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Turkey's Mrs Gul given makeover
21 Aug 2007 12:57 BST

Turkish designer Atil Kutoglu says he expects to spark a "small revolution" with the look he is creating for Turkey's expected future first lady.

The Vienna-based couturier has been asked to come up with a new wardrobe for Hayrunisa Gul, wife of presidential candidate Abdullah Gul.

He says the comprehensive makeover will completely modernise her look.

However, it will still include Mrs Gul's headscarf, which has caused such controversy in strictly secular Turkey.

Though mainly Muslim, Turkey was founded as a staunchly secular republic and the right of women to wear the Islamic headscarf is at the heart of a fierce debate.

The garment is banned from public buildings - which Mrs Gul would be expected to frequent if her husband won the presidency.

It remains a common sight, however - by some estimates, more than half of Turkish women wear it.

Mr Gul, currently the country's foreign minister, has been nominated for Turkey's presidency by the ruling AK Party, but his candidacy sparked political turmoil, with secularists saying he harboured a secret Islamist agenda.

The president is chief of the armed forces, with influence over senior appointments. But the powerful military establishment has made clear its opposition to Islamist activities and the headscarf.

Mr Kutoglu says that he first met Mrs Gul at a New York fashion show four years ago and he knew that Mrs Gul was a fan of his work.

A few weeks ago he was commissioned to "modernise her look and to have some new ideas for the headscarf".

"I have been already working on some designs and have some 20 sketches already done for her," Mr Kutoglu told the BBC.

"I have a very modern line, it is very contemporary and very international, and I will of course stick to my signature, my own style.

"But I am concentrating of course on the seriousness of her position and I am thinking of dressing her in some sleek and simple - but interesting - cuts, and silhouettes in very nice, natural materials like wool, silk and leather."

Mr Kutoglu said that there is a slight Ottoman or Turkish influence in his work and that this will also be the case in the pieces he does for Mrs Gul.

A pivotal part of the image overhaul is an updating of the Muslim headscarf Mrs Gul has fought for the right to wear.

Mr Kutoglu says he does not really like the headscarves which are currently popular in Turkey and already has three or four ideas on how to change Mrs Gul's look, altering not just the colour and pattern of the scarves, but also the shape and tying method too.

"I am thinking more of the Hollywood glamour back in the 1940s and 50s," he said. "And even of when the turban was a big fashion statement in the 60s and 70s."

"I am imagining like Romy Schneider or Catherine Deneuve wearing some turban looks in their movies," adding that the scarf should be thought of as a modern fashion accessory.

"If the collection fits her well and if she is a successful and active first lady her looks will make big waves around the world and it can bring new fashion trends - I very much trust that," Mr Kutoglu added.