ULKUHAN – Amsterdam based multidisciplinary designer showing his latest work & talking about his universe

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We were happy to talk to the Amsterdam-based talent Ulkuhan Akgul, who presented us with his recent editorial work including his latest designs. Diving into his world, we had a nice chat about his inspirations, path, and scope of the presented project.

“The pieces reflect my commitment to innovation, creativity, and pushing the boundaries of conventional artistic expression. ” you mentioned. Very interesting project, could you tell me more about it? About the concept and the team behind it? 

In a world consumed by the pursuit of digital connections and superficial love, I found myself nestled within the confines of a modest 20-square-meter room. While the masses swiped and scrolled in search of affection, my focus was entirely different. Seated at my desk, I was engrossed in a task that seemed paradoxical in nature.

My mission wasn’t to find love, nor was it to establish any sort of personal connection. Instead, I was tirelessly attempting to establish a connection of a different kind. A link to a realm where anonymity and authenticity converged.

As I navigated the virtual labyrinth, my fingers danced across the keyboard, diligently working to establish a secure tunnel through the digital fog. A good VPN was my bridge to this alternate reality, a portal to a world where I yearned to simply be myself. Within the vast expanse of the online universe, I sought a haven reminiscent of a child in a limitless library – a place devoid of constraints and brimming with boundless freedom. A realm where barriers dissolved and inhibitions melted away. A sanctuary where I could wander unshackled down the rabbit hole known as the deep web.

My curiosity was drawn to the shadows, my mind captivated by the allure of the dark and enigmatic.

A guilty pleasure it may have been, but I was on a quest to explore the twisted corners and hidden enclaves that existed beyond the reach of ordinary browsers. Humanity has traded their possessions and their privacy, surrendered the essence of their existence all in the name of progress. This behemoth known as social media had slithered into our very being. Our faces, our fingerprints, our memories all stored in the ever-watchful embrace of the digital realm.

The irony was undeniable, a world where we bared our souls and our data, yet wrapped our identities in layers of digital veils. As I delved deeper into this world, I began to discern patterns and layers within the web – a digital tapestry woven from the threads of algorithms and artificial intelligence.

The pixels on my screen changed into vibrant color palettes, and the content in front of me transformed into a wellspring of inspiration. During my solitary exploration, I came to realize that the online world. For all its complexity and convolution, was still an untamed frontier. It was a canvas of human expression, a mix of technology and artistry that held untold potential.

As I continued my mission, I found myself not only unraveling the intricate strands of the digital tapestry but also weaving my own threads into its rich fabric. And so, in that unassuming 20-square-meter room. I straddled the boundary between the real and the virtual. A modern-day explorer charting the uncharted territories of the digital landscape. As the world swiped for love, I jumped into the depths of the web. Carving my own path through the layers of algorithms, the hues of colour, and the boundless realms of inspiration that lay before me.

You can be proud as one of Holland’s top 10 designers of 2023. How did you reach that level of excellence? For aspiring designers, which advice would you give to embrace their creative potential? 

I’m absolutely excited to share my recent academic achievement. I have graduated from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute with cum laude honors. And I’m proud to say that I achieved a graduation grade of 10! This accomplishment is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication in pursuing my Bachelor’s degree in Fashion Design and Textile Technologies. Throughout my academic journey, I’ve always considered myself a multidisciplinary designer. I’ve constantly pushed my boundaries and explored a wide range of artistic mediums. This approach has not only enriched my creative perspective. It has also allowed me to convey my ideas and designs with exceptional clarity and impact. My ability to work across multiple disciplines has proven to be a valuable asset. It is providing me with a unique and comprehensive skill set as a designer.

Following my graduation, I received a remarkable honor – I was selected by the esteemed Dutch jury to participate in the Dutch fashion schools competition called “lichting”. This competition is renowned for identifying and celebrating the top 10 fashion design students in the country. Being chosen as one of the select few is a humbling recognition of my dedication, creativity, and potential within the field.

If I were to offer advice to aspiring designers, it would be this: “Where there is a will, there is a way.” This journey has reinforced my belief in the power of determination and unwavering passion to achieve one’s dreams. We, as the new generation of designers, hold the potential to drive innovation and transformation within the fashion industry, and I’m excited to be a part of this exciting wave of change. In summary, my academic journey has been marked by hard work, diverse exploration, and remarkable recognition. As I continue on my path as a designer, I am inspired by the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead, and I’m eager to contribute to the dynamic world of fashion and design.

What are your plans for further projects/goals? What are you focused on now?

As I continue my journey in the dynamic world of fashion and design. I find myself wholeheartedly embracing the exciting array of challenges and opportunities that beckon me forward. This perpetual pursuit of growth and learning within the ever-evolving fashion industry is not just a goal. It’s a genuine passion that propels me each day. At present, I am fortunate to hold dual roles that have enriched my professional life.

Firstly, my position as a graphic designer at an established creative agency in Amsterdam provides me with the canvas to craft visual narratives and bring innovative ideas to life.

The art of creating visual communication that resonates with audiences is a source of immense satisfaction for me. I am dedicated to honing my skills in this capacity. In addition to my role as a graphic designer, I have embarked on an exhilarating freelance venture as an art director based in the city of Amsterdam. This role has not only expanded my creative horizons. It has also allowed me to guide and create creative endeavors across various media and platforms.

