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On The Journey To Perfection

Seçkin Pirim, Dr. Ayşegül Çoruhlu, Sevil Dolmacı, Gamze Cizreli, and Polat Uyal—each name is exemplary in their own fields and at the peak of their careers. These professionals have something else in common: They all have inevitably discovered the value of flaws at one point in their quest for perfection in what they do.

Full look: Louis Vuitton

Seçkin Pirim has received many awards in the fields of sculpture and design, and displayed his works in numerous private collections and museums in Turkey and abroad. He says he’s recently given up on his quest for perfectionism and has been focusing on works that simultaneously comprise flaws and perfection.

You’ve fit many firsts and awards in your career in addition to your solo and mixed exhibitions. How did you discover yourself and your talents? When did you come to realise that you wanted to be a sculptor?

There’s something I’ve always said about myself: I may be born in Ankara but I opened my eyes to this world in Kuzguncuk. My family moved to Kuzguncuk when I was six months old. It’s a district where many sculptors, painters, poets, and architects lived. Everything started when I visited their workshops and worked as an apprentice. There’s also the cliché that I really enjoyed drawing when I was a kid. My mother forced me to play outside because I was at home drawing all day. The doors of the workshops in Kuzguncuk were always open; I was curious to see the masters who were painting or sculpting inside and started copying them. However, even though I started painting at a young age, I always wanted to be a sculptor. I never wanted to be anything else. I enrolled in a fine arts high school where I studied painting. Then came the Department of Sculpting at Mimar Sinan University.

You’ve made many collaborations to support young artists. In which fields do you think they especially need help?

Since I grew up with that master-apprentice relationship, I know a lot about lending a hand and support to others. About three years ago, we had an “artist talk” in Eskişehir where we met fine arts students from the university in the city. At the end of the event, we were able to spend more time with them and they all told us about familiar problems—that they couldn’t buy supplies, some found it hard to pay the rent, and that they were too anxious to focus on making art. Some brands offer to make collaborations from time to time but I usually turn them down because, honestly, I don’t have much time. However, that day, I accepted a similar offer from these young people and decided to send them the revenue we would collect. Since then, I’ve been doing it only for the youth, trying to provide some financial support for them. I also try to be there for them for emotional support so they always visit me in my workshop to talk. They share their works with me. I think it’s a crucial effort.

You’ve recently broken new ground by designing Louis Vuitton’s store at İstinyePark. Can we say that the amorphous façade, inspired by the Damier pattern and built with Turkish limra stone, exemplifies the perfection of flaws?

Designing a façade for the Louis Vuitton building was an exciting process for me. Initially, when they asked if I could do this for them, I responded, “I won’t design the façade but I can make you a sculpture to put inside.” In the end, it really turned out to be a sculpture for me because, if we were to take the building out of it, I could exhibit it as my work. I imagined this project to resemble a 3-D sculpture as much as possible. It was also exciting for them because it was one of the first projects in which they entrusted the entire building to an artist, but they were more than happy with the result. The origin of the design is inspired by the Damier pattern; however, it’s also in harmony with my recent series. I wanted to build something from the series, which starts off with broken forms and arrives at the whole, because I believed it harmonised with the pattern. We wanted to use a natural stone from these lands in order to build a connection between the past and the present, blending this location with a certain global brand. I think the audience would be better equipped to judge it in terms of perfection. For me, perfection is an important word. I strive to realise my dream of perfection in every work, but that urge to attain it can often be stressful. When I don’t want this to put me in a rut, I occasionally try to produce flawed works so you can say I’m trying to create a balance between the two.

Based on your experience in the industry for a long time, how do you evaluate the influence of digitalisation on art?

