Bünyamin Aydin of Les Benjamins talks to Hafsa Lodi about taking inspiration from Dubai and LA for his latest line
The creative director of Les Benjamins on his Dubai inspiration
A male figure dressed in a plaid shirt, skinny jeans and sneakers rides a board through a hollow cement skatepark, bordered by palm trees and situated in front of Dubai Marina’s high-rises. Elsewhere, a girl is shown mid-jump on an old-school skateboard, soaring over dunes with scattered shrubs, away from the cluttered skyline of downtown Dubai – Burj Khalifa and all.
These desaturated photos are, of course, doctored: no sprawling, urban skatepark exists in Dubai Marina, and girls flying across the desert on skateboards are hardly representative of Downtown Dubai living. The graphics, envisioned by Bünyamin Aydin, creative director of Les Benjamins, are intended to juxtapose Dubai and a city that’s thousands of kilometres away: Los Angeles. They are printed across T-shirts and sweatshirts in a limited-edition collaboration between the Turkish streetwear brand and Bloomingdale’s Dubai, and launched this weekend at the annual Sole DXB lifestyle fair.
While one might expect the team at Bloomingdale’s Dubai to put their weight behind an exclusive eveningwear or fine-jewellery range, rather than a collection of cotton T-shirts, sweatshirts and sweatpants, Aydin has been widely identified as a purveyor of luxury streetwear, at a time when both the retail market is shifting and societal expectations are growing broader in terms of what’s acceptable to put on. “Fashion is always changing and on rotation, but I look at it as more of an acceptance of millennials and the aesthetic in the global world,” says Aydin. “You can now go to serious corporate meetings with sweatpants and some Air Jordan sneakers on your feet.”
Whether or not you’d turn in your high heels for trainers, there’s no denying the recent influx of streetwear into the realm of luxury fashion: the recent collaboration between Louis Vuitton and Supreme, for instance, is proof that definitions of luxury are evolving to speak to millennials’ style preferences. It may have once seemed off-kilter, but Aydin’s aesthetic can no longer be described as niche, and his label has made quite an impression on the who’s who of fashion. Though the brand launched as a menswear label in Istanbul, it has since shown at Paris Fashion Week, collaborated in a design competition with Nike, and been worn by celebrities such as Robert Downey Jr and Rita Ora.
For spring/summer 2018, Aydin has launched womenswear – though many of his other pieces remain unisex items, often worn as oversized garments by female customers. “I have always envisioned the womenswear having its own voice,” says Aydin, but adds: “It doesn’t matter anymore what [gender] the label says. People can wear what relates to them and their style.” His inspiration for the capsule collection for Bloomingdale’s Dubai was quite straightforward: Dubai meets Los Angeles. “It always starts with the actual capsule concept,” says Aydin. “Researching ways to merge the two amazing cities in a new and fresh way was my first design approach. I took it from there and started with all outerwear.”
Accordingly, hoodies will be available in black or white, with white or turquoise text spelling out DXB and LAX down the sleeves. Diamond-shaped motifs containing simplistic palm tree icons and further DXB and LAX lettering appear on the backs of sweatshirts, trenches, bomber jackets, shorts and T-shirts.
Taking place this weekend at the Dubai Design District, Sole DXB is known to be the region’s definitive platform for sneakers and streetwear, and so a fitting launch pad for Aydin’s latest capsule collection. Visitors to the fair range from sneakerheads on the hunt for a rare pair, to fashion enthusiasts seeking to discover new streetwear trends. Comfortable, minimalist sportswear inspired by Dubai and Los Angeles, and graphics depicting a visual merging of the two cities, may well be the hot-ticket items of the weekend.
While skateboards are prevalent in many of the images, along with towering architectural elements, the direct influences of the collection turn out to be more abstract. “I always feel the energy of similarities between cities wherever I travel. It usually starts with the people itself and then translates into design,” explains Aydin. “The music scenes and vibe of both cities are quite similar from the angle I envision it: calm, energetic, and yet very mysterious.”