Working for yourself sounds interesting and exciting but, only those who do it, understand its challenges. Nazli Karakoc is one such woman who, at a very young age, had decided to become a Freelance Fashion Designer. Coming from a creative and supportive family from Turkey, Nazli is very straightforward when it comes to how the industry needs a facelift. In this article, you will read about the challenges of freelancing.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Istanbul, Turkey. Ever since I was little, I have been interested in Art and Culture. I like drawing, photography, travelling, listening to music, reading books, visiting museums, and learning about archaeology. I have graduated from Yeditepe University, Department of Fashion and Textile Design in 2008 with an honours degree.
What made you get into fashion design?
I was 17 when I graduated from high school. My mum convinced me to be a Fashion Designer. I thank her every day for that. When I was studying at the university, I learned on my own and developed my skills. Slowly, as time went by, I became very successful.
The worst is when people reply to your mail saying, “Congratulations, you can begin work in two weeks”, and then there is dead silence…
What challenges, if any, did you face in your journey to pursue a career in fashion?
Finding a job in the fashion industry is hard in Turkey. I have had a lot of let downs. The worst is when people reply to your mail saying, “Congratulations, you can begin work in two weeks”, and then there is dead silence from the other end. This really has to change.
What made you take the decision to work as a freelance fashion designer?
My aunt is working in the textile business for a long time and she helped me to get my first freelance project in 2010. That’s how the idea to become a freelance fashion designer was born.
How would you, in a short couple of sentences, summarize what you do?
When a client contacts me, I first try to understand what she/he wants. Then we try to analyze whether we can fulfil each other’s requests. I have expertise in fashion and textile designing, trend analysis, product developing, and sample buying.
What is the most difficult part of your job that your clients or people you work with should know?
The thing that takes a lot of time is designing. This is the most difficult part of it all. What others should understand is that we are not machines. Even though I mostly use a computer to design, if the client wants me to draw by hand, I have to do that too.
How would you describe your design process?
Most of my designing starts like this – I research about the subject for a few days. Then I look at what I have got and what I need to eliminate. I then take help from Pinterest and other tools, to do a mood board. Then I start designing the product.
How do you usually work with clients? Where do you begin from, in a new project and what are the key milestones that a project goes through in your experience?
The client tells me what they want and I tell them what I can do. If we agree to the terms, I begin the project. I do my research online and then begin designing. As the project continues, I advise and guide them about the project duration and agree on the payment terms. If it is a trend report or sample buying project, the payment will be per project. So it is, discussion, negotiation, research, design and payment.
Photography is something you enjoy a lot and is a big part of your design process. You even participated in National Geographic competition. Tell us about the experience.
Yes, I won an award for some of my photos. It was a lucky moment for me. It all started with my trip to London, back in 2009. I had great memories and took a lot of amazing photos. The first photograph which I took was in front of The National Gallery. I was glad to have my camera with me otherwise I couldn’t have taken that photograph.
The second one was in summer of 2014. We were camping at a campsite when I took pictures of many butterflies. I chose one of them and put it on National Geographic Turkey. I tried my luck and I succeeded. I always had an interest in photography. I think it comes from my father.
What would you do differently if you can start all over again?
If I had to start all over again working as a freelance fashion designer, I would be more cautious. One of my projects didn’t end well. I couldn’t get my full payment. The client requested me to prepare a trend analyses report and a sample. I did the whole thing but they didn’t pay me and cancelled the project, before its deadline. I didn’t know the client before this. I have realized that from time to time I can be too optimistic about people. I should have prepared an agreement. I learned my lesson.
How do you find projects or clients to work with? How easy or difficult it is to find them on a regular basis?
Clients usually find me online or via recommendations on past projects. I cannot work on two projects at the same time as I work alone. It is a strange and sad coincidence. As most freelance fashion designers know, unfortunately, work is not always regular. I use my personal Linkedin profile to make connections. Networking is really important for me.
You have won the WGSN’s ‘Be a Future Trend Spotter’ contest in 2014. How has it affected your professional life? Share your experience.
Winning the contest was great. It will always be a shining star in my career. The competition lasted for a few days. It was about publishing photographs in four categories – history, cruise cool, sweet & feminine and focus. One winner was to be picked in each category. I won the cruise cool theme.
After that, I got more projects and will ever be grateful for that.
What has been the most valuable lesson you have learned since you started as a designer?
Pick your clients carefully before you work for them. When you work hard and can’t get what you deserve at the end, that is really bad. As I mentioned earlier, one of my projects didn’t end well. It really opened my eyes and give me more experience about how to work better and protect myself as a professional.
What has been the best advice you have been given?
“No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful the experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.” Dalai Lama.
I never lose hope.
What recent actions or decisions have you taken, which have had a positive impact on your professional life?
Earlier what used to happen was that I took every project that came my way and sometimes, I didn’t get paid for them. After that, I pick my clients more carefully. Freelancing means freedom but it has its own challenges.
What would you advise a budding entrepreneur thinking of becoming a freelance fashion designer?
My advice would be, just do your best and in time everything will fall right into its place.
If I could, I would make fashion industry more sustainable.
If you can change one thing about the fashion industry – what would that be?
If I could, I would make fashion industry more sustainable. Climate change is an important issue for me. We have to listen to nature and the animals. They need us and we need them.
What does “success” mean to you?
It means achievement, power, and honour. As everyone else, I want to be successful too. I try my best to do so. I keep researching, designing and looking for an inspiration.
“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation, there is sure to be a failure.” This is a quote by Confucius that I often think about.
You are interested to work with Nazli, view her work and contact her directly via her profile on Utelier.