Looking back at art history, we see that technological advancements proceed hand-in-hand with art and that artists transform these advancements to utilise them as both inspiration and material in their own discipline. As a sculptor who enjoys using different materials, I’ve been thinking about how I can utilise the opportunities brought along by digitalisation. I don’t know what it’ll evolve into. NFTs have earned themselves a substantial role in the art world but I prefer to keep my distance from that. I never did something just for the sake of doing it. So, I think it’s better to create something after I truly internalise it.

What do you think is the formula for success? How would you fit perfection into it?

Honestly, I cannot give you a clear definition of what success is for me. However, I think discipline is the most important aspect. I spend every day of the week in my workshop so I attach great significance to discipline and the tempo of my schedule. I also think it’s crucial to closely monitor what’s going on in the world and in the world of art. Perfectionism can be a little stressful. Should art be perfect, or can something flawed define perfection? I still think about these questions. I think discipline is one of the building blocks of this formula. At first, I also had this quest to make perfect works but the feeling of being stuck and stressed started bothering me later on. So, I made some works to disrupt this state of trying to be perfect. The façade of LV’s building is a reflection of it; it’s actually a sculpture which begins with perfect forms and, slowly, flows into a form through which perfection morphs into a flaw.

Jumpsuit: Vakko by Peserico, Leather belt: Vakko, Boots : Stuart Weitzman, Vakko

Dr. Ayşegül Çoruhlu is one of the first physicians in Turkey to utilise anti-ageing and longevity practices. She believes that “Cellular wellbeing is the first step to youth and longevity.” Çoruhlu says, throughout her career, she’s worked to understand cellular ageing and to stop it.

In addition to a professional expertise in medicine and biochemistry, you’re also a best-selling author of health books. You’re one of the first people in Turkey to utilise individual hormone, genetics, and anti-ageing tests. Can you tell us about your career full of achievements?

Each specialty of medicine is valuable. Your specialty provides you with in-depth expertise in a certain field. My specialty in biochemistry equipped me with more advanced knowledge in understanding all cellular activity compared to other branches of medicine. My learning in cellular biochemistry and the general biochemistry of the body changed the way I view the concepts of health and illness. The knowledge of the state of healthiest cells enabled me to make early measurements of the changes on the course to illness. This approach was rare 20 years ago; now, all branches have included biochemistry in their approach to patients. No matter what the illness, there’s always some biochemical alterations on a cellular level, which has made this branch very important for all physicians. I was able to adopt this approach early on because of my specialty. Since the beginning, I’ve worked on longevity and anti-ageing rather than diseases. I’ve used special tests to measure this. I’ve studied abroad. Throughout my entire professional journey, I’ve worked to understand cellular ageing and to stop it. This is what motivates me. I’ve written five books on this topic. Diet may seem like the key piece; however, what actually matters is the relationship between our diet and cellular biochemistry.

In an interview, you said, “I’m trying to turn wellbeing into cellbeing.” What is cellbeing? Can you elaborate on it?

True wellbeing is the wellbeing of a single cell. Wellbeing defines a general state of wellness while cellbeing, i.e. cellular wellbeing, is the state of true wellness for cells. For instance, if you have a score higher than 1 in your test results for CRP inflammation, you might be in a state of wellbeing but it would not be true for cellbeing. Your cells are inflamed, which means something is not right inside. The same approach can be applied to all tests. Having test values inside the margin doesn’t make you healthy. What’s ideal is to maintain those values at a level when you're the youngest and healthiest. For instance, a value of 10 for insulin resistance may look normal for references; however, it should be 5 or less in an ideal cell. This is the level of health cellbeing indicates.

How can we develop sustainable eating habits? What are the fundamental differences between circadian diets from others?

Circadian diets are the most sustainable form when it comes to eating habits. The most crucial factor in failing to eat healthy is the timing of your meals; most people calculate calories, which is an obsolete method. There are two fundamental rules in diets: (1) Look at your plate: Are you eating healthy, decent food? (2) Look at your watch: Are you eating at a time based on your inner circadian hour? If you have the right answers to these questions, you can maintain a healthy diet for the rest of your life. The answer to the first question is to see unprocessed and mostly plant-based food on your plate. The second answer would be to finish dinner as early as possible in the evening. The ideal thing would be to finish eating at around 5 p.m. These two rules would work for those who wish to lose weight, to alleviate their disorders, and to decelerate ageing.

