Growing up in a small town in Germany, Bunyamin Aydin, the grandson of Turkish immigrants, said he felt he could never fit in.
Ten years ago, at the age of 21, he launched his brand, Les Benjamins, in Istanbul. “Even going back there, I was seen as an outsider.” That struggle with identity and acceptance drives his entire hybrid design philosophy. “I realized over the years that this duality is in my DNA. I don’t need to be accepted anywhere.”
Les Benjamins captures oriental heritage in a modern, street-inspired brand, a product of his own obsession with fit. His clothes combine culture and comfort through motifs and digital prints inspired by his heritage. “For me, the east is nostalgia. The West is my tool. There is always this tension between east and west, even if you look at East Berlin versus west, east of New York versus west,” Aydin said.
This month, the 32-year-old opened his first flagship store outside of Istanbul. Located in one of the busiest shopping malls in the world, next to Hermès, his new location combines those two worlds while also incorporating the subcultures that inspired him.
The shop’s hallmarks are sand-colored columns and archways, a symbol of old Istanbul. “I wanted to give a nod to our heritage, but in a modern context, so we used concrete to connect with steel, giving it a balance between old and new. It’s about the coincidence of both ideas,” Aydin said. At the center is a community table, which can be used as a co-working space or host roundtable talks and discussions. There’s also a turntable with a selection from Aydin’s personal vinyl collection and a sound set designed by Devon Ojas.
Aydin commissioned Food New York architect Dong-Ping Wong, who also worked on Yeezy’s Calabasas, Calif., studio, to bring his vision to life. “Les Benjamins Dubai is about contrasts: old and new, open and intimate, sparkling and earthy. We used a traditional plastering technique most directly seen around the Old Markets and structures. Dubai to strike a balance between the classic elegance, sleek materials of both the mall and new Dubai in general,” said Dong. “It’s a material with history, depth and texture, interspersed with reflective details, graphics and neon lights.”
Aydin sees his retail stores as meeting places. The designer has spent over a decade building his creative community. Their stories, cultures, traditions and rituals are his central inspiration, he said. “For me, Les Benjamins represents oriental-based creations all over the world.” He describes his community as “DJs, rappers, people who are passionate about skate culture, basketball culture, hip-hop culture, but inside of that if you go into a more niche, it’s culture.” Turkish hip-hop culture. I’m actually collecting vinyls from hip-hop, young, Turkish artists. ”
After successful international collaborations with Nike and Puma, as well as dressing celebrities from Justin Bieber to Jay-Z, Aydin is very focused on growing and supporting her community. “There was a time when I was obsessed with dressing celebrities. And while it’s still a great honor, now I have to say I’m very focused on my niche. I know the subculture influences and inspires me, and I want to contribute and grow with that as well.”
Les Benjamins is expanding its existing catalogs and moving into new ones. Aydin’s wife, Lamia AlOtaishan Aydin, is his creative collaborator, leading women’s wear as well as designing handbags and small leather goods, which is launching at the leading company in Dubai. Dubai will also have an area for multi-brand sneakers and children’s clothing.
Aydin, who also maintains a home in Dubai, says it’s a natural extension for the brand to have their first global flagship store here. “We have always received a warm welcome from the region, especially as we are united in our vision of spreading a progressive Eastern movement. I have always been interested in amplifying the voices of young people in the Middle East. ”
When asked about his growth in Western markets, Aydin said he is eager to increase his footprint. During Art Basel in Miami, the brand held a successful pop-up at The Webster. “I love the untold stories from the East and redefining culture by evolving it forward. It’s like giving a cultural update. I feel like designers from the East are being misunderstood.”
https://wwd.com/business-news/markets/les-benjamins-dubai-flagship-1235023281/ Les Benjamins Opens New Dubai Flagship Boutique – WWD
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