Turkish artisans team up at Micro-Labs on Bourke Street

16 November 2022

Marvel at handmade leather shoes crafted using a 600-year-old method and sand-free bamboo beach towels made by Turkish artisans at Micro-Labs until 30 November. 

Shoemakers Serenay and Can of Akana also make leather bags and house slippers, while Irem of Fine Selection offers relaxed ethical clothing designs alongside towels, robes and kimonos. 

The two businesses are sharing a retail space at Micro-Labs in the central city until the end of the month, showcasing their exquisite products and offering live sewing demonstrations. 

Ethical shoes with six centuries of history 

Serenay and Can collaborate with an artisan family in Turkey who’ve made leather footwear for four generations. The family uses an age-old technique and a distinctive minimalist design to create comfortable shoes. 

Turkey is located on the ancient Silk Road trade route, and these types of shoes are believed to have been brought from Yemen to the Ottoman Empire over six centuries ago. 

It’s this rich history that inspires Serenay.  

‘It fascinates me that our shoes are entirely handmade and we craft them in the same way as they were six centuries ago, apart from an old-school sewing machine for stitching the uppers and the recent addition of a leather cutting machine for precision,’ Serenay said. 

While mass production threatens ateliers the world over, Serenay believes young people are becoming more drawn to products that use time-tested techniques and sustainable materials, like leather with a traceable supply chain. 

‘Nowadays, the young generation is interested in learning this labour-intensive craft with the rise of the concept of sustainability and appreciation of ethically made products,’ she said. 

Two people standing in a lush courtyard
Serenay and Can

Organic textiles made with love 

Like Serenay, Irem credits her Turkish heritage as a key driver in her small business. 

‘Turkey is a particularly productive nation when it comes to manufacturing, fibres and textiles,’ Irem said.  

‘I spent a lot of my childhood travelling to historic locations, many of which are known for their 4000-year-old textile remains. Even my mother was born in Denizli, a city well known for its textile industry. I believe it is simply in my DNA from the oldest ancestors.’ 

After moving to Australia, Irem was keen to start a small business aligned to her passion for fashion design and sustainable fibres. 

Things began to fall into place when she fell in love with a textiles business back in Turkey – a tiny workshop and retail shop in a small town making product with organic bamboo, linen and hemp. 

‘I began purchasing their exquisitely created fabrics and creating my own lounge wear line here in Melbourne,’ Irem said. 

‘The concept is to combine my relaxed tops and bottoms (even scrunchies) with their lovely wood block printed kimonos and creating a whole natural, relaxed and sophisticated look.’ 

A person using a sewing machine
Irem at work

A new collaboration 

Drawn together by their shared values of sustainability and vintage craftsmanship, Serenay, Can and Irem were keen to work together in a pop-up retail space. Micro-Labs provided the perfect opportunity. 

‘When I attended the Micro-Labs event night, I noticed the friendly atmosphere right away. It was energising and full of possibilities,’ Irem said. 

‘We had a lot of ideas during our brainstorming session with Serenay, and we wanted to be a part of this incredible environment.’ 

‘Micro-labs is a very inclusive, supportive and community focused place that facilitates a variety of events, retail pop ups and just a perfect place for our first collaboration,’ Serenay said.  

‘I am very excited to be a part of this amazing community, and for the opportunity to reach more people through Micro-Labs.’ 

To learn more, visit Fine Selection x Akana or drop by 227-229 Bourke Street in Melbourne. 

About Micro-Labs 

The Micro-Labs Emerging Technology Testbed pilot project explores how city retail spaces can better support our community and economy. 

The multipurpose, shared and flexible space is a place for collaboration, pop-up stores, meeting, co-working, workshops, events, study sessions, film nights, discussions and browsing. 

Small business owners, entrepreneurs, community groups and individuals interested in booking a space for their next pop-up or event can apply now at Micro-Labs

Micro-Labs was one of three winning projects selected as a pilot through the Reimagining the City challenge. We’re delivering the project in partnership with AECOM. 

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16 November 2022
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