Unicera International Ceramic Bathroom & Kitchen Fair

Anatolia glaze

With the knock-on effect of the financial crisis in Spain and Italy, Turkey has seen a rise in ceramic exports to Iraq and Azerbaijan. Jenny Eagle visits Unicera International Ceramic Bathroom & Kitchen Fair in Istanbul to see what trends are happening in the marketplace

Unicera International Ceramic, Bathroom and Kitchen Fair celebrates its 25th anniversary next year and has entered the digital domain launching a website (www.turkishceramicsfair.com) for professionals who want to view local products but don’t have time to travel.

The tradeshow is organised by TÜYAP Exhibition Group in collaboration with the Turkish Ceramics Federation and TIMDER (Sanitaryware and Construction Material Producers Association).

“The world is changing in an unexpected way and what we had on offer here four years ago is totally different today. As our target market changes we have set up a virtual fair to set ourselves apart from the competition,” said Bahadir Kayan, president, Turkish Ceramics and VP sales building materials Kale.

The Turkish Ceramics promotion group was formed in 1997 under the Ministry of Economy alongside the Central Anatolian Exporters Union and Turkish Ceramics Federation, to promote Turkish ceramics globally by raising the profile of regional companies, to differentiate themselves from the competition and to build strong brands so as not to compete on a price basis. Kayan said the industry has seen an 11% increase in exports since 2010 and sanitaryware has increased 14%.

“Logistically we have certain advantages trading with Iraq such as border controls, language, understanding the culture, similar taste and we have seen a change in the market there which continues to rebuild its infrastructure after the war,” he added. “We are the leaders in two markets compared to the EU which is Iraq and Azerbaijan.”

Kayan said the association does not foresee an immediate increase in the consumption of ceramics in Dubai because it still has excess stock in units sold for flats, villas and office spaces.

“The Middle East market is rather glossier than the European market in terms of product taste. This year we were able to see many products referring to this point. With the digital technology in hand many brands are also offering three-dimensional surfaces in glossy versions. The trend for imitating marbles and natural stones and wood is still valid as well,” said Kayan.

“Iraq hasn’t got any production of ceramics currently, and this makes the market very attractive if you put the huge demand for new housing next to it. Turkey, being a long time trade partner to Iraq and having developed early commercial relationships, is able to serve the market best.

The Iraqi market is almost a geographical self extension of the Turkish market in a way. The logistical infrastructure is working properly, Turkish contractors are able to build in Iraq in an increasing volume as well.

“Iranian ceramics has a weaker perception in the market due to the advanced level of fashion, quality
understanding and design of the Turkish ceramics.”

Süreyya Çaglar, vice chairman sales and marketing, Seramiksan agreed and said the ceramic sector has gone through a serious change and development recently, parallel to the general course of the economy.

“We have seen a change in production capabilities including the introduction of new technology and giving consumers more options at more affordable prices. Due to the financial climate the ceramic production problems in Spain and Italy, have allowed Turkey to come to the forefront and Turkish manufacturers need to improve their branding and use it as an opportunity to differentiate themselves in offering specialised products.

It seems inevitable that manufacturers that do not make this differentiation will face problems in the future. Selling products by trying to beat the competition with their prices will be a thing of the past as consumer needs become a priority.

Manufacturers need to reach their customers through their distributors and showrooms instead of selling direct to retail shops.” This year, the tradeshow saw a growing trend for manufacturers to employ a celebrity or high-profile designer to endorse a product.

Seranit has hired actress Penelope Cruz to be the face of its new “Serra” brand of ceramics and had an exhibition at the fair by famous designer Bahar Korçan and local artist, Emine Gönüllü. Kale has also partnered with one of Turkey’s most accomplished designers, Zeynep Fadıllıoglu, to create a set design for its commercials with products from its Ottoman Collection.

