made in turkey
The Turkish-born Hasan Acir and his family run the Sweet Bride and Ball Fashion shop in Vienna’s 10th district right beside the Viktor Adler Market. Mr. Acir can’t remember anymore if there were 2000 or 3000 guests at his own wedding in a Turkish village. A thousand plus or minus, what’s the difference. A conversation about a ritual of giving and taking in which the private luck of two lovers is very secondary.
How many weeks before a wedding do the bride and groom come to you and ask for your advice?
Earlier they used to come three weeks before, now they come more like three months before. Austrian customers sometimes even come two or three years before the wedding – but I send them back out the door, a lot of things can change in such a time…
… the love might disappear in the meanwhile…
Or the fashion and figure could change. One year before is no problem. Sometimes customers even come before proposing because they have the feeling that a proposal could be around the corner. (laughs)
You always have to be ready! But the stupid thing is that you lose your customers – all going well – after the wedding.
I wouldn’t say that. I’ve already done the clothing for one customer for the third time now, naturally each time with a different woman. He insisted on marrying in white again nevertheless.
“If you give the Chinese a plastic bag and tell them to make you a suit, they’ll do it for you.”
A romantic! Is your client base primarily Turkish? It is easy to notice that Turkish families own many of the Viennese shops for wedding fashion. Do Turkish people simply get married more often than Austrians?
In any case! There are more marriages in Turkey. Put it this way: It feels like 98% of the population in Turkey between 18 and 30 years old decide to get married. And weddings are always very, very big events, always in a wedding hall, and always with a few hundred guests.
Where is your clothing produced? Looking at the prices the garments are quite affordable for the big performance.
Our wedding gowns cost – including accessories and sewing work – between 300 and 2300 Euros and are produced in Turkey. They are all handmade.
Nothing is “made in China”?
No, no! Clothing from China falls apart before you put it on. Thank god, China cannot produce good quality garments yet. Big labels like Hugo Boss also have their suits produced in Turkey because there is still a skilled tailoring industry there. They know where the seams belong, and they use good threads. In Turkey you get advice and also recommendations about what’s possible and what’s not. The Chinese will sew you anything. If you give them a plastic bag and tell them to make you a suit, they’ll do it for you.
“All girls want to be a princess!”
What types of dresses do the brides want?
Typical princess dresses – about 90%. All girls want to be a princess!
Maybe not all…
Oh yes, all of them! First they ask for a simple plain dress, but in the end they all buy the ones with the glittery stones. It’s like with men and cars. They plan to buy one for 10,000 Euro, then they see a cool Ferrari or BMW – naturally, it’s nicer and flashier, and you would prefer to drive in it.
Now I know why expensive cars are so popular in the Turkish community! The comparison is obvious…
Men and women are quite similar in that regard: They all want glitter! It’s seductive! When you have a big celebration – so 500-plus guests, which our customers often do – as the wedding couple, you have to look extravagant. Because the guests are dressed in evening wear, and when the bride presents herself in a simple gown, then you might not recognize her as such and confuse her with a guest. That can’t happen.
Does a wedding gown have to be white?
No, that’s out. Ivory or champagne is better! Snow-white gowns get a bluish or violet tint in videos and photos on Instagram. That’s a bit of my insider knowledge. There were a lot of complaints, and then the companies decided: Let’s not make anything white anymore! Moreover, a snow-white gown quickly becomes gray when it hangs for more than eight weeks.
Ivory because of Instagram?
Do your customers come alone or with an entourage to make the purchase of the dress a massive ritual?
Usually the bride is accompanied by her girl friends, and when it comes time to buy it her future mother-in-law comes along. With Serbian and Turkish customers it is the mother-in-law who pays for the bride’s dress.
Is the man allowed to see the bride in the gown before a Serbian or Turkish wedding?
Sure, that’s not a problem. Sometimes the fiancée comes along to buy the dress.
What is a Turkish wedding like?
In Turkey or in Austria?
What are the differences?
