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Vitali Hakko, 94, who created the first Turkish world-class fashion brand, died in Istanbul Dec. 10, 2007.

Hakko started working in 1927 as an apprentice and first created the company Sen Sapka (Merry Hat) just after Turkish ruler Mustafa Kemal Ataturk pushed through the Headgear Law, which required Turkish men to wear Western style hats.

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Vakko logo

Hakko changed the name to Vakko, and the company began to produce haute couture scarves made from Turkish silk, cotton and wool.

Bu the early days were slow. After wearing hats went out of fashion, Hakko pushed a wooden cart from which he sold scarves and ties.

The first Vakko shop opened on Istanbul’s main thoroughfare, Istiklal Street in Beyoglu, the 19th century European neighborhood, in 1964. It was the biggest store to have been built there to date. That first store made Vakko the biggest brand-name phenomenon on the Turkish clothing scene.

The elite of Istanbul used to walk along the avenue, where they were sure to run into friends and relatives, Turkish media reported. They had the money to buy at Vakko, which had begun to offer upscale products. The quality of the materials used was a considerable attraction and the designs, by Hakko himself, were unusual, especially for Turkey.

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It was one of the few stores in Turkey that sold ready-made clothing and that accepted American Express. Turkish women and tailors were accustomed to making their own clothes at home.

According to the Turkish Daily News:

Vakko benefited from Hakko’s outstanding ability to sell his products. He was a short man with gray hair and horn-rimmed glasses but far ahead of his competitors in thinking about the future. His store was the first to have display windows with elegantly dressed male and female mannequins. Some might remember the smartly dressed businessman in the window with a copy of the Turkish Daily News in his pocket? It was possible for the wealthy and well-known to go to Vakko’s after the store closed or even on a Sunday. Hakko wasn’t above presenting leading politicians with whole ensembles, and wearing the Vakko label meant you had money and taste. Special customers would be given cards entitling them to discounts.

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Although Hakko was a Jew in a predominantly Muslim country, he introduced Christmas shopping to Istanbul. His display windows and building’s interior were given Christmas themes. He eventually persuaded the Istanbul municipality to agree to string lights up along the street. Eventually almost everybody got into the act, according to Turkish media.

Hakko’s funeral was held at the company’s plant in İstanbul. Business partner Alberto Elhadef said the Vakko brand, born 73 years ago, now “a fully grown man, is saying goodbye to his dad.”

Elhadef said Hakko was one of the first entrepreneurs of modern Turkey.

“He was the first man to bring the ready-to-wear, modern shopping center and fashion show concepts to Turkey,” he said.

Deniz Adanali said Hakko had always retained the avid curiosity he developed as a child.

“He learned a lot and he taught a lot,” Adanali said.

Hakko’s relatives, Isbank General Manager Ersin Ozince, Koc Holding CEO Bulent Bulgurlu and Vakko workers attended the funeral.

After the religious ceremony at Neva Salom synagogue, Hakko was buried at the Ulus Jewish cemetery.

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