meet the first turkish model to walk for gucci

Öykü Baştaş received a barrage of Twitter abuse after walking as a Gucci exclusive last season. Now the Istanbul-born model is back at it and calling BS on conventional beauty standards.

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Feb 26 2018, 12:31am

Photography Angela Baltra

“The baby dragon was so cute,” Öykü Baştaş laughs, having just walked for Gucci’s cyborg-themed fall/winter 18 show in Milan and riding high on a slew of recent shows including Burberry and Erdem. The Istanbul-born model and student cuts a striking appearance, reminiscent of a figure from Gucci’s gorgeously illustrated Utopian Fantasy campaign while also possessing a determined spirit in line with its current 60s-inspired Vive la Révolution. “There are no other international Turkish models, so I think that makes me different. Because it’s not really easy to become a model if you’re from Turkey. It’s hard to work as a model because we live in stressful conditions,” she shares. “No one supports any artist, models, scientists or anything. The fashion industry is really different from Europe or the USA. Lots of people in Turkey told me I cannot become a model, it’s wrong to become a model, I’m too ugly to become a model, or some other negative thought.”

Since being discovered on Instagram after using the IMG model scouting hashtag #weloveyourgenes, Baştaş has been on a swift and unstoppable trajectory, one she’s hopeful will bring her to the New York catwalks. She was the first ever Turkish model to walk for Gucci in Milan last season; in what was also her first ever runway appearance. She then walked for MSGM and Acne Studios, leading to editorials in Vogue Turkey. Baştaş is a David Hockney-loving interior design student possessing a notable poise and down-to-earth charm suggesting her ascent has only just begun. She is using the runway to increase the visibility of Turkish models worldwide and champion diverse beauty types. “Maybe I will be an example for the young generation,” she shares.

Gucci fall/winter 18 via Getty Images

Fashion Month has been treating you very well. How was the Gucci show?
The Gucci show was amazing. It was a totally different world and I really want to live in that fantasy world. I really love Alessandro Michele's designs for Gucci — I think he's a great genius. I love his way of looking at identity and senses of beauty. While he is breaking the norms, he is using shapes of past and the future. It’s a unique window to look at the word. That’s why I love him.

How did you get into modeling?
My mother agency [Caliber Models] scouted me on Instagram. I posted a photo with some scouting hashtags and I got a reply from my mother agent. Then I went to New York to meet with agencies and I did some test shootings and continued from there.

Turkey is a conservative country. How would you describe its attitude towards self-expression?
I was a quiet child growing up. It's not so easy to grow up as a woman in a Middle East country. It took me some time gain my self-trust. And I actually think the fashion industry helped me do this.

Someone once tweeted some really cruel things at you - how did you respond?
I did my first show at Gucci last season. When I went back to Turkey after my first season, I was faced with cyberbullying on social media. Since I was the first Turkish model who did a fashion show in Milan and Paris, people were talking about me. Some people were supporting me but there was a lot of bad comments about me. People were saying that I'm not beautiful enough to be a model. A lot of women were saying that I'm ugly. I felt like I have to say something about all these comments, so I wrote a reply to all of them. I said, "I also don't think I'm beautiful, I agree with you."

Then all the hate on social media stopped. People were surprised by my answer and they started to apologise. Almost everyone was supporting me after my reply, because it showed people that we don't have be perfect or we don't have be one beauty type to be accepted. I want to encourage women and the LGBTQ community in my country to accept themselves as who they are. I was trying to say being ugly or being a normal person is enough. We should accept what we are. Only Human. I don't think beauty really exists. I think everyone is unique in their own way.

Who are some creatives you look up to?
I've always been into art since I was a child,.I am studying design and painting as well. Some artists that really affect me are Yayoi Kusama, David Hockney, Gus Van Sant, and Le Corbusier. I was amazed when I saw David Hockney’s art for the first time in real life.

How are you able to balance university assignments with your runway shows?
It's been really hard for me the last six months but I love my job and I also want to continue my school. I'm studying interior design and I'm having fun while I'm doing my assignments.

What are some of your dreams for the future?
I would love to do a Givenchy show. I also would love to do a Gucci campaign. I want to continue my job as long as I can. I also want to do the fashion week in New York next season. There were no models from Turkey before who were doing high fashion shows. Since I'm the first one, I would like to be an example for the young generation of my country.

This article originally appeared on i-D US.