Enter the world of Eda Birthing, the costume designer who dresses Istanbul’s drag queens and performers


Nestled in the heart of Istanbul’s Ortakoy district is a portal to another world. Colorful and chaotic, Eda Yorulmazoglu’s studio is a reflection of the world she has lovingly nurtured since she started designing costumes in college.

“The world I’m trying to create – for me at least – is something different from our world,” she says. “There is no judgment, no religion, no skin color, no gender, no language really either.”

It’s a world populated by benevolent creatures that she has given birth to over the years, under the professional name of Eda Birthing.

Some of them have bulbous eyes and jewelry for teeth. Others, like those in his “My Perfect Nuclear Family” collection, have blonde hair sticking out of their mouths. Often they have long hanging fingers or extra appendages.

“I like to create things that aren’t human,” says Yorulmazoglu. “Because when you use humans, you start judging yourself. You say, “I can’t afford it” or “I’ll never look good in this.” And you start to feel ashamed of your body. When people come to my concerts, I don’t want that.

Yorulmazoglu got her start in the United States, where she studied fashion design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The Turkish-American designer has made a name for herself creating standout clothes for some of the city’s top drag queens.

She says she was introduced to drag somewhat by accident, when she was asked to design for a group of queens during her senior year of college.

“That night I understood where I needed to be,” she says. “It was so beautiful to see them put my clothes on and change the movement and get into that character. And I was just in love because they accepted me for who I was and they didn’t want to change a thing.

Since then, Yorulmazoglu’s work has been featured several times on the award-winning American reality series RuPaul’s Drag Race. She says she regularly receives commissions from queens.

“Working with drag queens, they give me a lot of freedom with my designs, even commissions,” she says. “I’ve had people who just said, like pink or red, or I’m afraid of spiders. Sometimes it’s more specific, but most of the time it’s very minute details. And I’m like , okay, let’s try.

The goal of all her creations, she says, is to give people permission to be fully themselves. She has noticed that sometimes people who wear her clothes “realize something about themselves that they didn’t have before”. At an event in Chicago, for example, she saw a group of businessmen rip off their suits and jump into a giant tent she built.

“They became children again,” she says. “I think it’s something we forget when we grow up, obviously it’s how to be a kid, how to be carefree. That’s what I want to bring back. »

After years in Chicago, she brought this philosophy to Istanbul. In what turned out to be another happy accident, Yorulmazoglu ended up trapped in the city in March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic froze international travel.

“After a month or two in Turkey, I kind of just said, maybe this is a sign that I should stay here,” she says.

At the beginning of June, she presented a new collection of 12 looks called “Magical Births” at Blind Istanbul, which she said was a chance to “grab all the creations I could find”, including singers, drag queens, pole dancers and DJs. Her goal for the future is to continue to hold more events and eventually move beyond costumes.

“I want to build the world, so people really feel what I’m doing,” she says. “Whether in a movie or in real life, like a park or a house or something like that.”

She points to the short film “Glimmer of Us,” which she released last year with Chicago-based film collective Bitchcraft. It tells the story of an innocent pink creature (played by Yorulmazoglu) who enters the world scared and alone and is greeted by a group of drag queens dressed brand new in Yorulmazoglu’s neon costumes.

After timidly watching them all dance and have fun, the creature plucks up the courage to dance on the pole – in a final scene bathed in bubble-gum pink light that exudes pure joy, embodying the feeling of having finally found a place where you belong.

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