Anna Batyra Üçer
Anna is the woman behind abtira which offers organic and ethical skincare products. She believes the idea of "less is more" and creates minimal and pure products. We are deeply inspired by her search for a good life. Despite the distance, we came together digitally and asked her a few questions.
Q.When we read the story of Abtira the sentence, which struck us most, was ‘I wanted to live a good life.’ In your opinion what is a “good life”?
The concept of “good life” is a very subjective matter. It can mean so many different things to different persons. It means different things to the poor, and different things to the rich. And what we consider “a good life” also changes as we evolve ourselves. To me, above all and everything, “a good life” has always meant being at peace with myself and the world around me, being free to savor in the enchantments that this planet has given us.
When I was growing up behind the Iron Curtain and then, during the transformation, trying to find a place for myself in Western Europe, good life meant for me the freedom to travel, explore, to study wherever I wanted, and to have my basic needs satisfied – “good life” was for me the first scene of Haneke’s movie “The Seventh Continent”, The National Gallery in London, Opera Garnier in Paris, the Smythsonian in Washington.
Achieving that type of good life, given where I have come from, required that I conform to the norms imposed by the society that first raised me (Eastern Europe) and then adopted me (Western Europe), essentially requiring from me a capitalist mindset. When I moved to Turkey, a totally different society tried to impose a yet different set of social norms on my daily behavior – if and how I worked, how my living room looked, what I did with my spare time.
At certain point, conforming was no longer an option. To be at peace with myself, to have “a good life”, I had to shed the shackles of all these expectations, I had to start living for myself again in order to enjoying little daily things because, as someone said, how we live our days is ultimately how we live our lives. For me in particular, “a good life” meant being close to the nature, wanting less, using less. It meant being human again.
Q.As its known, our ‘Courage Collection’ is inspired by our creative courage striving to build a better life. What do you advise to the local brands and designers who desire change in these territories, moreover to those who have the courage to support local labor and production?
It’s really inspiring that wherever we look there are more and more brands that are local, ethical, equitable and sustainable, and moreover carrying a social message. Launching such a brand, especially in societies that are not yet exactly post-materialist, and still attached to conspicuous consumption, is definitely challenging. The perception of “value” in such societies is still distorted. Valued are new things, not recycled ones; desired are ostentatious products rather than local and fairly priced ones. But this is of course changing now…
For such local brands, I sincerely believe that embarking on this road has to start with a dream and continue with hard work. It requires a nearly religious commitment to your brand, always staying focused and true to your feelings and values, without getting too much distracted by what competition is doing, or by what social media users are saying. In my opinion, there are two facets to this. One relates to “value” understood as “price”. Another to “value” understood as “social norm”.
At abtira I have learnt on my own skin that supporting local labour, providing ethical working conditions, sourcing high quality materials locally are not cheap endeavours. It hurts when some users assume that local has to be “cheap” because by that they undervalue the work of their own fellow citizens. Or, quite on the contrary, at the opposite end of the spectrum, some users reject the local because the local is cheaper than the imported, and hence perceived as somehow less worthy.
Finally, I believe that as brands (even small ones like Ren and abtira) we have a voice that we must use to make the world a better place, if only we can. By promoting tolerance, diversity, transcendence of humanist values, we can ultimately affect the social norms. Social norms related to gender, ethnicity, religion. Many people may question that brands are a vehicle for that. But why not? I do not believe in the neutrality of anything. Changing this type of perceptions will require time, and so we have to be extremely patient and persistent.
Q.In Ren’s new collection ‘courage’ we have been inspired by women who thinks outside of the box, have the courage to speak up and be themselves. In this respect who are the women that inspired you with their courage?
“Courage” is a wonderful and very relevant collection because, even these days of the XXI century, courage is still what women need to be themselves. Of course, the writers and mothers of the first and second wave of feminism have had a profound effect on me… Mary Wollstonecraft, Virginia Wolf, Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedman, Gloria Steinem… These women had, first of all, the courage to speak which is the first step to affirmative action.
But closer to my own generation, rooted in the third wave of feminist, are writers who have been speaking against more nuanced, more hidden facets of gender inequality, often in the context of development and environmentalism: the inequality emanating from the patriarchal structures that are still very deeply rooted in our societies, often barely perceivable…. Martha Nussbaum, Arlie Hochschild, Sylvia Chant, Esther Duflo, Agnieszka Gracz, Deniz Kandiyoti, Olga Tokarczuk.
These days I am totally mesmerized by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest congresswoman in the USA, an outspoken woman of color, vigorously standing for the rights of women, minorities and underprivileged. Her sharpness goes hand in hand with the educated awareness of the reality around us. Her fearlessness is unbending, her physical beauty paired with unsurpassed eloquence reminding us that being a woman is many things at many levels, not just at the superficial one.
Q.Lastly, in your view, what are the best 3 qualities of Ren?
It’s definitely Ren’s philosophy, determination and of course the clothes themselves.
Undoubtedly the biggest one for me is Ren’s philosophy, embracing slow fashion and sustainability, being respectful of our bodies, our diversities, going against the deeply ingrained perceptions of beauty that we have been fed for decades. This is definitely something that I desire in abtira as well, but it’s voiced so much better by Ren. Ren’s determination in spreading this message is astounding. Every outreach, every message, every post and story communicate this determination, this conviction. Finally, last but not least, the gentle esthetics of Ren’s creations, combining comfort with creativity, is simply amazing. The cuts, the tones, the fabrics all come together in a harmony with nature, as well as with humans that are part of it.
project by uns.mag