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Sussex Fashion Designer Elif Köse On Her Unique Career Evolution


The unique story of Sussex-based Elif Köse, who seeks to empower women through her fashion and retreat in her hometown of Ayvalik in Turkey

How do you look back on your childhood in Turkey?

I look back on my childhood as a challenging journey, one that has shaped who I am today. Growing up in Turkey wasn’t easy, and I faced frustrations and oppression within a strict Muslim family. Although it was a rough period, I prefer to focus on the strength and resilience that I build from those experiences. Over 16 years ago now, I made a life-changing decision to leave Turkey and start afresh in England as an au pair. Arriving with just a single suitcase and a small amount of money, I faced loneliness and fear, not speaking a word of English. However, I refused to let those obstacles define me. I set small goals for myself, such as learning a new word or making a new friend, and slowly but surely, I overcame the challenges that came my way. 

I started a successful business, rebuilt relationships with my family, and found true love. The birth of my beautiful son brought immense joy, but tragedy struck with the sudden loss of my father shortly after. It was a devastating blow, and I felt alone and filled with self-doubt. However, the love and hope I saw in my son’s eyes reminded me of my own strength. I knew I could persevere and continue achieving my dreams, not only for myself, but also as an inspiration to others who long to escape lives of fear and oppression. I have the belief that everyday is just the beginning of my story, as I embark on a new chapter filled with new goals and a burning desire to empower others to believe in themselves, challenge adversity, and create their own futures. I want to remind everyone that their past does not define their future, and with determination and belief in oneself, anyone can overcome any obstacle and fulfil their potential.

Elifkose Websize
A latest collection, photo by Charlotte Rebecca

Have you always had an interest in fashion?

Fashion has always been a significant part of my life. From a young age, I had a deep passion for clothing and design. I used to make clothes for my dolls, the kinds that I wasn’t allowed to wear, I found joy in creating them. My mother’s talent for sewing inspired me, and I would often use leftover fabrics to design outfits for my baby dolls, imagining extravagant fashion shows.

During my time at university, I discovered knitting and began making unique pieces that caught the attention of my schoolmates. I even started taking commissions to create end of year outfits for people I knew. These experiences nurtured my love for fashion and fueled me for sure, but I never thought I would become the woman I am today. Fashion has always been a means of self expression for me, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to explore and express my creativity through my designs. Fashion, for me, is not just about creating beautiful garments; it is a powerful means of self expression. I believe that the clothes we wear can convey who we are and what we aspire to be. There is a saying that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but in my experience, I’ve never seen anyone purchase a book after reading the whole thing. So, why should we downplay the impact of our appearance?

Fashion has the remarkable ability to communicate our personality, our passions, and our dreams to the world. It allows us to shape the narrative of our lives, to curate our own stories, and to inspire others. When I engage in fashion, I see it as a language, a language that goes beyond words and transcends cultural barriers.

Through the art of fashion, we can ignite a spark within ourselves and others, encouraging confidence, creativity, and individuality. By carefully selecting the clothes we wear, we can reflect our innermost desires, aspirations, and values, influencing how we are perceived by the world.

So, I don’t believe in underestimating the power of fashion. It is a tool that empowers us to present our authentic selves to the world, to embrace our uniqueness, and to defy limitations. Fashion allows us to step into the spotlight, unapologetically declaring our dreams and ambitions.

In a world that often rushes to judgement, fashion offers a chance to make a strong first impression, a visual proclamation of who we are and what we stand for. So, why leave it to chance? Embrace the power of fashion, and let your outward expression of style reflect the brilliance that lies within.

When did it become a serious career consideration for you?

The consideration of fashion as a serious path for me happened somewhat unexpectedly. When I arrived in the UK as an au pair in 2007, my main focus was on earning enough money to support myself and fulfil my dream of travelling the world. I was drawn to the world of fashion, but it initially served as a means to an end.

I found an opportunity to work as a helper in an alteration shop. It was a role that aligned with my limited language skills at the time. However, fate had other plans for me. The owner of the business eventually made the decision to close her business and relocate to France. She offered me the chance to inherit some of her clients and even entrusted me with her clients’ address book. Obviously no GDPR back then!

Taking a leap of faith, I embraced the opportunity and embarked on my journey as an alteration specialist. Starting with my limited language skills and a genuine passion for helping others whilst earning a living, I gradually honed my skills and expanded my clientele. What began as a way to earn a living transformed into something more significant, a path that I became deeply invested in.

As I continued working with clients, I discovered an innate talent and an unyielding drive to excel in the world of fashion. I feel it was fueled by my subconscious instincts, that fashion became a serious business consideration for me. I realised that I had the ability to make a meaningful impact through my work, not just in terms of altering garments, but in enhancing the confidence and self expression of those I served.

This accidental journey, guided by my own intuition and the opportunities presented to me, allowed me to discover my true passion and potential in the fashion industry. From those early days as an alteration girl, I have grown both personally and professionally, continuously learning and expanding my skills to become the woman I am today.

Did you come straight to Sussex?

