Rifat Ozbek

B. 1955

Birthplace: Istanbul, Turkey

Awards: Woman Magazine, Designer Award, 1986

British Fashion Council, Designer of the Year Award, London, 1988, 1992

British Glamour Award, 1989

Rifat Ozbek is inspired by adornment. He is an observer of culture and subculture, from Tibetan to American Indian, and his interest in decoration is evident in his ornamental clothing. Born in Istanbul, Ozbek left to study architecture at Liverpool University but soon recognized that his interest in constructing buildings was not as compelling as his desire to decorate them.

Ozbek graduated from London's St. Martin's School of Art in 1977, and for several years he worked for a company called Monsoon, known for its production of clothing made from Indian fabrics. In 1984 he began designing clothing under his own label. He soon gained notoriety by combining the decorative symbols and shapes of diverse cultures, such as the Far East, Africa, and his native Turkey, with the classic silhouettes of the West. Ozbek created eclectic clothing which encouraged the urban consumer to embrace "ethnic chic." His use of embroidery, tassels, and vivid colors like turquoise and fushia was completely at odds with 1980s power dressing; nevertheless, his antifashion approach to modern dressing received quite a bit of attention from those who appreciated the departure from sharp-edged suiting. In 1987 the production of his studio line, Future Oz-bek, was licensed to Aeffe SpA, in Italy, and his notoriety continued to grow.

Ozbek's designs reflected both club scene and New Age influences, when in 1990, he made clear his faith in spiritualism by presenting an all-white collection. His popularity continued throughout the 1990s as he continued his investigation of culture and subculture, taking street fashion to the runway with the addition of baseball caps covered in sequins.

The fall 1999/spring 2000 collections of many designers reflected the very aesthetic that Ozbek valued for over a decade—the artful mixing of unlikely patterns, shapes, and ornamentation, along with bits and pieces borrowed from a global grab bag.

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