On the road: IstanbulJune 14, 2016

"I’m manly," laughs Gunes Guner Isik when asked where she likes to shop in Istanbul. It’s hardly surprising: an expert in menswear for nearly 20 years, the trusted creative director and designer has consulted on a number of menswear brands, launched GQ Turkey as fashion director, and is a creative consultant of French ready-to-wear brand Cacharel.

Her greatest pleasure is finding the right fabric, a passion for Turkish and Egyptian cottons, Italian cashmere and angora that forms the heart of her own label, Royal Gang. "I wanted it to feel so good that you want to sleep in it, but can also wear it with a tux," she says of the "moisturizing" collection of sleek and soft basics for men and women, such as the navy Mile End t-shirt or grey Cluster Jersey.

The collection is the perfect uniform for a trip to Istanbul. Follow the designer’s recommendations and spend your days relaxing in the city’s grandiose libraries, sampling award-winning Turkish cuisine in the company of the Bosphorus or wandering the backstreets of the Karakoy and Cukurcuma.




A night’s stay at Soho House Istanbul includes access to one of the best Turkish breakfast salons in the city, a private hamam and a 19th-century Italianate palazzo. Originally built for a Genoese merchant, the neoclassical building served as the headquarters for the US Consulate for nearly a century. Make like Gunes and spend an afternoon relaxing and writing among the club’s fresco ceilings and mid-century style sitting rooms.




Gunes remembers once sitting next to Han Tumertekin, one of Turkey’s leading contemporary architects, on a plane. "He spent the whole flight drawing – he’s an artist." The architect is responsible for SALT Galata, an intelligently crafted and beautifully designed library, research centre and exhibition hall in a renovated Ottoman bank, a must-see during a visit to the city.




While away a Sunday afternoon in Istanbul by wandering the streets of Karakoy, a former port district recently flooded by bars, bookstores, art galleries and pop-up markets, such as Souq Karakoy, a "curated bazaar" of independent Turkish brands. The designer recommends some downtime at the stylish Dandin Bakery – if only for its ultra-soft Madeleines and opportunities for people-watching.




At Sakip Sabanci Museum, a fine art institution housed in an Ottoman-era mansion overlooking the Bosphorus, a seat on the terrace of award-winning restaurant Muzedechanga is a firm weekend favorite for Gunes. Book for brunch, she advises: specialties include modern revamps of traditional Turkish and Mediterranean dishes, such as grilled octopus with black olive paste and caper berry sauce or sujuk served with pistachio.


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The designer’s shopping recommendations are to be taken seriously. Ask her where she likes to treat herself or where she goes for gifts, and the answer is the same: Beymen. The legendary seven-floor department store began life in the '70s as a tailored menswear brand and now stocks the latest from Celine, Dolce & Gabbana and more than 400 other designer brands across its polished floors.




For inspiration, head to the antique stores that line the gentle slope of Cukurcuma Street, a collector’s paradise where you can find anything from vintage erotica to Ottoman-era washbasins. Explore the upper floors of the six-story Karadeniz Antik, a museum-worthy jungle of antique furniture, Ottoman oil paintings and memorabilia of Turkey’s most celebrated writers and poets. "I love it – I lose myself there," says Gunes.

By Natasha Stallard