Located in the heart of Istanbul’s Ortakoy neighborhood lies a portal to another world. Colorful and chaotic, Eda Yorulmazoglu’s studio is a reflection of the world she has lovingly nurtured since she began designing costumes in college.
“The world I’m trying to create, at least for me, is something different from our world,” he says. “There is no judgement, no religion, no skin tone, no gender, and no language.”
It is a world populated by the benevolent creatures she has given birth to over the years, under the professional name of Eda Birthing.
Some of them have googly eyes and jewels for teeth. Others, like the ones in his “My Perfect Nuclear Family” collection, have blonde hair sticking out of their mouths. They often have long, dangling fingers or extra appendages.
“I like to create things that are not human,” says Yorulmazoglu. “Because when you use humans, you start judging yourself. You say, ‘I can’t afford that’ or ‘I’ll never look good in that’. And you start to feel ashamed of the body. When people come to my shows, I don’t want that.”
Yorulmazoglu started out in the United States, where she studied fashion design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The Turkish-American designer made a name for herself designing out-of-this-world clothes for some of the city’s leading drag queens.
She says she was introduced to the world of drag somewhat accidentally, when she was invited to design for a group of queens during her senior year of college.
“That night I understood where I had to be,” he says. “It was so beautiful to see them put on my clothes and change the movement and get into that character. And he was in love because they accepted me for who I was and they didn’t want to change anything.”
Since then, Yorulmazoglu’s work has been featured several times on the award-winning US television series RuPaul’s Drag Race. She says that she regularly receives commissions from queens.
“Working with drag queens gives me a lot of freedom with my designs, even commissions,” he says. “People have just told me, like pink or red, or I’m afraid of spiders. Sometimes it’s more specific, but most of the time it’s a minute detail. And I’m like, okay, let’s try it.”
The goal of all her designs, she says, is to give people permission to be fully themselves. He has found that sometimes people who wear his clothes “realize something about themselves that they didn’t have before.” At an event in Chicago, for example, she saw a group of businessmen take off their suits and jump into a giant tent she built.
“They became kids again,” she says. “I think that’s something we forget when we grow up, obviously how to be a kid, how to be carefree. That’s what I want to bring back.”
After years in Chicago, he brought that philosophy to Istanbul. In what turned out to be another happy accident, Yorulmazoglu ended up stuck in the city in March 2020 when the covid-19 pandemic froze international travel.
“After a month or two of being in Turkey, I just said, maybe this is a sign that I have to stay here,” he says.
In early June, she presented a new collection of 12 looks called “Magic Births” at Blind Istanbul, which she said was an opportunity to “take whatever creativity you can find”, including singers, drag queens, pole dancers and DJs. Her goal for the future is to continue organizing more events and eventually take her work beyond the wardrobe.
“I want to build the world, so people can really feel what I’m doing,” he says. “Whether it’s in a movie or in real life, like a park or a house or something.”
He points to the short film “Glimmer of Us,” which premiered last year with Chicago-based film collective Bitchcraft. It tells the story of an innocent pink creature (played by Yorulmazoglu) who arrives in the world scared and alone and is greeted by a group of drag queens dressed to the nines in Yorulmazoglu’s neon outfits.
After watching them all dance and shyly have fun, the creature plucks up the courage to dance on the bar, in a final scene bathed in a bubblegum pink light that exudes pure joy, embodying the feeling of finally finding a place where you belong.