Koza Kurtulus’ namesake label weaves elements of comfort, allure, and flattering staples in its unabashedly chic ready-to-wear. What began as a passion project during her thesis year at Ontario College of Art & Design has since rapidly expanded into the embodiment of the constant climb and free spirit of the designer’s imagination.
“My designs derive from structural forms, shapes, and the influence of nature. We believe in making people feel sexy in their own skin and bringing out their confidence within. Koza is daring, sexy, and free,” she shares. Kurtulus adds, “It’s not who I would want to see wearing my pieces but how it makes you feel when you wear them.”
Since launching in 2018, Koza Kurtulus has been worn by celebrities like Winnie Harlow, Tokyo Stylez, and Dream Doll amongst others. Fast forward to now, the eponymous brand releases its Midnight Lover tracksuit, comprised of a double-stitched soft cotton fleece set with a triple puff print font. Available in brown, the unisex offering reads “can’t control your heart” in Arabic on the pants and “midnight lover” on the sleeves.
We recently spoke with Koza to discuss her start in fashion, latest capsule, and advice for women starting a business to name a few topics. Read on for our conversation.
Tell us a bit about your background and what led to the creation of the brand.
I was born in Istanbul, Turkey, and I grew up under the influence of my family who were all designers. My main inspiration was my father who was an industrial designer. My father lost his battle with brain cancer and my mother immigrated to the states. After 9/11, we moved to Canada where I went to university for architecture at OCADU in Toronto. Spatial design has always been my passion but when I was little I always dreamed about being a fashion designer.
While in my thesis year, I was making random things like diamond chokers and called them Pieces by Koza. After that, I made a dress for myself for my birthday which led to the creation of Zehra, a simple two-piece dress with a hip cut out and a criss-cross halter. I posted it on my Instagram and captioned that I could make some if anyone was interested and put my email in there and the next day woke up to emails from people all over the world who wanted my dress.
It was very overwhelming but at that time I knew I was on to something and that this was what I wanted to do going forward. At first, everything was handmade to order by me. I self-taught myself how to sew, Zehra was like my baby I learned a lot from her.
What does Koza Kurtulus embody when it comes to style and confidence? Is there anyone you hope to see wearing your designs one day?
My designs derive from structural forms, shapes, and the influence of nature. We believe in making people feel sexy in their own skin and bringing out their confidence within. Koza is daring, sexy, and free. I’ve been told multiple amounts of times that my pieces have powers, and girls have mentioned that it made them feel confident like they never felt before. I sometimes believed this was because I truly made each and every piece by hand with love.
It’s not who I would want to see wearing my pieces but how it makes you feel when you wear them, like yeah it would be cool to see Beyoncé or Rihanna in it but I really want the people who purchase my designs to feel the power they have within.
As a rising brand, what is one thing that you always keep in mind when building a collection?
Intuition and technology. I design from my intuition which I believe is the future me talking to myself in the present. I believe that design should be innovative so I’m constantly trying to learn about new advancements in the fashion industry.
Capsules like “Galaski” and “Jupiter” subtly hint at themes of astrology and much more—tell us a bit more about that!
I find that a lot of my lessons come from the universe, planets, and stars, and I like to corporate it into the names of my designs. There could be things going on in my personal life or something I want to project into the universe, whatever it may be things like Galaksi and Jupiter are all different stepping stones in my life. For instance, Galaksi was associated with the metamorphosis of the brand. It was the death of Pieces by Koza and the rebirth of Koza Kurtulus as a designer and a brand.
Jupiter was associated with the principles of growth, expansion, healing, prosperity, good fortune, and miracles. I released it on my birthday so I wanted to incorporate what I was channeling at the time and the things I was manifesting from the universe into the names of my designs.
Where did you find inspiration for your most recent collections?
Intuition and time. A lot of my inspiration comes from within, it’s weird like my soul whispers into my mind. Time—meaning what is going on at the moment, what’s important, and what I want to voice going forward as a designer and a conscious human.
Being an influencer is like being your own brand essentially. How have you applied what you learned in the modeling and influencer industry to the development of your own clothing line?
My name is my brand so it’s something I can’t hide behind, whatever I put out is a reflection of me as a person and a designer.
What’s it like to navigate the pandemic as a small business and emerging brand? And what are your hopes for the future of Koza Kurtulus?
The pandemic was hard because I wanted to go hard and drop my next pieces but it made everything slow down. It was a blessing in disguise as it gave me time to plan accordingly and not make the same mistakes I have. It’s all a learning process and the reward is the journey, not the final destination.
What advice would you give to women desiring to start a business while being occupied with a full-time job or other responsibilities?
First and foremost, consistency is key. If people see you work 6-9 times they gonna buy it by the 10th. Don’t lose your passion and don’t give up, as long as you put all your love into it, people will feel it no matter what. Energy is Inevitable.