Buying Leather in the Grand Bazaar – Inside tips from storeowners

Turkish leather is famous – or should that be infamous? But the horror stories of being ripped off can leave one feeling rather scared when forking out hundreds of dollars or euros to get the object of your leather desire. Unless, of course, you’re playing from the same side.

The Bazaar

Entering the bazaar can be overwhelming as an onslaught of ‘hello lady’ or ‘this way please’ greets visitors. But a quick glance at its intricate interior quickly melts any trepidation. The labyrinth of streets are alive with touts and tourists, where 600 years of expertise maintain its position as a prime place for authentic Turkish goods. With it infamous reputation, Turkish leather infiltrates a plethora of bazaar stores.

Hunting through the bazaar requires a systematic search to ensure you don’t loose your bearing in its maze. In true Turkish tradition, any sales relationship is preceded by an offer of apple tea or black Turkish tea. The Grand Bazaar is a society unto itself and everyone abides by the same unspoken rules. When asked, salespeople were reluctant to give any confirmed price range, as ‘the price depends on the customer’. Tips on how to choose leather were meet with ‘this industry is professional, you have to trust the salesperson’. They are always , however, happy to swap stories over a steaming tea. This is what the tight-lips revealed…

Turkish Leather

Leather practices can be traced all the way back to the Anatolian Hittite civilization, surviving generations as tricks of the trade pass from father to son. For this reason, family-run leather businesses trace back far up the family tree. If you take your time to ask, you’ll be invited on a trip down the family-store memory lane. For shoes, accessories or jackets, there’s lots be found in the supple leather of Turkey.

Bazaar storeowners give tips for choosing leather:

Price range: The unanimous quote that price ‘depends on the customer’ means that you should dress conservatively when seriously shopping. The richer you look, the more expensive ‘your special price’ will be. DO haggle their first price, but DON’T feel pressured to buy. Walking away may even get you a discount, and there is always another store around the corner. It would be fair to say not to generalise, but if the store owners say it themselves, then that’s saying something.

 Quality leather: prices vary according to quality. The saying stands true that you get what you pay for. Poor quality starts around $80, good quality is no less than $200-$250 and top quality can range anywhere up to $1000. Or more. Don’t think that just because a jacket is high priced that it is a rip-off. Some of the leather is just that good.

Choosing good quality:

·  ‘Most people can’t understand what is good or bad quality unless you are a professional of leather; you must trust the brand and the shop’ Pera Leather Group

·  ‘My sales people will tell you if its good or not’ (laughs) Mehmet Yavuzcan, Karizma

·  ‘The leather should be matt, not shiny, and it should not smell after it gets wet in the rain’ Salesman, Karizma

·  ‘The feel of the leather and the stitching can indicate the level of quality – but its hard to tell if you’re not a professional’ – Nuretti

Meet the author


After leaving Australia in 2003, Casey's path landed her in Istanbul for a summer stint only. Once addicted to Istanbul's eccentricity and charm, Casey failed to find reason to leave six years later. An avid traveller of sorts, Casey spent most of her time roaming across Europe and the Middle East looking for adventure and cultural experiences. Now a freelance editor and writer working from Madrid, Casey spends her days finding the words to excite the inner traveller in everyone.