What do you think is the formula for success? How would you fit perfection into it?

I think the formula for success is not aiming for it. The process should be the goal. The satisfaction you get from that process guarantees success. If I were to elaborate on satisfaction, I would say a sense of enthusiasm and joy for the work you do. It’s similar to those times when hours go by at work and you don’t even realise. If you work with these feelings, you won’t feel like working, and success will come naturally to you. If one can get rid of boredom and keep the fire of enthusiasm alive—and has the self-discipline to focus—then success is guaranteed. Perfection is the thing I consider the least important. I always look for the flaws in my work or what I know. If I believed there were no flaws, I wouldn’t be curious anymore. It’s enough for me to maintain my ambition to be better despite my flaws rather than my ambition to be perfect. Besides, perfection is so subjective. For instance, let’s say I have level 9 knowledge in something out of 10, which means I still have 1 more point to earn, while someone else’s knowledge in that thing may be 3. As a 9, my condition would look perfect to a 3 but not to me. So, it can be very subjective. My rule is to never lose my enthusiasm and joy. If I have those, I will keep moving forward to a point of perfection for myself, not someone else. And for that trivial percentage of my flaws, I don’t really mind it.

Shirt: Simone Rocha / V2K, Leather shorts, blazer, belt: Dolmacı's own

Sevil Dolmacı, founder of the first art consultancy firm in Turkey, has been consulting on the country’s leading art collections for many years. Dolmacı describes perfection in one’s professional life as “the ability to sincerely be yourself.”

Your career begins in academics and diverts into art consultancy. You also founded the first art consultancy firm in Turkey. How did this idea come to be?

Looking back, it really was a brave decision to transfer from academics to art consultancy. Although the university was ambitious and competitive, the art market meant going into battle. I can only say this with my experience over the years. If I knew that it was this challenging a field, I’m sure I would have found it hard to make this decision. Throughout my career, the real place that taught me was Demsa Koleksiyon. It was the place where I first experienced art’s close and warm, even burning, relationship with the market. I learned about the art market in Turkey and abroad. When I combined these with my knowledge in art history, I gained a good momentum in my career in a short time. In 2015, the rise of the art consultancy firms in the U.S. and their acquisiton by big companies for substantial prices motivated me to open my own consultancy firm. The same year, I founded Sevil Dolmacı Art Investment Consultancy Firm. Today, it’s an organisation with a team of thirty people along with an “Art Residency” Program and a Gallery.

How would you relate art to the concept of perfectionism? Do you think a perfect artwork is possible?

To me, we need a deeper discussion if we’re talking about art and perfection. After the 20th century, art has focused on flaws and examines the ugly, lacking, and problematic aspects of society. Afterwards, everything about art adopted more liberated language and removed itself from aesthetic concerns. However, professionals working in art, artists, and art enthusiasts may turn into individuals who are cornered about being perfect as a result of the customs, knowledge, and vision art provides them. I regard everything we call art to be perfect in that we’re still making an effort to see them and to learn about them. I think anything that is innovative in its own period and builds a timeless relationship with the audience can be described as perfect. Other than that, if you were to ask me the artwork I’d want to own, it would be all works of Cy Twombly.

Online auctions are one of the developments brought along by digitalisation. The world’s leading auction houses are making record-breaking sales on online platforms. This also means challenges such as credibility and cyber fraud. What do you think are the advantages and difficulties of this new world?

Digitalisation has provided an impetus to art in many aspects. It mediated a wider access for art and made artists more visible. The buyers’ profile has also changed as the younger generation has taken a more active role. Prices became visible, creating a more transparent environment. However, cyber fraud and the participation of people who know nothing about art inevitably have led to an increase of problems in terms of originality and condition. This emphasised the importance of credible organisations and references.

