Friday, September 24, 2010

Best of Both Worlds

Marc. Check.

Sartorialist. Check.

Hannah Montana Sweet Nibblets. CHECK. CHECK. CHECK.

I probably sound like a teenager at this point, but I was planning on writing a post about having a somewhat low key profile in the US while enjoying a high key profile in Turkey, and all of a sudden Sweet Nibblets came to mind. LOL! I was like OMG, I have to do a post on Hannah. NOT!

This post is more about having the best of both worlds.

My parents are very well- known in Turkey. After we moved to Dallas, they became well known in the US as well. My father being a scholar with a great vision, and my mother being the strong educated woman that she is.

Before we moved to Dallas, both of my parents were university professors. My mom was one of the first women to start wearing hijab while holding an important position. She was a role model to many younger women. She dressed very stylish, and took great pride in the way she looked. As a hijabi, she felt proud when she walked into her classroom to teach her students.

Between the two of them, my parents raised great students, many of whom currently hold important positions. Whenever we used to tell someone we met for the first time our full name, they would say, "Wow! You're a Kavakci! I used to be a student. How is Professor Kavakci?" We would look at them and think, which professor, mom or dad?

Then came along my strong heroine sister Merve, who became an overnight celebrity when she was prevented from taking oath as she walked into the Turkish parliament for the first time as an elected member, by the people, for the people.for walking into the parliament as an elected member, by the people, for the people. Once she became a celebrity, everytime we would tell someone our full name, we would here "OMG! Are you Merve Kavakci's sister?" To which we would reply, "Yes." People would want to take pictures with us. We would just laugh inside and think, this is a very nice compliment, but I'm the sister of a celebrity not the actual celebrity. They probably thought we were the next best thing.

At the time of my sister's fame in Turkey, I hadn't started my label formally. However, I would help with designs, and put together her outfits. If I was not in Turkey, I would shop for her in the US and send her whatever she needed, since she was a very busy lady.

Her style was instantly knocked-off. And yes I mean copied the very next day by Islamic Wear Designers,who gave interesting labels to the designs. For example, one time I had bought her this navy uniform-inspired suit, that was navy blue with golden palettes. They called it Marine Merve.

Anything she wore became an instant trend and was followed by every single modest female in Turkey.

To this day,her style is followed by many. Whatever she wears is an instant hit!

Once I became a designer, having the KAVAKCI last name brought me instant attention. I was lucky because I really didn't have to go out there and promote myself. My sister Merve would attend one event wearing my design, and it would work wonders.

During the time she was active in politics, my sister was very close with the current Turkish Prime Minister- Tayyip Erdogan and Mrs. Emine Erdogan. Mr. Erdogan was also one of my mom's students.

Therefore, as a family we have had a very close relationship with them. The fact that they now hold important positions really didn't change that.

Some of our readers were curious as to how and why I was with the First Lady and the President of Turkey at an event. The current President Abdullah Gul and Mrs. Gul were also in the same circle as my sister during the same time. They had significant roles in the same party where they worked. Mrs. Hayrunnisa Gul has been a good friend of my sister for a very long time.

Some of our readers were wondering what it felt like to be at the reception with the couple recently. To me it felt like old times. I recollected when Abdullah Gul was at the same conference where my sister was a speaker. He had come up to me to ask how my parents were doing. Since we had moved to Dallas, he hadn't seen my dad in a while.

Standing next to him made me remember that moment. I don't know if you do that too. I like to look back in history, at a memorable time in my life, to remember where I was, what I was doing, and fast forward to the present. Kind of like back to the future.

I don't do this just for the fun of it, although it's alot of fun, I do it to be thankful for what I have and to show grace.

That day I thought of the first time I had spoken to him at a conference about 17 years ago. I was a freshman in University, and he was just a politician in the making. When I fast forwarded to 2010, here I was a celebrity fashion designer, and Mr. Gul, the President of Turkey!

It felt good to look back and think, Alhamdullilah, God is So Great, and his bounty surrounds us on a regular basis.

I strongly believe we can accomplish anything we want with Allah's will. But with each and every step we have to make sure to stay grounded.

Most people in the US who meet me, don't even know the celebrity type of life style that I have. At my daughter's school I'm a mom. Most people know I'm a fashion designer, but that's about it.

When I used to go work out at Jazzercise in Dallas, all the ladies knew me as the Muslim lady. That was about it!

At the same reception, while I was standing up and talking to my friends, a lady who saw me across the room walked up in excitement and said "Elif Kavakci!!." I turned around and said, "Yes?" thinking " I don't know you, how do you know me?"

I had forgotten that I was within a Turkish crowd who would recognize who I am. In this case the lady said she had been following me on the internet and would show my pictures to non-muslims as a fashionable hijabi.

Driving home in the car I thought to myself, yes, I do have the best of both worlds! But what matters the most is the hereafter! If I can go there having done some good with my talents, and pleasing Allah, then, I've done good.

Elif Kavakci for HijabiTopia