Bunyamin Aydin of Les Benjamins on Navigating Fashion in a Time of Crisis
As the fashion world starts to reopen and reshape, there’s still a long way to go before returning to normal. What is the new normal going to look like? We don’t know yet. But what we have realised is that we can only figure this out together.
Les Benjamins designer Bunyamin Aydin is all about building a community, which feels more fitting now than ever before. We spoke to the Turkish -born designer to see how he’s navigating this uncertain time.
GQME: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve made in your daily life to adjust to the situation we’re currently facing?
Bunyamin Aydin: I have a new routine. Since we are all working from home it has been difficult to adapt the first two weeks. As a creative, at times you feel demotivated and down. A new routine helped me a lot. I have also started meditation in the morning with an App. You need to keep your mind and body active by doing sports and meditations.
How are you keeping in touch with your friends and family during this time?
I am doing facetime calls and family zoom reunions. In fact, I had the chance to talk to so many of my friends that I haven’t connected with for a while now. This moment is a time to go back to basics. I have always been working non-stop and never had the time really to chill.
Do you feel that your creative expression has been influenced or altered during this time and how?
First weeks it was difficult to create as you think about will the future be the same. Also, sustainability has become more important than ever. First two weeks for me was a total uncreative period. Once, I talked to my friends it helped me reflect to live and the purpose of being a fashion designer. So many people have jobs and fashion gives strength to people. Fashion must go on and with this mindset, I regained my energy. I am now working on my upcoming collections and drops with a new mindset. Being purpose-driven is key now.
How have you steered team dynamics during this time where everyone had to work from home?
We are on Zoom calls. Every Monday we do a team session and during the week I have individual calls. This helps the team to reconnect with each other. Finally, we all adapted to use Slack as a communication tool. It is very important to motivate each other and keep the communication flowing. What helps a lot also to check on each other on a personal level. My team is my family.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’re facing as a business during this time?
We were planning on opening new doors. In fact, Dubai Mall was one of them. For now, our new store extensions are on hold. We strongly believe in retail and once we see the direction of life coming back to normal, we will open stores globally. Les Benjamins Dubai store will probably be the first door we open post covid19. Our store is more than just retail, it is a community space to discover, engage and shop. We as designers have a responsibility to ensure the balance between being commercial and supporting people in need. Therefore, we released a covid19 drop, which was called “Stay Home Stay Cozy” the revenue was donated for the efforts to fight covid19 here in Turkey. We are also working on masks knowing that the world needs more masks. There is a thin line of being thoughtful and opportunistic. We are trying our best to make decisions in the right way. We want to be next to our community and people. Right now, is the time to be together.
What is one thing you’ve learnt from this experience in social distancing?
Every moment is so valuable. I changed. We all changed. Let us stop negativity, jealousy and focus on life’s essentials. Being kind, sharing and supporting each other.
With physical stores having to close their doors, how has this affected the roll-out of the Les Benjamins SS20 collection?
Our store, for now, is also closed. We are planning on opening the store on June 8th in Istanbul. As I said we strongly believe in retail and our new openings will happen. We did have some wholesale clients that went through a tough time, especially in Italy. We found solutions to help them. Everyone is suffering and we need to find a way to support each other. 2020 is the year of supporting each other. The brands and retailers that work hand in hand will grow together strongly soon.
You presented your Les Benjamins FW20 collection at PFW earlier this year. What are some of the biggest challenges you’re facing having to produce the collection during this period?
We are not doing a fashion show this year. As a designer doing a show is really the most important moment. Digital growth is our focus and my teams total focus has shifted to e-commerce. Factories have been closed this is probably the biggest issue. However, we are managing to have only slight delays in delivery.
Have you seen a change in the buying structure/model during this time and how do you think it’ll look like in the future?
Everything will move digital. Of course, touching the products is always better. However, retailers will suffer from this moment and cutting costs will be the first thing to do. Therefore, we are making sure to have strong digital assets for our clients to be able to understand the details of our designs without touching them.
Given how much the current pandemic has restricted international movement, do you think we will start to see a move towards more sustainable and locally sourced menswear over the coming seasons?
100%. We are working internally on how we can redefine our DNA. Using organic cotton and communicating about that is a marketing gimmick. We want it to be part of Les Benjamins story.
What’s the most exciting thing that came out of this experience for you and what are you looking forward to post Covid-19?
Instagram Live. Throwing away all our strategies and rewriting them. Somehow exciting to move fully digital. We are finally all talking to each other and LISTENING.