Meeting of Minds

Swarovski’s global experts talk culture and style

Echo Gu (China), Kate Butko (Russia), Candice Lake (Australia), Isabelle Braun (Germany), Priscila Betancort (Spain), Erika Boldrin (Italy), Nil Ertuk (Turkey) and Katharina Kowalewski (Germany)—what does this league of nations have in common? Answer: each has a distinct style, look, and voice that represents their own individual culture. All six international style bloggers joined Swarovski at that age-old meeting point between East and West: Istanbul. We found out where there is cultural crossover, and where each fashionista’s native culture has left its stamp.

What comes to mind when you hear ‘East meets West’?

Echo: The Met Ball that opens the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute exhibition. This year, the theme is China: Through The Looking Glass—the red-carpet outfits were pure east-meets-west drama, elegance, quirkiness and bravery. 

Kate: Chanel’s ‘Paris-Bombay’ collection for Fall/Winter 2012/13. 

Candice: Exotic, and culturally rich. 

Isabelle: It might be cheesy and obvious, but the fall of the Berlin Wall and the song, Wind of Change

Priscila: A meeting of cultures, religions and lifestyles. 

Nil: Istanbul! 

Kat: Fashion: old Dior haute couture fashion shows. Politics: the fall of the Berlin Wall. 
I’m in Istanbul for our shoot, and everything shouts east-meets-west—there’s even a cocktail at Soho House Istanbul with that name!  

Favorite fashion icon who embodies the meeting of two distinct cultures?

Echo: A Chinese designer named Donna Liu, who used to work for Alexander McQueen and is now based in Beijing. She uses the skills she acquired in the West to create something with a distinctly Chinese cultural feel. 

Kate: Jamie Chong. 

Erika: I don’t know any fashion icons who meet two distinct cultures. Every fashion icon that I love has a style that has its roots in her own country; for example, Leandra Medine or Emmanuelle Alt, who is very Parisienne. 

Candice: Liz Taylor in Cleopatra. 

Isabelle: Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz. 

Priscila: I think I should say Diana Vreeland, because, as she said “The eye has to travel.” She was the person who opened a window onto a world of cultures through fashion editorials around the world. 

Nil: I’d say Catherine Baba, because she dresses like an Eastern princess and acts like a Parisian lady. 

Kat: Any woman who can pull off a turban and look gorgeous, modern and cool—think Erika Badu. 

If you could travel back in time to any place and era, where would you choose to go, and what item of clothing would you take with you? 

Echo: I’d go back 1,265 years to the Tang Dynasty and take a beautiful Western-style corset. China had a queen then, and what intrigues me is that standards of beauty didn’t include being skinny—the desirable look was all about large-breasted plumpness. This is one reason why I’m curious about this historical period. 

Kate: I’d go back to the hippie era of 1960–1970 and take a blue silk maxi vintage dress from an Indian flea market. 

Erika: I’d travel back to the 1970s and bring back a pair of flared jeans. 

Candice: Marrakesh in the late Sixties—beautiful rugs from the souks. 

Isabelle: The elegance of the Fifties matches my style: I’d definitely wear Dior’s ‘New Look’ for a glass of champagne with Dorothy Parker! 

Priscila: I’d love to travel to the UK in the Sixties and be part of the style revolution with Mary Quant, Biba, Carnaby Street and Twiggy. Street style was born there. I wouldn’t need to bring anything back with me, because you can find dresses inspired by the ‘New Look’ era, along with mini skirts in suede, and parkas or flared pants, in today’s world. 

Nil: 1920s Paris—I’d bring back a custom-made dress by Coco Chanel. 

Kat: Definitely a 1970s Marrakech vacation house in a very long, 1001 Nights-inspired dress by YSL. 

Favorite film for its fashions/ costumes? 

Echo: Quite a few, one that stands out is The Fifth Element (1997) by Luc Besson. 

Kate: Marie Аntoinette (2006) by Sofia Coppola. 

Erika: Sex and the City (TV series, 1998-2004) 

Candice: Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) with those beautiful Givenchy pieces. 

Isabelle: Tom Ford’s A Single Man (2009). Elegant, and with wonderful attention to detail. 

Priscila: I couldn’t give just one: I love Sabrina (1995), Grease (1978), Roman Holiday (1953), and the American TV series, Mad Men, which started in 2007 and has just ended. 

Nil: The Favor (1994) by Donald Petrie. 

