“Four or five years ago, if you were lucky enough to meet Robert Forrest, the marketing director for Rifat Ozbek, he would give you a ticket to see the fashions of the Turkish-born designer. The small showings were held in a loft in the unlikely-sounding Haunch of Venison Yard, an alley between Claridge's and Bond Street. Buyers and reporters would ascend four flights of stairs and enter a Turkish fantasy, where tea and fruit were served while models paraded Mr. Ozbek's exotic styles.
Now Mr. Ozbek has been in business for five years, and his shows have become the hot ticket in British fashion and one of the more compelling reasons for the fashion faithful to come to London at all.
He still operates out of Haunch of Venison Yard, but as a measure of his success this season Mr. Ozbek held two heavily attended fashion shows in a West London television studio.
The intensity of the debate over his fall collection - split down the middle between lovers and haters - is another index of his importance.
Mr. Ozbek has had to grapple with many of the problems that confront young American designers, as well as some that are peculiar to London. ''When our volume increased, we couldn't get the right commitments from our English contractors,'' Mr. Forrest said. ''They pushed the collection through in half the time, and it just wasn't made as well. It's part of the fashion malaise in English factories.''
The designer clothes are now produced under a licensing arrangement with Aeffe, an Italian manufacturer that also produces the Franco Moschino line. Mr. Ozbek's company, a partnership between him and Gulf International, expects to have about $4 million in sales this year of his designer clothes and his casual line, called O and made in Turkey.
Unlike other London designers, however, Mr. Ozbek is selling more and more to the United States, Mr. Forrest said. His largest accounts are Saks Fifth Avenue and Madeleine Galley, a Los Angeles store.”
Rifat Ozbek. British Designer of the Year '88 and '92.