What’s your opinion on Turkey’s position in contemporary art?

Istanbul is a city that is followed by the world with interest. We have artists who create artworks on an international scale. The Istanbul Biennial is a renowned, prestigious event. The SAHA Association is also important. Artists from abroad find Istanbul inspiring and want to come here. Maybe it’s not a place where large galleries want to build their offices like they did in 2008, but the balance is shifting all across the world. Interestingly enough, Qatar, Dubai, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Kazakhstan show more and more interest in Turkish artists and professionals so Turkey is a rising value in this regard. Maybe we can build a large market based on this, which will garner the attention of Europe and the U.S. as well.

What do you think is the formula for success? How would you fit perfection into it?

There’s only one formula to success, and it’s to work hard. Perfection is the ability to do your job the way you imagined it, without compromising on your system or strategies. It’s about being original, innovative, down-to-earth, and candid. In short, the new concept of perfection is “the ability to sincerely be yourself.

Leather dress, boots: Massimo Dutti, Ring: Mtoy by Müge Toy

Renowned as the founder of BigChefs, entrepreneur and businesswoman Gamze Cizreli says her roots have dramatically influenced her career. She believes that the backbone of a perfect organisation is not a lack of flaws but a presence of harmony and teamwork.

In 1994, you changed the industry you worked in and began your career in restaurant management which now includes many concepts for restaurants and cafés. How did you decide to make this radical change?

I was born to a family from Diyarbakır which is the background to my childhood and most of my memories. I have a special bond with that geography. I grew up in a social environment where people ate together around big tables, cooked delicacies of the Mesopotamian heritage, and engaged in deep conversations with one another. So, my roots have an undeniable influence on my work, goals, and sensitivities. I graduated from the Department of Business Management at Middle East Technical University in 1991. It was my father’s greatest wish that I became a state officer or a bureaucrat. After graduation, I started working in the defence industry, mostly under the guidance of my family. Although my conditions were great, I wasn’t happy. I kept asking myself “Is this really what I want to do with my life?” or “What would it bring me if I became a general manager at a company?” The answers I gave to myself implied leaving some things behind and taking a new path. I always thought about the food and beverage industry, i.e. gastronomy. I wanted to do something of global standards that hadn’t been tried in Turkey in this sector. I worked a night shift at a restaurant for six or seven months to experiment, to gain experience, and to understand if this profession suits me. I worked as a waitress and a hostess. By the end of the third year, I left my career in the defence industry and started walking towards my dreams, which was the beginning of my career in the food and beverage industry. First I established brands such as Kuki, a café I opened with my former partner, and Quick China in Ankara. In 2007, I established BigChefs, all on my own, with bank loans and prospective debts.

What’s the project that makes you most proud?

BigChefs is born of female entrepreneurship and a “femalefriendly” brand. This issue is prioritised at every stage in our operations. We regard gender equality as a core value of our brand culture not only within the company but also in our organisational process. On the other hand, BigChefs has preserved and improved its quality of flavour and local delicacies by supporting local agriculture and organic production. This way, we establish a sustainable environment for Turkish cuisine which is a part of our cultural heritage. I’ve been all across Anatolia, talked to female producers, and tried to understand the land they live in; since 2010, I’ve been trying to find a way to employ more women. I’m well aware of the significance of including women in the supply chain. For the sake of bringing these values together, we initiated a project titled “From the Women of the Land to Tables” in 2018, which is one of the projects of which I’m most proud. It began with 14 women and has currently reached 120 people. Although it’s much more expensive in terms of supply compared to conventional methods, we receive the majority of our supplies from women who produce at a local level with their own means. This initiative aims to fulfil a substantial part of our supply needs through local women producers and to support their economic development while presenting our guests at BigChefs with delicacies made with natural and healthy produce.