Fadıllıoglu formed her own design studio in 1995 and was awarded Andrew Martin Interior Design Award 2002 and modern designer of the year by the Design and Decoration Awards 2005. She has worked all over the world, mostly in London, Kuwait, Doha, Berlin, Paris, Mumbai, New Delhi, St Tropez, New York and Istanbul.

“The Ottoman Collection is Çanakkale Seramik’s interpretation of the Ottoman architecture and interior design concept. Adapted to modern-day bathrooms, this collection offers ceramic tiles, bathroom furniture and sanitaryware,” said Ihsan Karagoz, chief marketing officer, Kale.

“It includes the Birun Series, combing marble textures with gold and the Enderun Series, which takes its name from the drawing room located in the inner section of the Ottoman Palace where the Sultan received envoys and viziers, and its colours from emerald, sapphire and ruby. The Enderun Series provides bathrooms with caftan motifs, tulips and cintemani (Chinese cloud) figures.”

Seranit is one of the first granite ceramic factories in Turkey. Founded in 1993 with a production capacity of 500,000m2 it has now grown to 8.5 million m2 with an investment in 2006 and produces more than 20% of the granite ceramics in Turkey.

The company also plans to make a EURO 90 million Euro investment, thanks to its association with Sinpas REIT (a publicly traded investment partnership that invests in real estate and real estate development projects), that will allow Seranit to produce 45 million m2 by the end of 2012.

Hamdi Altunalan, CEO, Seranit said the Turkish ceramic sector needs to accelerate its research and development (R&D) and production and development (P&D) investments instead of copying designs to reach its status in the world market.

She drew attention to the importance of renewing plants, complying with modern technology and making sure the most important resource is ‘human’ and producing quality over quantity.

Talking about Serra’s brand image, investing in a commercial with actress Cruz, Ece Ceylan Baba, CEO design and marketing, said most of Seranit’s export destinations are in Europe and as it is competing with top countries in the world of design, it was only logical to partner with a well-known Spanish actress to promote itself across the European market. It opened a showroom in Rome in 2010 and now plans to open one in Milan. Its other showrooms are in the Philippines, Spain and Qatar.

“To make Serra a world brand, we worked with very successful designers from Turkey, Italy and Spain, and we prepared a product range consisting of six series that will appeal to everyone,” she said. “We’re on the stage with a product range addressing all tastes from minimalist designs to colourful works, and three dimensional designs to plain white.”

Next to the Seranit stand the company showcased work called Benim Masalım (My Fairytale) by the designer it currently works with, Turkish fashion designer Bahar Korcan and gave artist, Emine Gonullu an exhibition space called Umut (Hope) at the show.

“At Unicera, we continue our journey with the arts and support regional art and artists. For example, “My Fairytale” and “Hope” collections were created in partnership with fashion designer Bahar Korçan for the Serra brand, which we believe will bring a greater depth to the ceramic sector incorporating new technology and a unique design. We’re also breaking exciting ground by collaborating with local artist Emine Gönüllü presenting her abstract ceramic exhibition covering the last seven years’ of her work,” Baba added.

VitrA, has partnered with Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University (MSGSÜ), the oldest school of architecture in Turkey to provide a series of ceramic art workshops. It also plans to sponsor the inaugural Design Biennial with Eren Holding, Koray Group of Companies, and Vestel, organised by Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), (October 13-December 12), in Istanbul.

“MSGSÜ-VitrA Ceramic Art Studio brings together university students and ceramic artists to expand their knowledge of the industry. It will invite two foreign and two Turkish artists to the programme each year and Norwegian ceramic artist, Ole Lislerud is the first one to visit the studio from April 16-30,” said Itir Avuncan, brand communication manager, VitrA.

Istanbul Design Biennial will adopt the theme “Imperfection” (Kusurluluk) and explore relevant fields from architecture, industrial design, fashion, and new media design.

“Istanbul Design Biennial will be an exemplary organisation introducing cultural productions to our country from an international platform, and bringing different tendencies and practices from all around the world to Istanbul,” said Bülent Eczacıbası chairman IKSV.