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Shopping & Style

The tiny shoe factory Fanfinfon is a gem of a shoe shop in Çukurcuma where meticulous craftsmanship meets fashion. By Agathe Berthier. Photos by Julius Motal Hunting for good bargains at antique shops is not the only reason to roam around the charming streets of Çukurcuma as this tiny area between Galata and Cihangir also houses myriad little shops selling their own hand-made collections of clothes and shoes. One of them is Fanfinfon, a true heaven for any "fashoenista" with its hundred pairs of beautifully crafted shoes, each one more original than the last. Mostly catering to women, Fanfinfon’s eclectic style is pretty amazing: from shiny red-lizard skin pair of Richelieu to deep blue velvet salsa dance shoes, bicolored derbies, sandals, ballerinas and leopard loafers. The shop’s founder and shoemaker Zeynep has a knack for giving each of these models a personal touch, and if the pair you just had an irresistible crush on isn’t available in your size, no need to panic, she and her craftsman sidekick Yavuz will simply make a new pair just for you. Patience is also an undeniable quality of the Fanfinfon duo. I have showed up there so many times just for the pleasure of spotting new pairs, trying on some, and hesitating with others before leaving the final decision for another time; a real shopowner's nightmare, but they never complained. "Fanfinfon" is an old-fashioned Turkish word Turks used when mimicking a foreign language they don’t understand or when giving a vague answer to a question they’d rather not answer. It leaves room for imagination, something Zeynep has plenty of. This talented designer had been studying industrial design at Middle East Technical University in Ankara before moving to Istanbul as her biggest dream was to open her own shop in Beyoğlu, where she would sell her own creations and live on the upper floor. It would be her home, her office, and a show room all at the same time. She 56 April 2015

opened Fanfinfon in 2011 and here she is now, leaving her dream. Zeynep explained that she naturally focused on designing footwear because for her shoes are the most special items in fashion. It was also a space in which she could forge her own style, tweaking classical shapes with details, colors and fabrics. Her idea was to create timeless models that don’t blindly follow the trends dictated by the fashion industry. Having worked in the textile sector for years, Zeynep simply refuses to bend to fashion rules. “I am proud of being unfashionable because the fashion world is fake,” she says.    At the back of the shop, you’ll see Yavuz, Fanfinfon’s everbusy artisan, imperturbable behind his old-school machines making shoes in front of the customers’ eyes with a remarkable care. Between him and Zeynep, you can feel a genuine love for meticulous craftsmanship. All of the fabrics and leather they work with come from a provider located in Gedikpaşa near the Grand Bazaar, a well-known place for crafts. Nowadays, the art of craftsmanship has become less popular in Istanbul but it’s important for them to keep it alive. After a week of hemming and hawing in Zeynep’s shop, I finally decided to get a pair of red Derbies and since then I never took them off… except when I’m invited over a Turkish friend’s flat of course. You can mess with fashion rules but not with Turkish hospitality. Fanfinfon Turnacibasi Sokak 34, Çurkucuma, Beyoğlu Tue-Sat: 11.00-21.00/ Sun 14.00-21.00

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The tiny shoe factory - TOI April 2015  

The tiny shoe factory - TOI April 2015