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Virtuoso Interview: Mickey Ashmore's Guide to Turkey


Am I really going to focus on Turkey for Thanksgiving week? Yes. Yes, I am. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Excerpt below from 8/19/2022 Virtuoso interview by Marika Cain can found here.

NYC-based Mickey Ashmore is a self-described repeat offender. “I like to visit the same place a few times,” says the 35-year-old owner of Sabah, a handmade-shoe brand with travel at its core. “By the third trip, I find I can really go deeper, feel present; I’m less concerned with seeing it all. I might even feel like a regular at a few spots.”

Ashmore, who launched his shoes inspired by Turkish leather slippers in 2013, works with a family-owned company in Gaziantep, Turkey (he’d previously lived in the country while working for Microsoft), and is an avid and wide-ranging explorer. In addition to deep dives in Turkey, he spends time in El Paso, where Sabah’s second workshop is located, and London, San Francisco, Dallas, and Amagansett – home to Sabah stores. He loves Beirut and spent two formative weeks hiking in Ladakh, India. “Traveling – and living and working abroad – has completely shaped me and, as a result, my business,” he says. “I’d like to think I’ve developed a real love for humanity, a sensitivity to people around the world, and an understanding that diversity is strength.”

Mickey Ashmore’s Guide to Turkey

After I graduated from college, I moved to Istanbul to work for Microsoft. What was supposed to be a six-month stint turned into two years of expat life, followed by ten years of Sabah and a deep appreciation for Turkey’s craftsmanship, culture, and people. My spoken Turkish is pretty good. I’d like to think I’m an honorary Turk, but you’d have to ask them!

I could probably write a short book on eating and drinking in Istanbul. Some highlights: Karakoy Lokantasi is my favorite restaurant in the city. I think it’s best for lunch. They have an eggplant dish, hunkar begendi (Sultan’s delight) – wow! For a real experience, take a sea taxi across the Bosporus to Suna’nin Yeri, a local fish, mezze, and raki spot right on the ferry dock in Kandilli, on Istanbul’s Asian side. There are few more magical experiences than pulling up to the dock in the early evening, jumping out, and enjoying a simple but delicious meal at sunset on the Bosporus.

My favorite Istanbul neighborhood that isn’t on the obvious trail: Arnavutkoy, a historic seaside community a bit farther up the Bosporus. Wander through its hills, between historic wooden homes and streets lined with restaurants, cafés, and shops. On a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, it makes for excellent people-watching. Finish your visit with a meal at one of the many fish restaurants. My favorite is Arnavutkoy Balikcisi – great food, great vibe. If you’ve got the energy, after dinner, walk to the Bebek neighborhood for a drink at Lucca.

Farther afield, you can’t overlook Turkey’s beaches – rent a car in Antalya and drive west along the Mediterranean coast. At the point where the Aegean Sea meets the Mediterranean, the coastline gets really interesting at incredible little beach towns such as Datca, Bozburun, and Selimiye. Turning north up the coast, it’s one great beach town after another until you reach Ayvalik (roughly two hours beyond Izmir), which is lovely. I’d skip the Bodrums and Cesmes and focus on these smaller towns. The Turkish coast is so easy and safe to navigate by car, with incredible, welcoming people – it’s the kind of place you can really explore.

The Sabah Dealer’s Travel Essentials

1. A pair of Baleen Blue Sabahs. The waxed nubuck leather makes them extra durable, and the color is super versatile.

2. A double-breasted Boglioli Milano K-Jacket. It’s lightweight and wrinkle resistant, takes any outfit up a notch, and has pockets for storage when you’re on the go.

3. A Sabah roll-up backgammon board. Sharing a cold beer and a game of backgammon is a great way to get to know someone.

4. A travel-size Everyday Oil in Mainstay because it’s good to smell good!

5. A turquoise Savant Studios trucker hat – sometimes my hair isn’t so tame.

6. A functional and fashionable print scarf from Drake’s. I like accessories.

7. The latest copy of the New Yorker. There are few better places than a long plane ride to immerse yourself in excellent long-form journalism.

8. Sabah Sun in Palma green, my favorite color from our sunglasses collection. It’s rare to find a beautiful green frame!

9. A Jill Platner Coyote bracelet brings me good luck.

10. A Wacaco Nanopresso portable espresso machine. There are parts of Turkey where I just can’t get the morning coffee I need to function.

“I always travel with a light coat or blazer so I can look more presentable when needed. I think it’s important to dress with dignity when you travel. Of course, I always pack two pairs of Sabahs – a classic and one with a pop of color. Those, plus running shoes, are the only footwear you’ll ever need for a warm-weather trip.”

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