Çift Geyik Karaca


After the death of his father Hoca İsmail, young Halil of Karacabey and his mother settled in Bandırma, where he had performed his military service. In 1917, he borrowed some money and purchased a sock-knitting machine, thus laying the foundation for the brand that would eventually become the engine, as well as the leader, of the Turkish knitting industry. Invoices, promissory notes, insurance documents and other archival records from the 1920s meticulously preserved by the Çift Geyik Karaca Giyim ve Sanayi Ticaret Ltd. Şti. indicate that the firm was “established in 1918.” The owner of that modest workshop was thenceforth known both among friends and in official documents as Karacabeyli Hocazade Çorapçı Halil (Halil the Sock-maker, son of the Hoca [Teacher/ Scholar] of Karacabey). The historical chain stretching from Halil the Sock-maker to Hayrettin Karaca, now known as “Grandpa Erosion” for his environmental activism, and on to the present points to an important commercial tradition.

Having started with a sock-knitting workshop in Bandırma, a town with a pre-occupation population of only about 60 thousand, Halil Bey had to work hard to stay afloat and grow his business under the occupation suffered during World War I. His son Hayrettin Karaca described the years that followed as “The Republic had just been established. Bandırma had been burned and destroyed by the Greeks... The country was poor.” The first step was to increase the number of sock-knitting machines. Procuring machines was extremely difficult under prevailing conditions; nevertheless, flannel-knitting achines were added to the workshop in 1924.

Hayrettin Karaca was born in 1922. During his early childhood, fifteen people were involved in production at the workshop, mostly family members. Over time, Halil Bey distributed machines to neighborhood women, thus increasing production in collaboration with the people of Bandırma. The youngest member of the workforce was Hayrettin, who started working at the factory at the age of six and a half, getting in line for his weekly wages along with the other workers.

By 1929, all these efforts had born fruit and “Hocazade Halil” appeared in the Türkiye Salnamesi (Yearbook of Turkey) as one of four angora factories in Bandırma. In 1930, the firm employed nearly one hundred workers and was listed as a knitting business in the Millî Sanayi Kataloğu (Catalogue of National Industry). In 1932, Hocazade Halil was said to be the only firm in Bandırma that exported linen.

Starting in the 1930s, both the family and the business were partly relocated in İstanbul, where Hayrettin began primary school. He then graduated from the Feyz-i Âtî (Boğaziçi) High school. The young man wished to study history at İstanbul University’s Faculty of Literature, but his father had different expectations of him. The volume of business in İstanbul now exceeded that in Bandırma; as a result, Halil Bey stayed in İstanbul after 1940, while Hayrettin Bey was sent to Bandırma, where he used to spend the Summers, to lead the firm.

Meanwhile, the company’s name and logo were duly registered in 1935, in accordance with the Trademark Law, the logo bearing the insignia of two deer (Çift Geyik). When the Surname Act was adopted in 1934, Halil Bey chose Karaca in reference to his home town of Karacabey. In the Commercial Yearbook for 1938, he appeared as Halil Karaca. The yearbook also stated that this was the only knitting firm in Bandırma, and that it was located on Süleyman Bey Avenue. It was no doubt very significant that the firm’s production and prestige grew, but what made Karaca’s rise most important was the fact that it gained the affection and support of all strata of society. For Halil Karaca, the greatest source of joy was the public’s interest in the firm’s products, and seeing one of its sweaters on the back of Gazi Mustafa Kemal.

Like many other industries, the knitting business was also adversely affected by World War II. It became extremely difficult to find thread on the market. It was easy to turn back ordinary customers when thread was unavailable, but when orders came from the military, that was another matter. Hayrettin Bey toured all the cities of Anatolia, first to find thread and then to find workers so as to be able to fulfill arriving orders. All these efforts also added value to Bandırma’s economy. Records for the years 1944-1945 indicate that seven more sock-makers had made their appearance in the city, in addition to Karaca. But this latter’s status was of course above the rest: its place of business on Çorapçılar (Sock-Makers) Avenue, a photograph of which is preserved in the company archives, was qualified as a “firstclass merchant” engaged in producing socks, drapery, and wool.

In 1948, Halil Bey and his sons determined that dealing with the entire country out of the small town of Bandırma was too difficult; they therefore decided to move the entire operation to İstanbul. A Commercial Yearbook for 1948 lists the name of Halil Karaca twice, as a knitting factory at No. 22-36 in the commercial building Emiroğlu Han in İstanbul’s neighborhood of Marpuççular, and as an importer of haberdashery at Emniyet Han, in the same neighborhood.

