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Insider Guide to Istanbul with Zeynep Arcay

Zeynep Arçay is the founder and creative director of her namesake, women’s designer brand. Based in Istanbul, Zeynep Arçay went from years in the technology industry to taking the leap to pursue a lifelong dream of creating her own fashion brand.

Since leather has always been her favourite texture, Arçay’s initial focus was on paper-thin leather to create incredibly lightweight, strong-yet-feminine-style dresses, skirts, and jumpsuits in colours such as baby blue, red, and black, resulting in stunning, fashion-forward pieces that were elegant with an incredible fit. She has since embraced many other fabrics and has made a big splash in global markets, becoming a go-to brand for Jessica Biel to Kendall Jenner to leading style influencer Leonie Hanne.

We’ve got Zeynep’s insider lowdown to Istanbul – best shopping, brunch spots and running by the Bosphorus.

Inside Istanbul

What collaborations/projects are you involved with that you’re most proud of?

I believe in the power of education. One of the most important projects for me has been helping young students in need of financial support have better educational opportunities.

Tell us about your background: where you’ve lived, where you feel is home now?

My roots go back to Crete Island and I spent my childhood in the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. My parents had my sister and myself 13 years after they got married and this fact made us really important for them and we have been a very close family.

I served as a top executive in the technology industry for many years. When I lost my mum very suddenly, I realised that there might not be a tomorrow and it was then, I felt it was exactly the right time for me to pursue my lifelong dream of creating my own fashion brand. I had taken the strength to make this huge change in my life from my mother and have always felt her support even she was not with me anymore.

I have lived in Istanbul for more than 20 years now and it is where I call home.

What is the best time to visit Istanbul and why?

May to June. It is not too hot and the warm weather brings out all of the beauties the town has to offer.

How would you spend 48 hours in Istanbul?

I love both old and the new city. If it is your first time you should definitely see Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern and Grand Bazaar (specifically NuruOsmaniye).

Have brunch in the garden of the Four Seasons Hotel at Sultanahmet, take a boat tour of The Bosphorus, finalised with a dinner at Bebek or Kıyı Balik – don’t forget to try “rakı” with fish.

Where do you go to get inspired?

I travel and observe a lot. I am inspired by new places I visit, a new song I hear, an object, or even a single word can be the start of a collection.

What’s your favourite neighbourhood and why?

Bebek – because it is young and alive.

Describe your city in five words…

Historical, multi-cultural, quick, Bosphorus, great food!

What’s the best way to get around?

Depends on where you go, but I would suggest Taxi or Metro.

Your favourite secret spot is..

I love Kebap and a very very small cosy place called “Adana Ocakbası Kurtulus”. It is the best of the best for tasty food.

What’s your ultimate daytime Istanbul outfit?

In winter leather or denim pants, and dresses in summer.

Essential travel items to pack? Why?

Sneakers, as it is really a huge city and the best way to see it is to walk quite a lot.

Favourite hotel? Why?

Ciragan Kempinski. It is a great feeling to wake up in a palace with the full Bosphrus view.


Jogging besides Bosphorus in the mornings.

Your favourite place to shop is…

Beymen Zorlu.. I can find all my favourite brands there.

Best market to visit?

Spice Bazaar

Favourite restaurants in Istanbul?

Kıyı Balık, Cecconis

Favourite bars?

Duble Meze in Sishane.

Must-do excursion?

Princes Islands.

Sunday brunch is spent here…

Four Seasons Hotel at Sultanahmet.

Souvenir to take home?

Chocolate coated Turkish delight. My favourite is from Divan.

Follow Zeynep at @zeyneparcay. Shop her full collection here

To read more Insider Guides with our fashion favourites, take a look here

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