Bünyamin Aydin was the only Middle Eastern designer to feature in the Nike Air Max 2017 competition, which is testament to his global appeal as a premium streetwear designer. The Turkish creative director of Les Benjamins steadily built up a legion of fans, including Rita Ora. While the brand has focused on menswear, the collections have proved to be versatile for men and women who love urbane pieces infused with Arabic influences.
In response to its cross-market appeal, the brand is set to launch its first womenswear collection during the Spring 2018 menswear showcase at Paris Fashion Week on June 23. Previously, the brand has cultivated seasonal themes for each collection, looking at different continents, tribes, and cultures to center the designs around – and there’s no doubt how Aydin lit the touch-tape on his East-meets-West appeal from his headquarters in Istanbul. “I love unfolding untold stories from the East and redefining culture by moving it forward. It’s like giving an update on culture,” Aydin says.
For Spring 2018, you can expect versatile and achingly cool jersey sweaters with tailored twists, such as cutout shoulder panels with loop belt features, unabashed branding emblazoned across tops, and embroidered florals that juxtapose the tough streetwear silhouettes. Vogue Arabia finds out more about the collection from Aydin, ahead of the big reveal in Paris.
How has this new collection evolved from your previous ones?
It started when I was researching and discovering the heritage of Australia and New Zealand. I was always very curious about the history, culture, and the evolution of what it is now. I am highly inspired as a designer by the cultures of the East. So, I started reading books, watching documentaries, and discovering the stories of its past.
What new cultural influences have you infused here?
Aboriginal art, islanders’ face paint, and New Zealand’s Maori culture are infused with British colonial influences. I’m known for creating a melting pot of cultures and that’s exactly what you will see in this collection as well.
Which piece are you most proud of?
My carpet jacquard fabric that I designed from scratch and developed in Italy is an inspirational piece. It’s the reflection of all the cultures from that region that inspired me this season and I have used it on different shapes for both men’s and women’s designs. Especially after the Nike Vote Forward competition, my “carpet swoosh” design is my key signature… to design carpets that have a story and merge it with fashion.
Do you always have the Middle Eastern customer in mind, or do you consider a wider audience for your designs?
I think we live in a global world and I don’t focus on a specific region. There are people in Sweden or Canada who are very interested and inspired by Les Benjamins and Eastern cultures. It’s a universal concept and it’s showing the beauties of our regions with a new and fresh vision that I translate through my designs and into collections.
What do you think is missing from the emerging fashion industry?
I think it’s missing platforms in the Middle East, Africa, and South Africa for emerging designers. Seven years ago, when I started my fashion brand, I couldn’t find anyone who mentored and guided me. I had to learn from mistakes and push myself into an unknown road. The ones who have know-how in Turkey and the region try to keep the information for themselves, which is sad as it blocks the opportunity to have more up-and-coming designers. Therefore, I regularly do talks at Soho House Istanbul, at conferences, and at universities, and we’ve just recently done a project with Harvard University and gave students the opportunity to style a show with my collection.
What support is now needed to expand?
Having a strong team, defining the key partners, and thinking long-term. Building up a brand and expanding into retail is a very difficult task. Fashion is usually perceived as a highly attractive industry. The dark side of it is no weekends, long hours, peak stress periods, and lots of dedication. Les Benjamins has opened three stores now in China, and we just launched our pop-up store in Emaar Square in Istanbul. I appreciate every moment in life and see each mistake as a lesson learned, therefore I am happy because I love to design and to create meaningful pieces.
Les Benjamins’ debut into womenswear will be showcased at Paris Fashion Week on June 23, 2017. See the full collection on Vogue Arabia runway.