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Interview with Memet Güreli, Dhoku

Memet Güreli, the owner of Dhoku, is a visionary who has been in the carpet business since his early childhood. Unlike many others, Mr. Güreli decided to change the game and came up with the concept of modern patchwork carpets and kilims that have become very popular in Turkey and beyond. We met him at Dhoku, his shop in the Grand Bazaar.

Dhoku Mehmet GureliSoUL: Please tell us about yourself and how you got into the carpet business?

MG: I came to the Grand Bazaar as an apprentice at a very young age. So, I learned this craft first by listening and then practicing it; learning from my masters as I went along. We used to be involved in trading only; this is the classical way of being in this business in Turkey. But slowly I started to get bored with just buying and selling and wanted to do something more than that. I was wondering whether we could produce something rather than selling? That’s how we started with patchwork and established Ethnicon, which we recently rebranded as Dhoku.

We started really small and in a way very amateurish but we received very positive feedback and became a name for patchwork. It helped that what we were doing was in synch with this era and what was and still is trendy and hence our products were quite successful. So we got much momentum from this start.

SoUL: Explain to us what Dhoku means?

MG: Dhoku in Turkish has a number of meanings but essentially it means texture, pattern and grain. And that’s exactly what we do. I mean we start with an existing material. We take it and start changing its grain, its texture; we do that in small steps and we transition this old material into something that is new, looks different and feels different but still maintains the grain that its made of.

SoUL: And you convert something that is so local to something that everyone can get?

MG: That’s right. I believe in this philosophy and that’s my outlook to life. You take something that exists and make it new. Transition it to an item that can be liked globally. And throughout the process we meet amazing people. Everyone adds to it. We even got to participate at the Istanbul Design Biennial with famous designers.

SoUL: Tell us about patchwork; how did you come up with this idea?

MG: Patchwork is not new, the tradition of patchwork existed in Anatolia for a long time. This technique has even a name; they call it Kırkyama. What we do differently is that we took the idea and we created something very stylized, with a great finish. So one can call it more refined, if you will.

SoUL: And this is really in your DNA, taking something old and turning it into something new…

MG: Yes, that’s how we’re different… We knew about carpets, we wanted to do something new and we wanted to do this in Istanbul. So we decided to give it a try. We worked with people we valued, like Superpool, an architectural design firm. They helped us with the designs and we applied those we thought would work on carpets and kilims and we got ourselves a new way of making kilims and carpets.

SoUL: This sounds very exciting. Let’s talk about your products a little.

MG: Once we rebranded ourselves as Dhoku, we produced seven collections under this brand. We have the patchwork carpets that are very famous in Turkey, they are called Decadent. We also make patchwork kilims and we also make modern carpets. They are organic and beautifully crafted.

SoUL: Who is your customer? Who prefer a new trendy carpet?

MG: It’s interesting. Some of our customers have not much to do with carpets, at all. They see our products as an object not a floor cover. They care a lot about aesthetics.

SoUL: How is the foreign vs. local split?

MG: We have both. We have a lot of customers in Turkey that appreciate what we do. I’d say it’s about 50/50.

SoUL: What should someone care for when shopping for a carpet?

MG: It really boils down to what you like and how much value you associate with it. If someone traveled half the world to come here that person has been around and has a judgment. People should take a look at the shop and people. At then end of that day, it’s really about the value you allocate to the item.

SoUL: We know that you have standard pricing. Can you tell us how it works?

MG: Yes, you can research on the Internet and find out about our pricing. It’s based on square footage. So people know what they’ll pay when they enter our shop. But that’s not standard in Turkey. People should take a look at the shop and people.

SoUL: You’ve been in the bazaar for a long time. How has the bazaar changed?

MG: Kapalıçarşı has transitioned a lot since I first came here. I remember days when you couldn’t even enter a street because some shopkeeper would have blocked access as they left their items outside the shop. There were times when the bazaar was essentially the only place where people would go for shopping. Now, it’s more boutique, more tourists. I think it’s exciting to observe this change.

SoUL: Let’s talk about Istanbul. What do you suggest people do here?

MG: Being a tourist in Istanbul is the best thing. It’s full of sites, history, restaurants, culture, shopping.

SoUL: If a visitor has only a day where should he or she spend it?

MG: Galata and Taksim, Beyoğlu in other words. It’s a great place, so rich in culture. People should walk there; it should be seen and lived.

SoUL: What to eat while in Istanbul?

MG: Fish. They serve Mediterranean food in the US, as well. But it’s not the same. People should try the fish in Istanbul. It’s delicious.

SoUL: Where do you go to eat fish?

MG: I like Balıkçı Sabahattin, for example. It’s close-by.

SoUL: What to drink?

MG: Rakı. But if people are looking for a non-alcoholic drink, they should try boza in Vefa at Vefa Bozacısı. As far as I know there is nothing like boza anywhere else in the world. And Vefa Bozacısı has a great ambiance.

SoUL: What to buy?

MG: For some reason the first thing that comes to my mind is backgammon. But of course, Iznik tiles are marvelous.

SoUL: And lastly for visitors looking for a traditional carpet where should they go?

MG: Şişko Osman in the Grand Bazar… He’s an expert on carpets. No one knows as much. People should pay a visit to his shop.

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