Thanksgiving, the American holiday that falls on the 4th Thursday of November every year, is a time for us to reflect on the blessings we have received in life and over the years. It is a time spent with family or friends and as is the custom with so many holidays around the world, a day filled with food. For Americans, the holiday of Thanksgiving (unless you are vegan)revolves around cooking a Thanksgiving turkey. Even if you aren’t from the USA, your social media feeds were undoubtedly filled with photos of these big birds cooked to a rich brown color. So it’s no surprise, that Americans nickname Thanksgiving as “turkey day”.
Thanksgiving for me this year, for the first time, was spent away from the family. I was instead 6,150 miles away in Istanbul, Turkiye, attending the 10th Anniversary edition of SILMO Istanbul. SILMO Istanbul is held at the Istanbul Expo Center in the Yeşilköy neighborhood of west Istanbul, near the old Ataturk airport, now used mostly for cargo flights. For me, it was a 45-minute Metro ride from my hotel in the Yenikapi section of the old city overlooking one of the ports of Istanbul.
SILMO Istanbul this year started on Thursday, 23 November, Thanksgiving in America. The show was fairly sizeable, coming in at 269,000 square feet of exhibitions. Over 200 exhibitors were showing over 900 brands. Since I have been lucky enough to see a few optical fairs this year, I wasn’t as much interested in seeing the bigger more well-known brand names, as they had nothing new from SILMO Paris just two months prior. I wanted to see what Turkiye had to offer to optical.
I was not disappointed either. I found several Turkish brands I had never seen or heard of, which is quite OK as many of them had never seen or heard of me. That was something we were able to correct over the four days of SILMO Istanbul. A number of Turkish brands exhibiting at SILMO Istanbul make a good solid line of eyewear. As the Turkish Lira has plummeted in value this past year, the prices of many of these eyewear brands are extremely competitive with eyewear made in China or almost anywhere in the world. I found both metal and acetate eyewear extremely competitively priced and found them well made at the same time. One of the best booths I’ve seen at any show belonged to the Turkish lens brand, Novax Lenses, where the portal to the booth was an eye.
I also found several Turkish brands that were very well made with great designs and colors, like Mooshu, Jow Way, and EDL to name just a few. Not only was I able to learn about Turkish brands at SILMO Istanbul, but the weekend prior, I scheduled a few days 350 miles west of Istanbul in Athens, Greece. I arrived just in time to visit Circum Eye, the annual Greek optical trade fair put on by Eye Magazine in Greece. There too I was able to discover a handful of Greek brands as well as visit with and make new friends in the industry.
After a full day of walking and reporting on the first day of SILMO Istanbul, which started on Thanksgiving, I walked around old town Istanbul that evening looking for a restaurant serving turkey. I was unable to find turkey in Turkey, or Turkiye as it is now called. I was able to enjoy a spicy chicken dinner that night, the closest I could come to eating turkey. I didn’t have to wait long for my annual turkey however, as this past weekend, the family and I celebrated a ‘latesgiving’ with turkey and stuffing, so now the holiday season can proceed as normal, albeit a few days late, which is OK by me.
On Friday evening, 24 November, we attended the SILMO Istanbul Awards. As I mentioned earlier, my hotel was about 45 minutes away from the convention center in the old town of Istanbul. The Awards were held at Çırağan Palace Kempinski, just another 5 miles further east, but with Istanbul traffic, another 45 minutes by Uber. The Çırağan Palace Kempinski is a beautiful hotel on the shore of the Bosphorus Strait. A hotel fancy enough for its own helipad, the Çırağan Palace Kempinski was an exquisite venue for the SILMO Istanbul Awards which highlighted the 10th Anniversary celebration with great, food and drink.
All in all, SILMO Istanbul was a wonderful way to wrap up a year of trade show travel and I am so happy to have made the trip. As I continually say to you our readers, stepping out of the comfort zone of the same habit of the same shows, is a good thing. Discovering new brands, making new connections, seeing new places, and eating new foods, is a wonderful way to grow in the optical business and to grow as a human.
I hope many more of you will join me at some of these terrific optical trade fairs around the world in 2024. If you can’t, I hope you will still tune in to our Facebook Live, Instagram Reels, or even our LinkedIn videos where we try to share some of the excitement of all these wonderful events. SILMO Istanbul will return for its 11th Edition, on 20-23 November 2024.