On a recent trip to Istanbul, Turkey I found myself in a tree-hugger’s wonderland amidst the bustling labyrinth of the Grand Bazaar.
In the heart of this Middle Eastern market, Abdulla Natural Products boasts a wide variety throws, blankets, covers, and shawls, as well as a full line of hamam products, or special towels and washcloths used in Turkey’s infamous baths. The textiles are 100% natural: linen, organic cotton, silk, as well as sheep, cow, and goatskins.
Additionally, Abdulla carries organic olive oil and olive oil soaps, honey, and pomegranate syrup, all produced locally and naturally in Turkey (a country which, by the way, is one of the world’s largest growers of organic cotton).
Metin Tosun, Abdulla’s founder and proprietor, opened his boutique shop about 15 years ago. The original concept was a sort of Turkish delicatessen, where he intended to sell a wide array of local Turkish handicrafts and gourmet foods.
But as he traveled the countryside searching for quality products, he encountered many small textile producers complaining about their lack of business.
“There are very few handlooms left in Turkey,” recalls Tosun. “In general, everything is industrialized.” He opened Abdulla to give these local economies and traditional modes of production some support.
More broadly speaking Abdulla is the result of Tosun’s ironclad belief that organic and natural sources create a higher quality product. All of the dyes used in the store’s products, for instance, are plant-based because, according to Tosun, “Natural dyes are much nicer! They just look better than industrial dyes. If you want to dye something brown, you can use an acorn!” Plus, naturally sourcing his wares adds more local character. “The herbs that they use in central Turkey to make blue are different than the ones in Eastern Turkey,” he says.
Tosun is hesitant to call himself an environmentalist. When I asked him if he assumes this label, he laughed and elegantly evaded the question, and once again cited the importance of high quality. However the store’s owner does or does not label himself and his endeavor, Abdulla is certainly a model of the sustainable values we like to see here in the Middle East!
The original Abdulla is located inside the Grand Bazaar, on Halicilar Caddesi next to the Fes Cafe. A second branch is located outside the Bazaar at Ali Baba Türbe Sokak 25-27. If you are like me, bring your older sister so she can forcibly drag you out of the store. Otherwise you might never see the rest of Istanbul!
Photo by Rachel Bergstein, courtesy of Shira Bergstein’s camera
Previous Green Prophet posts on natural textiles:
Cotton’s Organic Clothes Are Soft on the Environment
No Sweat Apparel’s Organic Ts Help Bring Peace to the Middle East
Bagir’s Recycled Plastic Bottle Suit Gives New Meaning to Euro-Trash