Kat: The German film, Sonnenallee (1999) by Leander Haussmann: I loved its style so much. Breathless (1960) by Jean-Luc Godard—I was obsessed with Jean Seberg’s look. Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty (2013) for its overall perfection, as well as the fashion. 

Most inspiring trip you’ve ever taken? 

Echo: All the trips I’ve done with my parents, from childhood to now. My mum and I invariably get lost, so my dad is always the hero, as he’s the only one with a sense of direction! 

Kate: My first trip to Goa, India. 

Candice: A road trip across the US, deep into the desert and high into the mountains. 

Erika: Hawaii. I dream of living there—it’s so relaxed, with no stress. 

Isabelle: London, always and forever. 

Priscila: It’s got to be Bali. It changed me. When I got back to Spain I felt different. I’d love to be like them, always smiling—since that trip I’ve tried to do that. 

Nil: My first trip to Paris. 

Kat: My first time in New York at 18 was unbeatable in terms of its energy and the way everything comes together in that city. 

Most underrated aspect of your culture? 

Echo: China’s fashion history. Look at all the Chinese cultural references on the red carpet at the Met Ball. China has 5,000 years of history—that’s 5,000 years of fashion savoir-faire—but until this year’s Met Ball, I hadn’t realized that China’s fashion history has never been properly recorded in writing. 

Kate: Russian people are very welcoming and warm at heart. I think everyone should know this! 

Candice: Australian’s connection to the bush. 

Isabelle: One of the simple pleasures of living in Germany: drinking beer in an open space! (Okay, it’s not really underrated!) 

Priscila: Everyone knows about the Spanish beaches, weather and food, but Spain is more than that: our cultural richness is due to our location. Spain has always been a bridge linking the cultures of Northern and Southern Europe with Africa and the Mediterranean, and this has allowed different cultures to co-exist and create a vibrant national heritage—for instance, its architecture, art, music. 

Nil: Turkey’s ability to adapt to all kinds of situations due to living in such a cultural mixture. 

Kat: Correctness. 

Most prized possession acquired in a foreign land? 

Echo: The two years that I studied in London: I didn’t acquire an English accent or writing skills, but it changed my way of thinking and made me open-minded and without prejudice. 

Kate: India is the best place for exotic, unique purchases. I found not only amazing vintage clothing, but also a huge silk blanket with colorful hand-embroidery. My guests always ask where they can buy one. 

Candice: An Aboriginal painting I watched being created in the Australian outback. 

Erika: A Cèline bag. 

Isabelle: Knowledge. 

Priscila: Whenever I travel, I try to see the country without brochures and programs. I love living in a city like any other citizen—going to the stores, to the parks, etc—not like a visitor. 

Nil: The photo booth pictures I take every time I find one!  

Kat: A bracket from a little city called Harmony on a recent trip to Big Sur on the Californian coast. 

Favorite designers from your country? 

Kate: I’m very proud that Russian designers are being recognized globally. They deserve it. I like Walk of Shame by Andrey Artemov, Ruban Sisters, I Am Studio by Daria Samkovich, and the new shoe brand, Gottlieb Schwarz by Andrey Jakevitch.  

Priscila: I love Balenciaga, Delpozo and Teresa Helbig. 

Erika: Valentino. 

Kat: Karl Lagerfeld—he’s both Parisian and German, like me! 

How would you describe the current style in your city? 

Kate: I think Moscow’s style has improved in the last five years: its citizens are experimenting, looking for their own style, finding inspiration in world-famous fashionistas. I see interesting looks on the streets that feature unusual shapes, colors and textures.  

Erika: I think that here in Milan, for the everyday citizen style is not necessarily mind-blowingly exciting—it’s mostly classic. 

Priscila: I live in Barcelona, where the most important thing is to feel comfortable but still stylish, so it’s all about being casual and alternative. 

Kat: Berlin: Acne shoes and trousers, and Celine bags—it hasn’t really changed lately.  
Paris: A more down-to-earth Isabel Marant look, plus its variations. 

In the future, will style be more uniform or more eclectic? 

Echo: I guess it’ll be an eclectic mix. With the relentless advance of computer technology, we’re growing up in a homogeneous culture, so customers might want to experience a richer and more eclectic selection to balance this. 

Candice: Only time will tell… Hopefully eclectic. 

Isabelle: Both, because people want to belong to a group—there will be more diversity in general, but within it there will be uniformity.