the tears from her eyes. Then, something triggered an intense, emotionally defining moment. She realised that she never wanted to be in such a vulnerable position again at that defining moment.
Suffice to say that she made it home safely. Still, there was an obvious trauma experienced, enough to recall memories at such a young age. Having a plan B was permanently embedded into the fabric of Zeynep’s work ethic at such a young age, which is very apparent today. A catalyst for her to exploit every hidden talent.
As she spoke, it invoked memories from my childhood when my parents decided to send me away to India to live with family members who, at that stage, I barely knew whilst they remained in the UK. But, of course, my experience was by no means the same. Still, I could relate to the emotional value in Zeynep’s life, mainly because I was also a young child fending for myself.
A skill set for a designer
They say that illustrators and designers need to have a unique skill set. These include creativity, photography and negotiation. Have I missed anything out?
Technical skills, extensive knowledge about fabrics, sowing, and understanding the construction of a design are essential skills. In addition, there is an emphasis on the ability to interpret a design from your head to paper with an understanding of measurements and dimensions.
You have 115,000 followers on Instagram; that’s a jaw-dropping following. Does a graduate need to understand how social media works to be successful in your industry?
Social media, for me, is a means to communicate; it is a significant factor in every sector. It facilitates a global reach that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.
I have a niche, love what I do, love to inspire, and my tutorials mean that people can learn from me on a global scale. Understanding how things work online is necessary because you can learn and apply. Although I have followers worldwide, India, Iran, Turkey, the US, and Brasil respectively make up where my work is more popular.
Tell me something that people wouldn’t know about you?
Up until 2016, I was a Brazillian dance instructor. So it was very early on in my journey when I moved to Amsterdam. I was introduced to this genre of dance and felt very connected to it. I also played the piano (classical) from the age of six up until college age, where I decided to follow my heart into the world of fashion.
Do you need a website?
Yes, I think that, especially with the Pandemic, a website allows you to display different services uniquely. As a breathing coach and dance instructor, I value my website. It can also serve as a plan B. I always think about what I would do if Instagram stopped working.
I’m a very private person; recognition for my work is all I want.Zeynep Deniz
Passionately curious designer
When did you know that you wanted to be a Fashion designer and illustrator?
I knew that I wanted to be a Fashion Designer from the age of ten. But, then, something of an oddity, I would watch all the classic movies and musicals from decades past. They fascinated me, and I was mesmerised by the clothing, hairstyles, dancing and music.
My brother pursued a career in Electrical Engineering and went on to get a university scholarship. But, like most parents of that era, my parents wanted me to follow a more traditional education path. At that time, courses were non-existent, and I had to think quick to find a way to overcome this hurdle if I wanted a future in an industry that I was so passionate about.
You have to consider that in the ’90s, there was no internet access and no fashion school. So I decided that I wanted to study in Italy; I learned the language while continuing my education at the university of fine arts, majoring in ceramics.
I wrote countless letters and requested brochures from all the Fashion Schools in Italy. I secretly worked part-time for a timeshare company and saved as much money as possible to pay my way. Although I had also considered France an option, I discounted it. Instead, I focused on Italy as a preferred choice that would give me the opportunities I wanted.
Two schools were on my radar, one in Milan and the other in Rome. Although both would suit, I wanted to study in a small town, not a big city. In the end, I found a place where I ended up completing half the course in Polimoda, Florence, Italy, the rest at New York, Fashion Institute of Technology, NY state university.
Unlike my brother, who had a career road map, I had to create my road from scratch because it didn’t exist. Following my heart on how to put together, a fashion portfolio was part of this process.
Can you switch creativity on and off?
I feel that there is an infinite source of inspiration flowing through me. There is an invisible connection to it, so I never think I have to look for it. As long as I keep feeding myself with visuals, new information and keep researching, I am connected to that source of inspiration.
Always learn.Zeynep Deniz
Pen and paper
Are you a traditional designer?
Yes, I love the feeling of working with paper; the ambience is different. In addition, there is an appreciation for smell, touch, sound and experience, which can often be lost when working on a computer. I love technology, but paper offers a personal touch. I like to see the heart and soul of the designer, and although it’s my preference, I still embrace technology in my unique way.
Did opportunity find you, or did you have to find it?
I’m a very spiritual person. I meditate every day and believe in the law of attraction. So the whole concept of destiny is to be in the right place at the right time. That said, in my case, I wanted to create it; it was up to me to be on the same energy level as the things I desired and the opportunity that I created.
4,000 followers on YouTube.
Why do you have a YouTube channel?
The videos on my YouTube channel are longer and offer a very different experience. IGTV on Instagram will play a snippet, but you’re prompted to interact to watch more.
The algorithm is different on YouTube compared to Instagram, and it’s on my list of things to investigate the differences. My focus is always to produce extremely user-friendly instructional videos against soothing music to enhance a users experience.
I’m a published UK author, if I wanted to write a book about you, what would you call it?
What advice would you give someone who wanted to follow your path?
Nothing happens without passion; follow your heart and be passionately curious.
What does the future hold for you?
I truly want and would be very happy with getting invited to teach at the top Fashion Schools worldwide and give workshops, classes and inspire as many young fashion lovers as possible.
I may also show the more spiritual side of me in the future; I’m a very private person and value the privacy that I receive. But, on the other hand, my friends always push me into revealing more about my life on social media, so who knows, maybe I will.