Being a textile engineer in a Turkish apparel factory sparked Gokben Yamandag’s interest in developing a brand that celebrated authenticity, craftsmanship, and an overall appreciation for one’s personal artistic style. She wanted to establish a company that promoted product knowledge for the consumer as far as where the products came from and how they were made. With this passion in mind and a year of planning, Lesouque was launched as an online boutique featuring handmade houseware, jewelry, women’s accessories and handbags, and more.
“The factories I worked in manufactured clothing for well-known retailers but the working conditions for garment workers were very harsh,” Yamandag said. “It wasn’t unusual for a 14-year-old girl to put in 70 to 80 hours a week on a very hot (or cold) factory floor. I was deeply moved by that experience. I wanted to be a part of the change to shift consumer’s thoughts towards ethical manufacturing.”
The shop name Lesouque is a play on the word Souk, or Turkish, open-air market.
“We struggled with the name, like most do,” Yamandag said. “After brainstorming one night, I had a flashback to my fondest childhood memories of wandering for hours through the streets of the Souk, meeting local farmers and artisans. I wanted to evoke a feeling if traveling around the world, strolling through the Souk, but from the comfort of your couch.”
Each item carried is sourced from independent designers around the world. A few Memphis favorites can also be spotted on the site.
“Both of us have made Memphis home and want to be able to support, and give back to, the local community as much as possible,” said Penelope Fisher, Co-Founder of Lesouque. “We think it’s a fantastic way for these designers to gain national and international exposure. We love to think that we could help someone in Australia discover one of Kong Wee‘s necklaces, or someone in Austin might fall in love with one of Brit‘s modern coffee mugs.”
Not only does Lesouque give back locally, but the shop also strives to make an international impact. A portion of the proceeds from each sale goes towards the education of girls in developing countries through The Malala Fund.
” I grew up in a progressive environment in Turkey and had access to a strong education and resources that allowed me to be successful,” Yamandag said. “Through my global travels and my experience at the apparel factories,I realized how lucky I was, and how rare it was in most part of the world for a girl to have that kind of access. Supporting girls’ education has come naturally and is a cause that is near and dear to my heart.”
Yamandag sees Lesouque as both a shop and a learning experience for herself and her consumers.
“We have a pretty lofty long-term vision,” Yamandag said. “We would love to see Lesouque being more than a shop and help people become more socially aware and understand that more is not necessarily better. We want people to know each fast, cheap fashion or home good item they purchase has a hidden cost. The cost that most people are unfortunately currently ignoring.”
We appreciate your efforts to keep us styled and educated, Gokben and Penelope!