You’ve been selected “Female Entrepreneur of the Year” many times. What would you recommend to those who wish to change careers but cannot find the courage?

Throughout my career, I’ve never stopped considering all measurable factors and working hard. I’ve tried to express how I’ve overcome the challenges and obstacles in my journey of entrepreneurship by following innovation and adopting a proactive approach, and to undertake a pioneering role in the industry. I don’t believe in following a path where you find no meaning or passion and only money. I don’t believe this is the way to success. Whether you’re building a tech company or restaurant, you cannot master a profession in which you haven’t worked as an apprentice. The world is full of lonely people who are too afraid to take the first step. Those who wish to change careers should first remember this reality about the world. They should never be afraid of taking the first step and, more importantly, they should take it. Courage is the key to success. There may be failures. They may occasionally lose their way. There may be many breaking points. They should adopt their failures as much as they adopt their achievements. If followed with perseverance, belief, and courage, a path would inevitably lead to one’s goal. All they need to do is to observe themselves, to get to know themselves better, to discover inner superpower, to know very well what they want or don’t want, and to never lose believing in themselves.

What do you think is the formula for success? How would you fit perfection into it?

Of course, I find concepts such as ambition, a sustainable understanding of growth, and creating added value but one should never forget about human qualities such as being open to sharing, empathy, and investing in people and emotions. Success happens when you dare flying under these two wings. “Life is like a speed train, it never goes smoothly,” says dear Patti Smith. You’ll have wonderful moments and hard moments. What matters is to accept your flaws, to create your own values, and to move forward on your path.

You’re managing a big team. How would you differentiate between perfection and lack of flaws?

As I mentioned earlier, even the aesthetic value of beauty exists with flaws. Universe never operates flawlessly; it operates in harmony which creates this perfection. Teamwork is a process based on harmony among people who work together to achieve a common goal. The proper way to do this is to encourage people to be open to new things and to be innovative, to convince them to keep the required hardware up to date, to enable a sharing culture and the hearing of different opinions, to keep morale and motivation high at a sustainable level, and to maintain an ideal form of self-confidence and intrapersonal communication. In short, the backbone of a perfect organisation is not a lack of flaws but a presence of harmony and teamwork.

Full look: Uyal's own

Polat Uyal, Beymen Group’s Buying and Merchandising Director, is regarded as one of the pioneers in clothing not only in Turkey, but also in the world. A member of Beymen for 26 years, Uyal defines professional perfectionism as “doing the best of what you do by making a difference.

You’re one of the first names that come to mind when one mentions Beymen. How did your story begin?

It all began with a newspaper advertisement by Beymen. I sent an application because I wanted to work in this industry and was employed as product assistant at Beymen in 1995. And here I am.

In addition to being the CMO at Beymen and Boyner, you’re also a member of the board at Balmain and Pal Zileri. Based on your knowledge on various details, do you think there’s a difference between global and local fashion habits?

Global and local fashion habits have grown to be similar over the years. One of the main reasons for this is the transformation of lifestyles due to technology. Additionally, the influence of social media eliminates differences, making habits more global.

The concept of luxury experience evolves with each generation. How does Beymen evaluate and respond to these changing concepts and trends?

It’s not generations evolving but rather our lifestyles changing, affected by technology. We respond to it by following trends and staying relevant. We constantly renew ourselves in terms of products and services and keep up with the times.

What do you think is the formula for success? How would you fit perfection into it?

For me, the formula for success means wanting it. Beyond that, it’s that wish to be the best at something. This is where perfection comes into play.

Since you’re managing a vast team responsible for merchandising and production, how do you differentiate between perfection and lack of flaws?

I believe that both are broad concepts, their meaning varying from person to person. Lack of flaws may not necessarily mean perfection. To me, perfection is doing the best of what you do by making a difference. Just like making an artwork.










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