January is always a ‘dry’ month for me. I feel a definite need for abstinence after the parties and excess leading up to Christmas and have given up alcohol and sugar (apart from one naughty celebratory glass of wine in Seville last week, where we were shooting my AW13 look book – it was the stylist, Amy Bannerman’s birthday after all!) I’m feeling good, in more than one way.
It was a year ago now that I went in search of local expertise in Turkey. A short flight from Istanbul took me to the centre of the huge peninsula to the darker, more remote city of Konya. It’s a city I’ve heard being compared to the state of Texas for its agricultural wealth. It’s also a spiritual destination and acutely religious city where Muslim faith is fundamental to the daily routine. It is here that I was introduced to two inspirational men, who both exhume “positive energy”. Mehmet, the innkeeper, carpet shop owner, master of kilims and son of a shepherd. And Rumi, 13th Century Persian poet, philosopher and originator of the Whirling Dervishes, whose home was Konya. Both great men.
I stayed in Mehmet’s house where his wife prepared a very clean and delicious evening meal of vegetables and yogurt. Meat is only eaten at lunchtime, and alcohol is completely absent. Mehmet seems to be loved by all – he looks after various people in his community who have less than him, and deals out his “positive energy” to all around him. One morning, in his shop he was visited by at least 6 people who popped in for a few coins, some gave him something in return. He was given some hand knitted un-dyed lambswool socks which he kindly lent to me and which I put straight into my Impossible Boots as it was at least minus 9! Exquisite old rugs piled high acted as thermal insulation to warm the shop while snow fell outside.
He explained to me that in a Turkish family like his, (his father was a nomadic shepherd in the region just outside Konya), people share with their family and neighbours and never more so than at the end of Ramadan which is locally know as’ The Kilim Festival’.
This is marked by the slaughtering of a sheep or goat, that is given away in the following proportions: 1/3 to immediate family, 1/3 to relations and 1/3 to 7 poor people – in 7 cuts. He explained the fascinating process of the kill and how he likes to trick the animals into a peaceful death, to avoid their adrenalin getting into the meat. He told me that goats would stay in families and cry at the smell of blood, whilst sheep don’t. I have always had a certain fascination for goats, as they are mysterious creatures, with charming yet comical faces. Once when I was in Morocco, I even made a special detour to watch the goats that climb the trees in the Argan orchards. I told you – I’m fascinated!
So this quiet contemplative January may I recommend the following: vegetarian suppers, Rumi poetry and curling up on the sofa to watch one of my favourite films, Le Quattro Volte by Michelangelo Frammartino and the documentary “The Artist Is Present” by Marina Abramovic, both extraordinary works that, in their own way, encourage us to consider the world around us and our place in it.