Many people know Kerim Yüzer a.k.a. Kabus Kerim as a part of the Rap Group Cartel. We met with him in the Istanbul flagship store of his raw denim brand Blue Matters. When you enter the shop, you feel as if you are time travelling through the history of the beloved blue fabric. Old jeans advertisements, boxes of shoe cream and sewing materials lie all around. The brand was brought to life by Ece Müftüoğlu Narcy and Didem Çakar; Kerim joined the team later and focuses mostly on the details. That includes buttons made of olive wood or copper zippers.
That afternoon we spoke with the denim ambassador about zodiac signs, fashion, and yes, a little bit about Cartel.
You’re an Aquarius? Me, too. They’re the best.
That’s what I always say. Many people don’t deal well with that. The arrogance alone! It’s just that you know what you are and what you can do. I think it’s a healthy self assessment. But honestly now. A lot of people say I’m too arrogant because I don’t accept many things. I can’t accept that I have to do some shit my entire life just because I don’t have an education. That’s not it. If they look inside themselves, everyone can find their own talents. Everyone influences everyone else, whether positively or negatively. I prefer to be influenced positively and do my own thing. In doing so, I’ve got myself straightened out and am happy. I didn’t study design and I was still able to collaborate in the design team at Adidas. It has to do with how much you dedicate yourself to something.
How did you land in fashion?
On our block and in Cartel I was always the guy who was responsible for the clothes. I had my first small label for hip hop street wear in 1995. That didn’t turn into anything, though. In 2001 I became a father. Back then I had a job with Bavarian Broadcasting in graphic design. On the day of my son’s birth, I realised that I didn’t want to work for anyone else anymore. When I was six years old, my parents left me in Turkey with my grandparents. I wanted to do things differently and spend as much time as possible with my son. So I travelled with him throughout all of Germany and bought and sold furniture at flea and design markets. Two years later I had a store in Nuremberg. Designers from Adidas soon came to me and offered me a job. I had influenced this “vintage thing” with my selection. In 2003 people didn’t know what that was supposed to even be. Adidas launched it two years later in a new format.
So you might say you have a feel for trends.
I’ve had a good number of people tell me that I have a talent for seeing rising trends. I don’t have to look in a magazine to see it. Adidas let me do it. I’m thankful to them for that. At some point I happened to go into Ece and Didems store in Istanbul and got to know them. They had been searching for someone who had some idea of what to do. And our collaboration kind of just happened. We try to have our clothing produced fairly, everything made in Istanbul, hand-sewn and not over-priced. And it was important for me that we didn’t use any washings that are harmful to the environment or people’s health. For the collections, I was inspired by old Turkish models. For example, here is an advert from 1927. It is laid out exactly like the Levi’s advertisement from back then and is called “kot” (Turkish for “jeans” – ed.) That’s what the inventor was called. Look, here its says: “Wash your trousers with cold or sea water.” That’s awesome! And the guy was doing this in the 30s. We rediscovered that 100 years later.
Is there a specific decade that inspires you the most?
Well, pretty much everything that’s old. I dig around musically in the past as well. My nickname is Kerim Diggins – I’m always digging. I’m always at flea markets, and I always make a find. It’s kind of creepy. Somehow I have a knack for randomly finding pieces that are just screaming to come into the light of day. I polish it and then present it to the people. It’s like that in music and fashion. A cycle that is always repeating itself.
How do you react when you are asked about Cartel?
For a long time, it bothered me, especially the question why we broke up. That’s private. But of course, it’s a part of Turkish music history and I’m happy that I’m a part of it and am able to present it. But there never was any real end. It’s clear to me, that people are still interested and still want to ask questions. So it doesn’t kill me to talk about it. It’s like a tattoo that you have on your arm.
What have you been listening to lately?
Well I have to be honest: During the day I barely listen to music. In daily life it’s not relaxation for me, it’s noise. When I listen to music at home I sit down consciously and dive into the music. Anything from classical to Motörhead, it just depends on my mood.
What kind of role does music play for you today?
A very large one. Dj-ing is a ritual for me. It’s like a shamanistic act I can wash myself into. I don’t call myself DJ. I just do something so people dance.
There are so many people from different areas in the audience and everyone has a different status. One is a salesman the other a lawyer. At some point that doesn’t matter anymore and everyone dances together. They forget their religion, rank, gender, take the masks off and hug each other. Adults become 14-year old kids again. Just like me on the stage. My inner child comes to the forefront.
And that should never die?
Exactly. They go hand in hand. That’s my thing.
Fotos: Ercan Inan