In 1950, Halil Karaca (now registered under No. 19633) went from a “first-class merchant” to one qualified as “extraordinary.” Two years later, Halil Bey made investments in other domains. He purchased a field in Samanlı, where there were no fruit trees at all, and turned it into a fruit orchard. Much later, he manifested his love of nature by converting the field to the Karaca Arboretum. This facility was engaged in scientific research and earned Karaca membership in over twenty international associations, as well as the vicecharmanship of the International Dendrology Society. By this point, Halil Karaca was getting on in years and had passed most of his business responsibilities to his sons.

Halil Bey sponsored the construction of mosques and hospitals in Yalova and Bandırma. He passed away in 1956, well respected in both business and society. His share of the firm was distributed among his three sons, 40 per cent going to Hayrettin and 30 per cent each to Fahrettin and Nurettin. This was about the time when Karaca launched its drive to become an international brand. In 1956, Hayrettin Karaca registered the brand H.K.K. (Hayrettin Karaca Kazakları [Sweaters]). After much effort and hard work on the part of the entire team, the first sweaters and jackets were exported in 1961 to Denmark and several other European countries. These were the first Turkish textile products to be exported, and earned Karaca a well-deserved spot in Turkey’s commercial history. At a time when branding was not foremost on Turkey’s agenda, “Çift Geyik Karaca” became one of the best recognized brands in the country. In 1962, Fahrettin Karaca transfered his shares in the business to his older brother, thus boosting Hayrettin Bey’s power in the firm’s management. Among contributors to the campaign to build a statue of Atatürk organized by the newspaper Milliyet, we see “Personnel and Workers of the Knitting Factory of the Hayrettin Karaca and Brothers Corporation.”

One of Hayrettin Karaca’s fondest wishes was to transform the company into a world brand. By the late 1960s, he had gone a long way toward fulfilling his ambition. The phrase “The First Turkish Industrial Product Sold in Five Continents” that appeared in newspaper advertisements at the time is a clear statement of this fact. In 1967, the giant department store Macy’s which had been selling Karaca products for five years sent the Turkish firm a letter of commendation. That same year, Karaca introduced its products in lambswool, angolaine, and cashmerette which would be worn by generations, from the 1960s to the 1990s. Karaca was now a brand represented by such trade networks as Icelanding Imports in the U.S.; or, as a history of the enterprise put it, the firm became “Çift Geyik Karaca Knitting, Imitated the World Over.” Needless to say, the growing earnings of this well-established company were reflected in the taxes paid by its principals: Hayrettin Karaca was among the top taxpayers in the country in 1969.

During the 1970s, the Karaca company underwent a number of managerial changes. In 1972, Nurettin Karaca turned over his shares to Hayrettin Bey. In 1973, the logo and brand “Çift Geyik Karaca” were registered anew. The Karaca Holding Company was founded in 1974 and professional managers were given a greater role in the company’s management, leading to a more institutionalized structure. Hayrettin Karaca’s son Atay Karaca joined his father at the helm of the company in 1975 and was appointed its Chief Executive Officer. A new subsidiary named Pertaş was established in 1978 in order to develop the retail business. Thus, more stores would be added to the successful outlet on Bağdat Avenue, on the Asian side of İstanbul.

In 1982, the family enterprise consisted of Karaca Holding, Karaca Örme Sanayi Totaş (the Karaca Knitting Company Totaş) and Pertaş. In 1998 the firm was acquired by the Tekfen Holding Company, and in 2005 by the Narin Group, which had been producing Turkish knitwear since 1993 and exporting it to numerous European and Middle Eastern destinations since 1998. Designers and other professionals were brought in from such renowned firms as Versace, and the brand Çift Geyik Karaca rapidly began to grow again. Starting in the 2000s, a new line of high-quality sportswear named TOSS was produced, once again under the two-deer logo. By 2014, some eighty stores had been opened, all in selective shopping locations.

A friend of the Turkish people during the cold days of Winter, Karaca was always in close touch with the community. A campaign was launched in 1992, calling on those who still owned Karaca products purchased before 1965 to send them in for use in a fashion show; the first one hundred respondents were promised a check for 500 thousand TL and a Cumhuriyet gold coin. The firm joined the 2000 Olympics Support Program, a group working to bring the 2000 Olympic Games to İstanbul. Karaca’s social responsibility was no doubt the legacy of Hayrettin Karaca and his struggle, since 1995, to counter the damage done to the land by erosion. Having succeeded to raise awareness of this problem in Turkey, the white-haired Hayrettin Bey has come to be known as “Grandpa Erosion.” And the Çift Geyik Karaca brand, a family heirloom, continues, with the confidence elicited by its quality, to warm the heart of Turkey.


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