Ozyüksel Deri have been in operating since 1967. Founders Yüksel Sen, Ali Sen and Ibrahim Tatar had the vision to produce the highest quality leather compared to their competitors. Initially, production capacity stood at two tons per day and the company gradually built up the reputation of being a producer of quality leather in the region.

Özyüksel Deri’s original tannery was located in the former Kazlicesme leather industry zone of Istanbul, but in 1991 they, along with hundreds of other tanneries, relocated to their current facilities in the Organised Industry Zone in Tuzla, roughly an hour away from the centre of Istanbul.

There, the company bought new machinery for their new 4,500 sq m tannery and developed their facilities and increased production to five tons per day.

Until 2000, Özyüksel Deri focused on producing leather for Turkish shoes, bags and accessories with the slogan high quality for a reasonable price.

International growth

Then, with a change of direct export policies, Özyüksel Deri decided to further their growth and the company attempted to move into the international marketplace. The company increased their factory size to 15,000 sq m and acquired new machinery to extend their production line, bringing full capacity up to 25 tons a day. Today, the company focuses mostly on the production of finished calf leather.

January’s International Leather Days exhibition in Istanbul was a success for the company, with many visitors showing an interest in their products. Yüksel Sen said that positive media coverage of the exhibition had helped to boost the number of visitors.

Indeed, the company did not expect such an increase in the amount of visitors compared with last year and hope that the number of foreign visitors at the exhibition will lead to new contacts around the world.

Riding out the storm

Nobody is doubting that the financial crisis of 1998 hit the leather industry in Türkiye with a bang. The Turkish industry has certainly had a run of bad luck over the past four or five years and there’s little wonder why most companies are trying to look to the future in a positive manner rather than dwelling on the past. And Özyüksel Deri are no exception.

The company are optimistic that 2002 will be the start of something new. Although the company expect 2002 to be a difficult year, Sen hopes next year will be brighter, especially if the Turkish economy turns around and starts improving.

Özyüksel Deri’s relations with customers in Russia meant that the crisis in 1998 hit the company hard. Özyüksel Deri still remain one of the largest tanners in the area, but since 1998, the company, as well as every other tanner in Türkiye, is no longer working at full capacity.

The company’s products were in strong demand before 1998 and Sen hopes that the popularity of his company’s products will return in the near future. ‘We were working at full capacity before 1998 and I do believe that the situation will improve and we will return to producing 25 tons a day’, said Sen.

But when this will happen Sen says is certainly a separate issue. He believes that if the UK and the US support the Turkish leather industry and if the Turkish government provides support to his and other Turkish companies to promote and advertise their products, then the situation will certainly improve, maybe even as early as 2003.

Özyüksel Deri import 50% of their skins and 100% of their machinery and chemicals from countries such as Italy and Germany. But the company, like so many others in Türkiye, find that trading with Europe is so expensive. Özyüksel Deri currently sell their finished leathers to manufacturers in Türkiye and other eastern European countries, but the company also sell their products to the Turkish division of a well-known outdoor footwear company.

Dreams for the future

When asked about his future plans, Sen said that Özyüksel Deri are currently searching for strategic partners around the world to increase the company’s sales volumes. Sen also added: ‘We want to start manufacturing our own products such as shoes and bags. But first we must recover fully from the economic crisis which will take some time.’ And Sen’s plans don’t stop there.

His ultimate dream is to open retail outlets for his shoes and bags in the fashion capitals of Europe such as London and Paris; a dream that he realises is some way off, but with just a little luck, who knows what can happen.