“As I stood in front of the Blue Mosque, I knew in my heart that this could be the start of one of the many scented adventures I will embark on. It was the late summer of 1994 when my folks brought me to Istanbul, Turkey and of course, I was totally ecstatic when I got to know I would be spending my September holidays in a country I was most looking forward to. Mind you, I was only just 7 years old, so the thrill to visit a country away from Singapore was absolutely mind-boggling. Most of my siblings tagged along for the week-long break, exploring what Turkey had got to offer, with the exception of my youngest brother who was just a mere baby.
Rifat Özbek was born in Istanbul, he studied fashion at the Central St Martins. In 1985, he started his own fashion line ÖZBEK based in London, inspired by his cultural heritage, music, architecture and his extensive travels. Over the ensuing years ÖZBEK became a highly acclaimed fashion label with runway shows in London, Milan, New York and Paris
In 2005 after 30 years, fashion designer Rifat Özbek’s home became his primary focus and he turned his creative interest to interior design. Inspired by decorating his own holiday home and his continued love of working with colourful textiles and patterns he had the idea to produce a small range of cushions filled with lavender. Rifat’s inimitable design sense was immediately recognised and together with his partner Erdal Karaman they created YASTIK (Turkish for pillow).
“Being driven into the heart of the Abu Dhabi desert, our first impression was that we had been swallowed up by the pages of National Geographic.
The first part of our honeymoon was spent at a resort juggling the pool, the enormous mezze buffet and our terrace lounge – the air tinged by the fragrant dustiness from the desert. The oasis resort we were staying at added sweet, sticky notes to the desert perfume. We found the atmosphere perpetually exotic, spotting camels, clay pots, mosaic metals, silk tents and extravagant fountains scattered around the grounds.
“I remember that when I’ve entered the Egyptian Bazaar in Istanbul for the first time, I was overwhelmed. You can see hand-painted plates in vivid colors on tables and the famous oriental lamps hanging from the ceiling. A man with a tablet full of freshly made tea walks by and you can hear people bargaining in the background.
However, the memory that stuck out the most from my visit to the Egyptian Bazaar was the scent that surrounded me at one of the many colorful booths full of teas, spices and herbs. There were a large variety of teas. Some floral smelled like rose petals, others were really fruity like the traditional Turkish apple tea or a tea made out of pomegranates. The fragrance of those teas was rich and gorgeous and reminded me instantly of a beautiful summer day.