The multifaceted nature of this position fuels my creativity and keeps me consistently engaged and inspired. Amidst this fulfilling dual role, one project stands out as a beacon of excitement and artistic exploration. My involvement in a captivating theater costume project. This endeavor seamlessly blends my graphic design expertise with the art of direction and design. I find myself wholeheartedly immersed in the process of creating costumes that not only tell a story. But also capture the essence of the characters they adorn.

The project allows me to push the boundaries of creativity in both the fashion and arts domains, which is a source of unending motivation and enthusiasm for me.

This juncture in my career is indeed a thrilling one, as I embark on this path of multifaceted creativity. Each day brings new experiences, fresh challenges, and the prospect of growth in an industry that is constantly evolving. The fusion of my graphic design skills with art direction in the theater costume project is a testament to the uncharted creative territories I’m exploring. I look ahead with great anticipation, eager to see how this journey unfolds and how my work can contribute to the ever-evolving landscape of fashion and design.

You are based in Amsterdam, which is one of the most exciting capitals of Europe. We just returned from ADE (Amsterdam Dance Event)  and had the pleasure of exploring the Dutch Design Week too. How do you think it allows artists to grow and get inspired daily among many cultural opportunities?

Amsterdam is a poisonous flower, its beauty is hypnotizing, until you taste it. The captivating embrace of Amsterdam marked a profound shift in my world. Amsterdam beckoned me with promises of unbound liberty and endless horizons. I believed I was entering a city where dreams materialized effortlessly. Yet, what unfurled before me was a city transformed into an Instagram Valhalla. A sanctuary for media zealots who weighed their worth in virtual likes. A realm where genuine connections seemed as scarce as water in a desert. Despite this surreal transformation, Amsterdam remained my chosen path.

Amidst the cacophony of digital clamor, I found my voice in the realm of fashion. Like so many other creative souls. I donned this medium not just as a canvas, but as my lexicon. A language of fabric and style through which I could communicate my essence and channel my restless energy.

Fashion was my manifesto of rebellion, an ode to authenticity, a statement of activism painted in threads and textures. It was my solace and sanctuary, a channel for emotions too complex to be confined to conventional words. And while the world might struggle to decipher my chosen outlet. I found liberation in the fact that it was mine alone. Beyond the realm of judgment or easy understanding. Amsterdam, a flower with a venomous kiss, In its depths, one finds both pleasure and abyss.

Name a few biggest inspirations and artists and tell us why they had such an impact on your persona.

The profound influence of Chris Cunningham as a visual artist and filmmaker goes far beyond mere admiration. His impact on me as an artist is deeply personal, and it extends to countless creative souls who have been inspired by his work. It’s not just the sum of his creative achievements. It’s the multifaceted aspects of his artistry that make him an enduring source of inspiration and motivation.

Cunningham’s innovative style is a treasure trove of artistic ingenuity. His ability to take the ordinary and transmute it into something extraordinary is nothing short of magical. Witnessing his work, I’m reminded that art knows no bounds. True creativity involves pushing boundaries, defying norms, and embracing the unexplored. But it’s not just his stylistic innovation that captivates me. It’s the profound emotional resonance he brings to his creations. His work has an uncanny ability to evoke deep-seated emotions, often delving into complex and thought-provoking themes. It’s a reminder that art has the power to engage hearts and minds. To confront societal issues, and to inspire change.

Chris Cunningham’s technical mastery is awe-inspiring. His relentless pursuit of perfection and his command over various artistic techniques serve as a reminder of the importance of honing one’s craft. It’s a testament to the notion that true artists are lifelong learners and that technical prowess is an essential part of the creative journey.

What truly sets Cunningham apart is his genre versatility. He effortlessly shifts between different creative spheres, be it music videos, short films, or advertising, consistently pushing the envelope and setting new industry standards. This adaptability resonates deeply with me, reinforcing the idea that artistic expression is limitless and that we, as artists, should never be confined to a single medium or genre. His aesthetic exploration is a voyage into uncharted territories, constantly pushing the boundaries of what is considered ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable’ in art. It encourages me to embrace the unconventional, to explore the unexplored, and to shatter preconceived notions.

Perhaps the most striking facet of Cunningham’s influence is his unwavering dedication to his craft. He embodies the idea that art is not just a hobby or a career; it’s a way of life, a relentless pursuit of excellence, and a calling that one must follow with unrelenting commitment.

In essence, Chris Cunningham motivates me, and countless others, to do more than just create art. He inspires us to be fearless in our exploration, to address the pressing issues of our time, and to persist in our artistic pursuits, no matter the challenges we face. His legacy serves as a guiding light, reminding us that as artists, we have the power to change the world, one brushstroke, frame, or note at a time.

Team Credits: 

Photography by: Mees Mulder @999.2.000

Styling and edit by: Ulkuhan Akgul @ulkuhan

Makeup by: Patricija Kostelic @pattatoess

Hair by: Kenan Göktürk @koep.by.ken

Design by: Ulkuhan Akgul @ulkuhan 

Model green and grey dress: Romy Sterken @romy.sterken

Model black look, robot look, corset dress: Aleksandra Pietrzykowska @alekspietrzykowska

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