We had an enjoyable, albeit short, interview with Ahmet BAYTAR, the shoe designer we met at the AYMOD International Shoe and Fashion Fair and also the founding President of the Turkish Shoe and Accessory Designers Association. We had a conversation with topics ranging from the shoe industry to Artificial Intelligence technology and leather.
Mr. Ahmet, can we get to know you first?
After studying Graphic Design and Sculpture at Istanbul Anatolian Fine Arts High School, I graduated from Mimar Sinan University, Faculty of Architecture, Department of Industrial Product Design. I provide design consultancy services to various companies on leather-clothing, leather-textile, shoe and bag design. I have been doing this job for 20 years. Between 1996 and 2000, I won various awards in the Shoe Design Competitions organized by the Turkish Footwear Manufacturers Association. In 2010, I was selected as the “Young Designer of the Year” candidate by the “Elle Style Awards” with my own brand “Ahmet Baytar”. In 2013, I attended the Micam Shoe Fair in Milan with my own brand. But I mostly sustain my own life through the education part of the job and the design consultancy service I provide to companies.
(IMA) I think you are currently providing training services at Istanbul Fashion Academy.
It is a 3 and a half month program, a training on bag design. It is actually a bag design and sample production program, with training content on topics such as branding, brand analysis, sustainability, and preparing collections with international methods. In other words, our students participating in this program design their own bags and see what the product outputs will be like. And at the same time, we are trying to offer them a perspective on branding, both me and my educational institution, Istanbul Fashion Academy (IMA).
I would like to know your perspective on the industry, you have provided services to the leather industry before. Can you evaluate the designs you have made?
Leather is like this, when it comes to sustainability, I think leather is an inevitable material. We have talked about this with you before, what is sustainable is actually leather, not artificial materials. Therefore, I like to use leather-textile, leather-shoes, leather-bags, whatever leather material is.
We sometimes had various duties regarding these, such as working with companies on the recycling of waste materials and showing them to students, and purchasing these recycled products from manufacturers and bringing them back to life.
In fact, I have a way of working that strives to show how sustainable leather is. I always defend this because ultimately these animals are consumed in some way and their meat is consumed. These idle materials are processed and turned into leather. This process is already a very time-consuming and financially costly process. I think this is a work done for sustainability. Therefore, I find it logical to use leather in every field.
When we look at our history, the models of that period started to appear in the field of shoe clothing, which were used by people from the ancient times before Christ and are currently being excavated in the field of archaeology. When we look at the designs there, what would you like to say about the leather that can be called exotic or fantastic with the current designs?
Since production methods have changed, technology has entered our lives and there has been an industrial revolution, production methods have changed, trends have emerged, therefore, especially the change in production methods, in my opinion, has enabled us to produce the designed product, that is, the product we dream of. Of course, there are increasingly technological breakthroughs.
The fact that shoe printouts from the newly launched three-dimensional printouts can be used in various fashion shows is a groundbreaking innovation. This is how they are offered for sale in the store. I think it was a Swedish designer who made this work first. It seems like the world is evolving towards a world where we will have products that we can print at home using 3D printers. Nowadays, for example, there are printers for perfumes. When a new perfume comes out, you can print it from the internet and smell it. So, if you have that printer, you can print it and get that scent no matter where you are in the world.
In the near future, you will be able to purchase a three-dimensional drawing of the design, print it at home and wear it. For example, the world is gradually evolving towards it.
It’s the same with leather, for example, handmade, those who do craft work design, cut and sew by themselves. What are your thoughts?
It is possible, after all, the working method you are talking about refers to a period we call Arts and Crafts. There may be something like this, the infrastructure is very futuristic, you can print it out with 3D printers, there are sewing holes and places. However, the upper part of the product is made of leather and they send you a pattern of it. You can create a stamp yourself, then sew it by hand and mount it on the sole, thus producing a handmade shoe.
The information you provide is stimulating and will set an example for future generations. Can you talk about the work you have done with certain companies?
I provide design consultancy services to various companies on shoe and bag design. I am the design director of one of Turkey’s most famous shoe companies. I have a group of designer friends here. I am trying to support the company in terms of design by trying to make the drawings they make on the computer more consistent with various guidance on how the products they design can come to life with more accurate lines and more accurate colors. There is a process that goes like this. On the other hand, I receive feedback from my students to whom I give bag design training, asking for design consultancy services. I support my friends who do not have much knowledge on this subject, such as how to create a collection, where they can be produced, what materials they can use.
There are services provided to the leather industry in terms of education, especially in this sector today. For example, we are experiencing artificial intelligence technology in these times. What are your thoughts on how much more we can improve it by combining it with this technology?
I don’t think design will improve much with artificial intelligence, because sometimes what we call design is very simple, it takes 10 years to progress very simply, sometimes there are trends that vary greatly, I think it is very difficult for artificial intelligence to grasp this because it is about the emotions involved in humans. So, it seems impossible to me that artificial intelligence can take this, blend it and transfer it to a tiny surface.
Mr. Ahmet, what would you like to say lastly?
I would like to say something about the issue of sustainability, which is inflated like a balloon. The leather material is absolutely sustainable. One day, when we stop eating meat, we will also stop using leather. But if you are eating it, I think the process of taking that inert material, leather, and turning it into a usable material will always exist.
Thank you very much for accepting our Magazine Leather interview request. It was nice to meet at such a fair. We wish you good work.