Yes, I came straight to Sussex, and my decision to come straight to Sussex was influenced by a friend who previously lived in the UK and its similarities to where I come from in terms of being seaside, its liveliness etc.

Elifkose Websize
Photo by Charlotte Rebecca

What do you love about where you are based today?

What I love about where I am based today is the remarkable sense of familiarity of my hometown. The vibrant cosmopolitan atmosphere is something that resonates deeply with me. Being in a diverse and culturally rich environment allows me to embrace different perspectives and appreciate the beauty of multiculturalism.

One of the most significant aspects that has enriched my experience is the sense of belonging I have developed over time. As I embarked on my personal and professional development journey, I gradually found my own voice and gained confidence. This newfound self-assurance has allowed me to fully immerse myself in the community and establish meaningful connections with others.

The recent challenges brought about by the pandemic have further highlighted the strength and resilience of the place I call home. Witnessing the collective spirit of the community as we navigated through uncertain times has been truly inspiring. It has reaffirmed my belief in the power of unity and the capacity of individuals to come together in support of one another. Brighton has become a catalyst for my self-discovery and has provided me with a platform to flourish both personally and professionally.

You launched your fashion brand in 2009 – what inspired it? 

The inspiration behind the launch of my fashion brand in 2009 stemmed from a series of serendipitous events. It all began with the discovery of vintage fabrics that were destined to be tipped by my ex-husband’s nanny. Instead of allowing them to go to waste, I saw the potential in these materials and transformed them into the foundation of my first collection. So her rubbish was my treasure!

What inspires a new design?

What inspires a new design for me are women who embody the spirit of courage, strength, and unwavering confidence. I am particularly drawn to those who refuse to accept “no” as an answer and are determined to make a difference. These women inspire me with their resilience and their willingness to uplift others. Their boldness and fearlessness become the driving force behind my designs, as I strive to create pieces that reflect their empowering energy.

What’s new for summer? 

Outfits that give the women an extra layer of courage and boost their confidence. Designs perfect for standing tall and being whoever they want to be! Pinks, blues, sparkles and flowy pieces designed to last.

Have you evolved in any way over the years?

Yes, I have certainly evolved in many ways over the years. Initially, I believed that outer confidence could be achieved by finding the perfect outfit, inspired by the transformative nature of characters like Wonder Woman. However, my personal development journey led me to a profound realisation that true confidence goes beyond external appearances.

With this newfound understanding, I made it my mission to help others experience a deep sense of confidence and liberation. I became committed to guiding individuals in breaking free from the chains of their past, the influence of others’ opinions, and the need for external validation. I discovered that genuine worthiness comes from within, and I was determined to assist others on their transformative journeys. I became a transformational breathwork master, studied NLP and did leadership courses to grow and have the knowledge to help others.

Taking a leap of faith, I went above and beyond my initial commitments. I made the bold decision to invest in a property in my hometown Ayvalik, Turkey, transforming it into a retreat centre. This building, which was originally constructed by my father over 15 years ago, now serves as a sanctuary for individuals seeking empowerment. I lead transformative programs there, alongside trusted healers and teachers. Moreover, I provide a platform for other coaches and healers to utilise this space and help their own communities.

Through these experiences and choices, I have evolved and grown, aligning my passion for personal development with creating a nurturing environment for others. It has been a remarkable journey of self-discovery, and I am grateful for the opportunity to inspire and support others on their paths to empowerment.

The Turkey retreat

What do you offer at your retreat in Turkey?

At my retreat in Turkey, I offer a safe and transformative space for self-discovery and personal growth. It is a sanctuary where women, including successful entrepreneurs and business owners, can embark on an inner journey to find true happiness and liberation from their own limiting beliefs.  Through a combination of empowering programs, healing practices, workshops, coaching and personalised mentoring, I guide individuals to tap into their inner strength, overcome past traumas, and unlock their true potential. This retreat serves as a catalyst for self-discovery and provides a supportive environment for women to become the heroes of their own stories. It is a place where they can shed the expectations of others and embrace their authentic selves, ultimately finding the happiness and fulfilment they have been seeking.

What does the future hold for you?

The future remains unknown for us all, yet I am on a journey of self discovery, seize new opportunities, heal my own wounds all while empowering others to embrace to become courageously confident.

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Picture of Mark Kebble

Mark Kebble

Mark's career in journalism started in 2001 when he landed a role on a small lifestyle magazine in Angel, North London. Soon enough, the magazine was purchased by a larger organisation and Mark found himself promoted to editor at the tender age of 23. He later became group editor, working on magazines for Angel, Crouch End, Muswell Hill and Highgate. He was also involved in a launch in Hadley Wood and a major new group website, later becoming Group Hub Editor. In 2021, Mark joined Zest Media Group and oversaw the launch of many Absolutely titles across the UK. To date, Mark has launched in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Sussex, Essex, Yorkshire and Cheshire. When he does have some free time, Mark is also the Chairman of an amateur football club in Surrey and is also a fully qualified FA football coach.
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