Greece is the first European foothold for one of the biggest clothing-producing companies in Turkey. Ipekyol will operate two stores at The Mall Athens, scheduled to open this Friday, while more stores will open within 2006 in the capital’s trendiest areas. The Turkish firm aims to become one of the most recognizable names in the European market of womenswear, earning market shares from well-known chains with a tradition and reputation in the clothing sector. Yalcin Ayaydin, president and CEO of Ipekyol Giyim Sanayi Pazarlama VE AS, is ambitious, self-confident and well aware of the main trends in the industry. He spoke to Kathimerini about realizing his vision of conquering European markets and the difficulties in store at a time when mistakes are hard to correct. «The choice of Athens as the first stop in the course toward the European fashion centers is not by chance. This is an important market that is very close to Istanbul, where the company is based, and to Edirne, where the installations for show production are under construction,» said Ayaydin. «I also believe that Greeks and Turks are like brothers, as we share many common elements. One of those is the type of bodies women – our target group – have.» The subsidiary Ipekyol Hellas will operate two stores, called Ipekyol and Machka, simultaneously at the newly built The Mall Athens in Maroussi and which target young, working women, while in 2006 the firm plans to open branches in Syntagma (on Ermou Street), Kolonaki, Kifissia and Glyfada as well as Thessaloniki. In the Greek market, Ayaydin estimates that the annual turnover of each store will reach 1.5 million euros. Subsidiaries will then follow in France and Britain, as Ayaydin stresses that recognition can come only through the European fashion metropolises. So, the next stops will be Saint Germain in Paris and Oxford Street in London. The company is already present in Romania, the United Arab Emirates, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, while in the Turkish market it operates a total of 45 stores and more than 100 outlets in department stores, enjoying high visibility. «By the end of 2006, we will have reached 70 stores, but even if we reach 100 in the Turkish market or in the United Arab Emirates, I will not have met my objective for international recognition,» Ayaydin noted. His confidence in the company’s potential stems from the fact that Ipekyol is a family company. «I believe in family enterprises, as they are the sole defense against globalization. A family business is less susceptible to changes in the economic climate, as everyone does their best for their own personal benefit and remains devoted regardless of adversities in the business environment,» he said. Ayaydin further refers to the quality of the product and his knowledge of the industry: «Turkey is a cotton-producing country and has modern textile plants, which allows us to choose high-quality material at lower costs than our competitors. By following the latest fashion trends and having specialized staff, we can offer an absolutely competitive product.» Although the sector’s future is in danger due to competition from China, the Ipekyol chief does not hesitate to say he fears nothing. His confidence comes from the company’s figures, showing double-digit growth rates every year since 2000: From 2003 to 2004, 36.2 percent, in 2004-2005, 30 percent, and in 2005-2006 sales are expected to grow by 40 percent.