Pera's Legendary Tailor for 55 Years: Latif Usta

We had a great interview with our beloved Latif Usta, with whom we recently started a collaboration to extend the life of the products you buy from vitruta. We leave you with this enjoyable conversation.

Latif Usta! We know you very well, we have been seeing you for years. We thoroughly enjoyed their wonderful conversations. For those who don't know you, can you tell us a little about yourself?

After staying as an orphan in Sarıveliler, Karaman, where I was born in 1956, until the age of 13, I went to my masters who moved to Istanbul to learn tailoring. I started my apprenticeship with two masters on Meşelik Street, which leads to Taksim Square. 5 years later, I opened my own place in Cihangir. Afterwards, due to military service and the 1980 Revolution, I had to take a break from my work.

In 1982, I opened my tailor shop on Sledgehammer Street, where I would never leave again. I have been living in Acıbadem since I got married in 1984 and I come to Pera every day to open the shop. I have 4 children and 2 grandchildren.

It has been 55 years since he first picked up scissors. How were these years, what did you experience? We know that you have trained many people, can you tell us about these processes?

I expanded the business together with my apprentices (thank you) until the end of the 1980s. When I started not being able to make it, I founded a textile workshop. At one point, we reached up to 20 employees at Avrasya Tekstil; Our business was going well but it was very stressful and my health deteriorated. My children wanted to chart their own path, and when we started having financial difficulties, we downsized the company.

Since I liquidated the company in 2010, I have been continuing my tailoring mostly on my own. During this period, I trained approximately 150 people; I still meet many of them. We are like that with my customers too. Sometimes they just come to drink tea and chat. Believe me, such people come to me and listening to their problems and sharing my troubles makes me very happy. Many of my old customers have passed away, but their children are coming now.

I also do work for surrounding hotels and municipalities. Now it is easier to access a service online, but there are still institutions and people in Pera that try to preserve the culture of neighborhoodism. The old tradesmen of this region continue to recommend each other, and our business continues that way.

Whatever you do, you will do it with love. Otherwise it becomes difficult. Tailoring is among the disappearing professions. There are times when I cannot make my rent, but in such periods, I continue my profession by supplementing it with my pension - because I love my job.

We know that you especially love using old sewing machines and scissors . What is the reason of this? Is it the fact that you don't choose to give up your habits or the importance you attach to sustainability?

Actually, we can say both. I like durable items and extending the life of things. Isn't that kind of the point of tailoring? Current sewing machines are all automatic, but I like to use old machines; These are made of iron parts, they are very durable. It's not plastic like the ones nowadays.

I continue to use machines imported from Japan in 1976; They are a little difficult to maintain, but they last longer than any sewing machine. Even earlier, our machines were belt driven; We used to run it with coal engines. For example, it has been 50 years and I still use the scissors inherited from my masters. It fell and broke, I had it welded — it cuts better than anything else.

As someone who is in love with Beyoğlu and Pera and has been working as a craftsman in the same place since 1969, we wonder how he interprets the change in this region over the years. What do you miss in old Beyoğlu? Are there things you can continue to cherish?

You cannot find Beyoğlu's culture anywhere else in Istanbul. Start walking from Tünel - a different culture lives in every street until you reach Taksim. In the past, each street had different characteristics, but of course it has disappeared a bit now. Streets such as Jurnal , Gönül , Şehbender ; They are not like Saka Salim , Tütüncüler , Deva, where watermen used to sell water in glass bottles on horseback... Each of them differs from the other.

There was Tepebaşı Theater and opposite it was Kanuni Esasiye coffeehouse. All the literary figures, musicians and painters in Istanbul would meet there. We had tradesmen friends from all cultures. Master Agap, Master Isak, Master Kirkor, Brother Ismet… I miss them all very much, they all have a special place. In the morning, we could tell which shopkeeper was coming at that moment by the sound of each shutter opening. We would even understand whether he opened the shop himself, his son or his apprentice.

At that time, we had ship (ferry) friends; All the tradesmen would go across the street together. On the second floor of the Pendik ship, the first 4 rows were filled by tradesmen. In the past, the streets leading to Karaköy were not very scary at night; There were high sidewalks, there were no stores like there are today. When we left late, we would line up with the tradesmen, watching each other, as we walked to the ship.

Of course, there are things we try to keep alive. For example, the culture of hanging baskets from the window still continues here. Like many aging buildings in the area, there is no elevator; My knees are also uncomfortable, I walk around with a cane now. In order not to tire our customers, I hang the completed products in a basket.

Latif Usta, lastly, we wanted to talk about the things you love the most and the things that are best for you. What brings you joy?

I love traveling: I go to the Islands often, and I really enjoy the route from our house in Acıbadem to my shop in Pera. I learned that if you always come from the same place, you become ordinary and you always see the same faces. That's why I try to choose different paths.

I always cross the road by ferry, but I prefer different piers and I also change my walking paths. In recent years, they have started a trip from Kadıköy to Eyüp — sometimes I walk from Kasımpaşa, stop by the historical cracker bakery on the way and arrive at the store.

I read a lot and I also like to do research. There used to be a public bookstore at the Kadıköy pier in Karaköy: if we missed the ship, we would sit there and read something. We would continue reading during the trip.

I am very interested in history; Since I love Beyoğlu very much, I preferred to read books about this region. Then I traveled and saw those places. I read a lot and traveled a lot in Pera, Beyoğlu and Istanbul.

You can safely deliver the clothes and bags you bought from vitruta to Latif Usta, one of Pera's oldest tradesmen and our favorite tailor, for free alterations. You can click here for details .