Let’s start with this: Bünyamin Aydin is one of the good guys. That’s not meant as an empty platitude or generalisation, just a simple truth. In an industry where so much is done for effect, where air kissing and meaningless interaction can often seem like the biggest power moves in the game, 30-year-old Aydin – and his brand, Les Benjamins – stand for something more. Aydin wants to build a community, and that community starts with him.
You’re a brand that has deep roots in your country, but how much have you evolved over time?
I founded Les Benjamins when I was 19 years old – and just recently turned 30. It was only T-shirts and sweatshirts to begin with, but the game really changed after doing men’s and women’s ready-to-wear collections. My first show was in 2014 in Istanbul, and in 2015 I showed in Milan. These shows were a really important moments for us, and I’m so excited to return to doing shows in Paris in January 2020. Our strategy is a deep focus on womenswear as we see huge interest and potential. Apart from that, I’m also designing new product categories such as denim, jewellery, bags, hats and lots more.
Part of your mission statement is to create community, does that have more resonance now than ever?
It’s just who I am. I love gathering people and sharing moments together. Our internal slogan is ‘Modern East’ – and that’s my heritage and vision. Growing up in Germany and Switzerland gave me western tools, which I’m using to modernise my roots from the East. I feel like our region has so much rich history and culture that we are a little shy to talk to about. I want us to feel proud. Our focus in terms of design and activations will definitely be in the Middle East. It feels very good to do more here as it feels like home.
You’ve just released your second Puma collaboration. How important are these crossover projects?
You know, our first ever collab was with Nike and it opened up a global platform to collaborate and connect with wider audiences. Now, I don’t really like the term sneakerhead, but I have a huge passion for footwear and own a collection of 400 special pairs. The Puma collab 2.0 was a major step for Les Benjamins as we entered 500 stores worldwide. But a collaboration is only strong when the product and story have an authentic angle. The millennials know when a story is fake or made up. We’re living in the era of truth.
Tell us about your process for a collection.
It always starts with the fabrics and then the research and development phase. I try to spend as much time as possible filtering my ideas. Once I know my direction, that’s when the magic starts. I’ll usually start designing outerwear and work my way around that, but I have to admit, designing a collection is probably the most difficult part of a brand – these decisions are made one year before you go to market, so it’s tough.
Do you feel your presence in the market now influences streetwear in Turkey?
Usually, I would prefer to let the community answer this. But what I’m seeing and hearing from my friends is that Les Benjamins is becoming more than just a fashion brand in Turkey – it’s a movement.
What’s your favourite part of the design process – coming up with the idea or seeing the final product?
This question makes me smile, because both are really rewarding. But if I had to choose one or the other I would have to go for the design process. I just love the feeling of seeing the future.
How important is streetwear in defining culture in 2019?
The terms streetwear and luxury are dead. Streetwear labels consider themselves luxury streetwear, and luxury brands consider themselves luxury fashion houses that have street culture influences. Streetwear is a movement rather than an aesthetic. Stussy and Supreme were the founders of this movement and we grew up in the ’90s looking up to them. As a millennial, I feel like I’m getting older and I actually want to wear more suits, tailored trousers and chic accessories with a blend of street culture-inspired clothes.
So, what comes next?
I can’t tell you who would be the ideal next collab – I’m already working with them for next year. But I can say this: I’m very fortunate to be able to work with brands that I dreamed of working with. For me, Les Benjamins women’s will be a big moment as we really want to expand here. My wife Lamia works with me on the women’s design, and I want her to take the lead to tell a more authentic story of being an Arab
designer to Arab women in the region.
And what does success look like?
Dedication. A clear vision. A strong team. No holidays.