Buying Leather Apparel in Turkey

Turkey sells lots of great leather apparel, including suede garments.

Turkish cuisine is based on lamb and mutton, which means there are lots of soft skins from which to make fine leather clothing and accessories.

Istanbul is the center of the trade, but all cities have shops soft leather and suede coats, jackets, skirts, dresses, vests, hats, gloves, handbags, wallets and many other items.

(By the way, beware of this VAT refund scam.)

To discover the best places in a short time, you need the help of personal shopper Marilyn Hill-Henderson.

Here are Tom’s Tips on Buying Leather:

1. Look in several shops

In Istanbul, go to the Kürkçüler Çarsisi ((kewrk-chew-LEHR char-shuh-suh, furriers’ market) in the Grand Bazaar, then look at other shops outside the market in surrounding streets. There are many other shops throughout the city—have a look at them as well. Shop on your own, not with a local who may expect a commission from the shopkeeper.

2. Be sure of the fit

Try on several garments, ask prices, and take notes. Be sure that any garment fits comfortably! These garments are made by hand, and each is a bit different. If it doesn’t fit just right, try another.

3. Shop at least 3 shops before buying

Preferably, don’t buy the same day. Think it over and come back. Go outside the Grand Bazaar into the surrounding streets, where there are lots of leather shops paying much lower rents. Shop there, too.

4. Consider custom-made

Most Turkish shops will offer to have a garment custom-made to your specifications (size, style, color, accessories, etc.) for the same price–or at least not much more–than an off-the-rack garment. Why not? They’re all made by hand anyway.

Often they will not even demand a firm commitment to buy. (If you reject it, it’ll just go on the rack for sale to someone else.)

If you’d like to have a garment made, allow as much time as possible! Do your shopping as soon as you arrive in Istanbul, have your measurements taken, and give them time to finish the garment without rushing.

Have it shipped?

Although they will offer to ship it to you (if it would be finished only after you leave), what do you do if you’re dissatisfied after it arrives? Better to try it on and approve it before you pay.

—Tom Brosnahan


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