My wedding in Turkey lasted four days. In Austria the celebration typically lasts a day – for cost reasons. My wife and I got married in Turkey and had very many guests – the entire village came.
“A cow, a sheep, and lots of boxes of vegetables were a must.”
Around how many guests?
It was surely between 2000 and 3000 people.
A thousand plus or minus, what’s the difference! Do they all come at once for the four days or successively?
Normally one after the other, but the night before the wedding is the time for the toast, then everyone come all at once.
Good heavens, and did you cater for all of them over these four days?
Oh yeah. A cow, a sheep, and lots of boxes of vegetables were a must. My father even hired a cook. He essentially cooked non-stop. I was responsible for the more organizational stuff and could only really celebrate on the last day. Naturally, we slept in between: One goes to bed around three or four in the morning, and then at ten, eleven it gets started once again.
And when in these fours days does one actually marry his wife?
You get married on the last day. You pick the bride up at noon from the house of the bride’s father. There’s a bit of crying because it is the last day. You get in the car, there is a huge wedding convoy with hundreds of cars, you stop at the cemetery and pray for the dead, and then you drive through the city to the man’s house and celebrate all night long. The bride has moved in, so to say.
“When a Turkish woman gets married she needs five dresses.”
Did bride fashion change much in the past 20 years?
It has become more expensive. Now, for example, the stones have to be from Swarovski! People want to show more – in the age of Facebook and Instagram they also know so much more. When a Turkish woman gets married she needs five dresses. One for the engagement, one for the wedding-eve party, a dress for the henna night, another for the official ceremony at the registry office, and finally the wedding gown.
That’s good for business! Ordering a wedding gown online is considered rather unromantic?
Unfortunately, a lot of people order online! For example, there is wedding gown by Elie Saab available from a Chinese provider for just 200 dollars. Naturally, the dress is not by Elie Saab, it’s fake and hangs on the body like a bed sheet.
Until now we have only talked about the bride, let’s talk about the groom. How does he buy his suit?
It takes ten minutes: The men come by, we show them the designs, they choose the best ones, ask about the size, try them on – finished.
“For Serbian customers it can’t be pompous enough.”
What is the typical style for the groom?
Something like what’s on top of the cake: the groom in a tuxedo.
There are surely customers with more extravagant wishes.
Yes, those who love the pomp. Turkish customers tend to buy simpler clothes. For Serbian customers it can’t be pompous enough – we also carry green, black, wine-red, and shiny combinations. The Serbs organize even bigger weddings than we Turks do!
Even bigger weddings? Where? In the stadium!?
Serbian weddings cost approximately six or seven times more than a Turkish one. Attract attention at any price, that’s the maxim. But that’s also good for our business. I’ve heard from our Serbian customers that they bring musicians from Serbia to Vienna, and it can cost 10,000 to 20,000 Euros – for five to ten hours.
A good groove is important! How much do Serbian and Turkish weddings cost, generally speaking?
Turkish weddings, if they are expensive, cost roughly 15,000 Euros for about 800 guests, when there’s something decent to eat. Serbian weddings, I’d say, cost about 40 to 50,000 Euros without music. They also spend a lot on food. I’ve been to a number of Serbian weddings where the buffet alone cost 15 to 20,000 Euros. But Jewish weddings are even more expensive.
Do Jewish couples also come to your store?
Well, actually just the Jewish men come by. We rarely see Jewish women here – I don’t know where they buy their bride gowns. The Jews really spend a lot on their weddings. I speak with a wedding hall owner sometimes, he told me that Jewish weddings can cost around 100,000 Euros.
“The bride and groom make a profit.”
How can the young couple afford it?
In Jewish culture the uncle has to give a dowry of around 30,000 Euros and the cousin around 10,000 Euros. That’s essentially the jump-start so the bridal pair can do things independently.
I’m afraid I’ll have to turn down a wedding invitation in the future given these sums!
