Trip to Turkey

Last October I and 39 other students from my university went to Istanbul, Turkey to experience the manufacturing process of fashion products within a factory.
After waking up at 5am and a 4 hour flight, we finally got to Turkey at 3pm which gave us plenty of time to rest and prepare for the fun day of factory trips we had ahead of us the next day.

Of course, bright and early at 9am we were told to be at the hotel restaurant ready to eat breakfast which consisted of 10 different types of breads, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, cereal, and egg… once full on one bread roll, we all jumped into the coaches and travelled through Istanbul to the factories which were located in the poorer side of the city where (typically) we got lost! With the coach driver constantly stopping and asking for directions we finally found the factory an hour after we were due to arrive.
The factory visit was organised by Marks and Spencer’s and we were able to see every aspect and area of the building; from design rooms to watching factory workers manufacture actual products on the production line. We also saw spinning of woven fabric, fabric cutting, checking of material for faults (this consisted of a man standing in front of rows and rows of stretched material being passed through a conveyor belt, keeping an eye out for any snags or faults that may have occurred whilst the material was under production) and also pressing and wrapping of products.

Whilst in the factory we weren’t able to talk to any of the workers, which may have been because of the language barrier but I think it was due to them thinking we were working for Marks and Spencer’s and we were there checking up on their work… who knows?
The second factory we saw was again a drive away; however we were able to find this factory easily… We were able to see different fabric surface decorations which were completed by machinery: screen printing, embroidery (lettering and image), as well as the application of sequins. Products were being made for Tommy Hilfiger, Adidas and other companies where their logos didn’t appear on the products.
Screen printing was particularly big within this factory; there were several different types of machines in process whilst we were at the factory. Being able to see the screen printing process was very interesting as we were able to see how quick and diverse the machinery is.
We were taken to the store room where all the screen printing screens are kept and produced. In this room there were hundreds of screens with different prints on them which can easily be reused for different or reoccurring trends.
On Wednesday we were taken to various shopping districts. The first shopping mall had various types of products for sale at different market levels. We entered the centre from the top floor where all the designer brands were, not knowing that the shops we could afford to buy products from were on the ground floor. Middle floor included mid- market level brands which we popped into, wishing we had the money to buy from them! We didn’t even attempt to go in the designer stores- we knew we’d get funny looks as soon as we’d walk in! Whilst at this shopping mall the few affordable shops that we recognised were Zara, H&M, The Body Shop, Pull and Bear and Mango. 

The second shopping mall was open air and again was full of stores we couldn’t afford, although there was a Marks & Spencers and Starbucks! However two of us couldn’t contain ourselves when we saw a glasses shop full from ceiling to floor with specs, so we went in and tried 50% of the eyewear on… the managers didn’t look impressed, especially when he kept adjusting the glasses we put back on the shelves after we’d put them back!

After all the fun from the shopping malls, we were told that Thursday was a public holiday and we had intended on going to the Grand Bazaar then, so we decided to head there afterwards as we didn’t want to miss it and we were going home on Friday.
As soon as we got to the Grand Bazaar we were amazed at how busy it was. Of course my friend needed the toilet as soon as we got there, and as karma she had to go in a hole in the ground! Inside the sheltered section on the bazaar all you could see were bags, lamps, jewellery, shoes and men cluttering up the area. The stall owners would try and use every trick in the book to try and lure you towards their products. We had been called ‘The Spice Girls’, ‘Charlie’s Angles’, ‘Rihanna’, ‘Shakira’, ‘Paris Hilton’ and ‘Lady Gaga’. At first it was hilarious but after a while we got sick of it and we couldn’t wait to leave. The bazaar itself was amazing. My attempts to haggle were put to the test but I managed to get a bag down from 160 Turkish Lira to 60 Turkish Lira which I thought was pretty impressive!

Wednesday night we ventured over to Taksim square which is the more modern side of the city, where we saw more eastern brands such as Nike, Sephora, Topshop, Mango and French Connection.
We had dinner here and somehow I managed to trip over a table and sprawl myself over it and the chairs… everyone in the restaurant had their eyes on me and I could see ‘Idiot’ written in all their eyes! Amazing!

As our plans had changed due to the public holiday we decided to go back to Taksim Square, however we ended up being there for around an hour and then headed back as we had pretty much seen everything the night before and we were being chased by little kids…
After twiddling our thumbs in the hotel over picking something to do, we finally decided to walk towards the Blue Mosque and see what we could find along the way as we were told that everything would be closed for the holiday. Whilst on our journeys we found some really cute back roads full of typical tourist shops selling the same products, but we still went into everyone! One shop owner (a.k.a ‘creepy eye guy’ he was obsessed with looking at our eyes) we came across was determined to sell us a scarf, he was showing us various methods of tying scarves; he even made a ‘Manchester design’!

Once we’d finished perusing in the shops we finally reached the mosque. It was so cool! Although we didn’t go in because it was very busy due to the holiday, we went to the inside porch-ish area and took a few pictures… The whole area was incredibly clean! We then found the German Fountains which were very picturesque! However the moment was ruined when a random man took a picture of my friend’s legs because she was wearing shorts, so we made a quick exit!

Overall I had a great time in Turkey but I am so pleased to be home. I miss not having to wear a winter coat but I couldn’t handle how busy it was everywhere we went (this coming from a girl from London), and we were sick of people shouting random names at us trying to come to their restaurants or shops, trying to tell us how they’ll change our lives!
Hopefully the next time I’ll go is to visit factories as a buyer!

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