The founder of Silk and Cashmere, Ayşen Zamanpur is a successful entrepreneurship example for 30 years with her cashmere brand. We have talked with Zamanpur about the story of Silk and Cashmere, which was inspired by the Copra Hircus cashmere goats in Inner Mongolia and to opened stores all over the world.
The seeds of Silk and Cashmere are planted during a trip to Mongolia. In fact, you talked about your previous book, Kashmir Yolu, and we would like to hear the foundation story of your brand from you.
If we go back to 1992, at that time, retail was not as attractive as it is today, nor was the topic of branding such a bright topic. The concept of entrepreneurship was almost non-existent. As a result of our many trips, researches and feasibility studies, we realized that there is no cashmere brand in the world in the field of quality but accessible luxury. We set our eyes not only on Turkey, but also on the world. Ours is the story of finding such a niche and creating a brand by working hard with a small team, with very few people, with countless travels for that niche. Moreover, neither cashmere nor silk existed in our country. We were aiming for the world.
We have deployed the epicenter, brain team and creative staff in Turkey. We shifted our production to Inner Mongolia / China, which is the homeland of both valuable raw materials. In 1992, we became one of the foreign companies that made the first joint venture (joint investment). Over the years, I think we have succeeded in becoming a popular brand in the field of silk and cashmere in many countries by opening our own stores, giving dealerships or opening corners in the most exclusive shopping environments of the world.
You describe cashmere as “a tide in the skin”. What makes cashmere so valuable? Can you talk a little bit?
Yes, pure cashmere creates a feeling of tide on your skin… We liked this sentence, which best describes its cloud-like feeling, its texture that wraps you but does not burn, does not hurt, does not sting, but only gives pleasure, and we have made it our motto.
How did the idea of writing your second book Diren Keçi come about?
Diren Keçi is exactly a brand’s story of resistance. There is no shortage, nothing more. If they ask me what you have done most in life, I would say we resisted. This is where the title of the book comes from. Because Silk and Cashmere was difficult to create. Because cashmere was very ossified in the world, it was difficult to emerge because we created a brand in this field. It was all difficult to do business, to establish a team, to keep alive in Mongolia… On top of all this, China was in danger of disintegrating. The Berlin Wall fell, Russia was dissolved. There were thousands of risks in the region and in the economy… And of course, it was difficult to open stores in Switzerland, Paris, London, Barcelona and Russia, and to keep them alive… As I mentioned in Diren Keçi, the biggest challenge is Turkey’s all my business life, I’ve always had anxiety and fear because of the very strict and black and white measures it has taken from time to time against China. We became one of the companies that suffered the most from the strict measures, measures and bans against China. In fact, we are the company that saw the biggest loss.
No one took care of them because they had become such a respected and distinguished brand with their own efforts and without any encouragement. They only gave an award, we did not receive any support other than that, and we always had big problems. For all these reasons, the name of my second book is Diren Keçi. I explained everything in the book. Like the cashmere goat, which is our symbol, we have been standing up for 30 years stubbornly, patiently and decisively, never giving up and risking everything…
In your opinion, what is the message of the book to readers?
I wanted to give some encouragement to young generations, women, all entrepreneurial spirits, mothers, maybe those who are tired of what they have been through and think to give up early, maybe to shed some light, if not to guide, and to leave what I have filtered through my years of experience.
You handed over your brand to the second generation, how do you feel in this transfer?
My children Ferhat and Yasemin are two young people who can be successful in anything and everywhere. The fact that these two successful young people embraced the brand and took over Silk and Cashmere has been one of the things that made me happiest and the luckiest in my life. Moreover, they do very good work. For example, Ferhat and his team brought Black Friday to Turkey, only we did it for three years, no one attended. Right now, Black Friday is arguably and by far the biggest event in Turkish retail, its biggest campaign. On the one hand, we are very good in e-commerce, which has made us reach the 2025 target in 2022 in e-commerce.
Do you have a last message to the reader?
Before I end, I would like to mention our social responsibility projects related to women. We have been producing silk together with women workers in our workshops in Kulp district of Diyarbakır for 8 years, providing employment and contributing to them from sales revenues. Thus, we have signed a project that has been going on for 18 years and is developing gradually. There is a truth; Unfortunately, there have always been problems in our country. It’s not over, it’s not over, but this isn’t over either: There will always be entrepreneurs, there will always be bright new ideas, there will always be creative, devoted and hardworking people who strive to make the world a better world. There is always hope…