Burak Cakmak is a catalyst, a game changer. The former Vice President of Swarovski embarks on a new journey, educating the new generation of Parsons talent how to design in the age of sustainability. Even though Burak Cakmak and I initially aimed to meet for coffee in the mythical ‘absinthe’ Green Bar of Hotel Cafe Royal, it’s unfortunately closed until noon. Instead, we settle in the cafe, where pictures of supposedly famous people frame the walls. The tables are made from a warm marble; the flower in the glass on top of it is orange, and suits the hair of Parsons’ new Dean terribly well, who orders an americano with milk on the side.
He leans into the conversation, sometimes lowering his voice as if talking in conspiracy or secrecy about fashion business, but always with an underlying smile. His energy could almost be described as a youthful, which is present when we make a small tour through the hotel when trying to find daylight to shoot a portrait. We end up going to the top floor in old elevators, opening doors hoping a roof terrace would magically appear, but finding a closet with mops and cleaning products behind it. We laugh, dash back downstairs, and walk into the ‘closed’ Green Bar anyway. It’s like you’re in an in-crowd. Burak Cakmak seems incredibly relatable and approachable, which is part of his nature; largely developed by his almost centipede-like capacity to keep up with changes in cultural, societal and political landscapes and having different narratives playing in his mind at any time (acquired by working in a variety of jobs in the industry), making him able to look at issues within the fashion industry from different viewpoints simultaneously.
Burak recently moved to the States, after leaving his role as Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at Swarovski in London, and will slowly start making changes at Parsons. At some point in the conversation he talks about his former role, and how visiting the Swarovski factory in Wattens, Austria is like being in a Willy Wonka movie — it’s located in the middle of the mountains (actually in the place where they filmed The Sound of Music), with small rivers running through it… Though perhaps no oompa loompa’s refining crystals.
Prior to the interview we talk about Truman Capote’s claim to be able to recall everything he hears from memory — no tape recorder or notebook needed. I flip out my iPhone, however, and the cracked screen smilingly lies between us on that slab of marble, next to a ceramics bowl with white-and-brown sugar cubes. We share some stories about our nationalities — Turkish and Dutch — how they sometimes intersect, and dive into a conversation about living in London, and his then prospective moving to New York. “Life is a walk in the park after New York,” Burak jokes.
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