No, of course you can go! It is affordable. At Turkish weddings a family should offer 50 Euros as a gift. If it is a neighbor or a good acquaintance then it is more like 100 Euros, and only in rare cases is it 200 or more. So for the bride and groom – when enough guests come – it is not a loss but a profit. But it all depends on how often the couple or families attended other weddings in the past months and years – if your family wasn’t there then nobody will come to yours.
Are the traditional Turkish wedding clothes you have on display still asked for?
Normally everyone dresses in white – from the Africans to the Chinese to the Turkish Kurds. Our traditional caftans, which were still worn in Turkey a hundred years ago, are worn today on the eve of the wedding at the henna party, so they haven’t disappeared entirely. Coincidentally, a delivery just arrived yesterday. They are a bit more expensive, but they look great. They are coming back into fashion at the moment.
What is this henna party?
It is the farewell night at the house of the parents of the bride, where the mother-in-law draws with henna on her hand. Just like on the eve of a wedding in Austria, the girls and women meet together for a party – but they do not go out, they stay at home and celebrate with food and music. The bride usually wears a wine-red wedding gown. It represents a marriage of sorts already. And actually there should just be the women, “women only”, but that has changed over the years, and the guys also come in the meanwhile.
I read that you can also make special requests at your shop. Were there also funny special requests?
I don’t find them funny at all. A special request is a special request…
… were there interesting special requests?
Once we had a customer who ordered a 15-meter-long train for the dress because the parents’ house of the bride and the parents’ house of the groom were exactly 15 meters away from each other in a Serbian village. When the bride is picked up and moves in with the groom the tail of the train should still be in her parents’ house.
“It’s not like at an Austrian wedding where 50 people celebrate and everyone takes care.”
Saying good-bye in installments, you could say! Such a wedding dress has to be able to handle some wear and tear…
It is a really long day, in that respect the wedding dress withstands it very well. The day typically begins at five in the morning and lasts till five the next morning. During the day one is in the dress while having her hair done, while making photo shoots in the city – in Vienna that’s usually at Schönbrunn Palace. The train gets caught on stones and plants, then you go to dinner in the dress. All kinds of things can happen! It’s not like at an Austrian wedding where 50 people celebrate and everyone takes care.
I hear an element of critique there! Is the way Austrians get married not appropriate in your eyes?
It’s just all quite different with us. At the wedding of my sister more than 2800 guests came! But I have to admit, I am only going to invite good friends and business partners to my son’s wedding, so maximum 500 people with whom you can also have a chat.
So 500 guests are adequate by Turkish standards, an intimate circle, so to say…
Right. With 2800 people you just say, “Hello! Hello! Hello!” and a bit later “Good-bye! Good-bye! Good-bye!” You don’t really get anything out of it. I was totally K.O.-ed after my sister’s wedding; I lost six kilos in the two days of the wedding.
If you were to organize your son’s wedding right now what would you recommend to his bride? What is the best of the best?
I would recommend an a-line cut, so not a princess, definitely something with a back décolleté because that is always quite beautiful, and definitely a ten-meter train. Hey, I am a bride dress salesman!
And you have to show it off!
How sexy can a wedding dress be or how sexy should it not be?
Oh, it should be sexy. It shouldn’t be a “granny dress”. The chest cannot be visible, but you can emphasize the décolleté a bit. Everything in moderation!
How is it when the bride usually wears a hijab? Then she doesn’t wear one at the wedding?
Oh yes, then she also wears it. It is draped nicely and then tips of the dress are sewn to it, you shouldn’t see the hair. We make perhaps ten closed dresses per year and a hundred open ones. Not every Turkish woman wears a headscarf. The Jewish bride clothes are also closed and reveal very little skin.
In Turkey do you also go on a honeymoon?
Normally yes, but in my case we went ten years later because my wife’s grandfather died on the last night of the celebration. We only told everyone on the day afterwards, otherwise according to tradition we would have had to mourn for 40 days before we could have married.
That was pretty close timing by the grandfather!
You can say that again!
Thank you very much for this interesting intercultural talk!