Successful at everything she puts her hands on from business life to her family, Demet Sabanci: Taking Turkey to international platforms, moving our country one step further in our cultural, social and economic lives is our biggest priority.
Demet Sabanci, who has enriched Turkey’s market with the leading brands of the world, well-known not only with her leader position as a business woman and also with her history and health related civil society initiatives but also known as being the symbols of Turkish hospitality, has answered our questions for Discover readers.
Can you talk about Demsa group and especially their work in sectors of luxury?
DEMSA was founded in 2000. Mothercare, an English children’s brand, was the first cooperation of the company. DEMSA continued growing by introducing brands such as Tom Ford, Salvatore Ferragamo, Alexandre McQueen, Juicy Couture, Michael Kors, Sandro, Maje and designers to Turkey’s market and opening a 7-store chain called Brandroom. The company is also hosting 2 stores of Harvey Nichols, the famous English brand chain. We also opened the doors of French Galeries Lafayette in Istanbul this year. These stores are highly praised for their different qualities and styles.
We can say that the driving force of our group is our retailing business. We are representing a major part of the existing capacity of especially fashion and luxury segment in Turkey. We are also very much supporting our local designers and brands with Brandroom and Galeries Lafayette. We believe that Turkey and especially ‹stanbul has a great potential in this field.
I had been seeing and observing the needed thing in this field for a long time. I can say that I believed Turkey could carry such a segment long before the others did. Luxury consumption is not a field where you can simply manage or do the minimum. Each request has its own reflex and the requirements are clear. If you set a right vision, then you will draw attention very easily. And the way to do that was to work with the right brands and the right professionals. We never skipped any details and did the job as it would have been done in New York, Paris and London. As a result, people who know about quality and service easily noticed us.
Who was your professional inspiration? Who did you look up to and what were their contributions to you?
My late father Haci Sabanci. He was the most radical, most important and most valuable businessman in Turkey. During my primary school years, my late father had told me to be careful with my behaviour both in society and within my circle of friends and to help people who are weak or wronged. I knew when he said this, it was not just because of our wealth. My father was a great person. His sentimental side was very profound.
His greatest contribution to me is teaching me to be humble no matter what and to set my priorities in life. My late father’s contribution to everything I have ever accomplished is simply major. And it will be so in my three children’s lives as well.
Can you tell us a bit about Turkey One foundation? What is the purpose and target of Turkey One?
Turkey-ONE Foundation was founded in 2014 under my presidency with the purpose of protecting our mutual values that keeps us together with our cultural heritage, history and natural resources. It is, of course, our priority to take Turkey to international platforms as a brand, move our country one step further in our cultural, social and economic lives and tell the world that we have a unique world heritage.
How did Mosaic Road project begin?
This project came to being with the leadership of our Chair of Consultative Committee Prof. Dr. Ilber Ortayli thanks to the valuable supports of Gaziantep, Hatay, Kahramanmaras and Sanliurfa Municipalities with the purpose of increasing the knowledge of artefacts that have traces of countless civilizations, cultures and beliefs we have had since 4000 BC.
You participated in the Summit of Global Hope Coalition, a side event of the UN Summit that took place in New York at the end of last year. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Yes, we have introduced our Mosaic Road Project as Turkey-one during Global Hope Coalition ( GHC ) Summit, which was organized as a side event to the 72nd Meeting of General Assembly that took place in one of the biggest largest libraries of USA, New York Public Library (NYPL) in the evening of September 8th . We told the participants about the unique mosaic artefacts that were found in Hatay, Kahramanmaras, Gaziantep and Sanliurfa during the reception of the Summit. The organisation was hosted by GHC honorary president and also Director General of Unesco, Irina Bokova.
Presidents and Prime Ministers of 7 countries, 43 rd ‘First Lady’ of US Laura Bush, former Prime Minister of the United KingdomTony Blair, Hollywood star and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Whitaker and many internationally famous names, diplomats, representatives of many NGOs and multinational companies participated in the meeting. Many people who were tributed as 2017 Heroes of Global Campaign Against Extremism and Intolerance were granted awards that night.
Is there a new project in the horizon for Turkey ONE?
We have new projects with the Gastronomy Committee of Turkey ONE Foundation. We are working on projects to introduce the national and regional food cultures of Turkey. We have taken action for Menemen and Semolina Dessert to be introduced around the world with the comprehensive studies of the leader chefs in Turkey. Of course, we are also in touch with world-class chefs. Star Chef Wolfgang Puck and Owner of Hakkasan, Alan Yua has given us their words, which is good news.
Why don’t we talk about your well-known hospitality for world-famous names?
Thank you very much but believe me, I didn’t know if I was a good hostess or not. Yes, it is true that I have hosted the most important artists, thinkers and leaders at my house. It is our purpose to give concrete support to the presentation of Turkey by trying to talk about Turkish hospitality and family structure. If you should ask about how they are finding us, they contact us from abroad or we have business connections or foreign partners, so we invite them to Turkey.
Could you tell us some of your memories with them?
Our guests are under our influence the moment they accept our invitation. I can see that in their eyes. I believe the traditional food that we serve, our hospitality and our small surprises and of course smiling faces and pleasant conversations are very important. For example, we have decorated the path from our garden to the house with objects that remind you UK for Prince Edward Mountbatten-Windsor.
He was enchanted by the Semah show held in the house. We welcomed John Malkovich with his own songs. We were first to celebrate Maestro Placido Domingo’s birthday, he was very impressed. It was a very pleasant evening. We are of course very meticulous when planning these nights.
You have founded a stem cell bank within the scope of the activities you carry out in health sector. Can you tell us some of your important projects in this field?
We always look for a social output in things we do. We also target new and long-lasting benefits. ONK‹M is our most valuable investment in that sense. It represents Turkey’s vision for future. Health sector is the symbol for the civilization level of a nation. We believe in the future of Turkey. Therefore, we have never avoided this kind of an important investment made in health sector.
It is an investment that holds hopes for tomorrow instead of today and its true value will be better understood in the future. I believe that Turkey deserves this investment for sure. The attention its drawing is the proof to that. We have also completed skin rejuvenation studies as Onkim. We can now multiply a person’s stem cell in our lab by using special techniques and help them rejuvenate.
If the expectations turn into reality, mesenchymal stem cells that are extracted from various tissues and blood stem cells will be ready to use in case of many diseases that people from whom the cells are taken from or even other people can encounter.
You are also active in Hotel business with two hotels in Istanbul. How do you evaluate the latest status of the sector?
Yes…Pera Palace and St.Regis Istanbul.. For me, Pera Palace is a true, mysterious fairy tale in Beyoglu. It has been there for 125 years. Pera Palace has been witnessing history for over a hundred years. It has a guest list filled with stars. It was an inspiration to many writers such as Agatha Christie and made its place in world and Turkish literature.