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_shift talks: with Les Benjamins founder

Get to know the luxury streetwear brand with its founder and creative director Bünyamin Aydin

In this _shift talks episode, Shahinaz Alotaishan chats with founder and creative director Bünyamin Aydin about his luxury streetwear brand, Les Benjamins.

Aydin founded Les Benjamins in 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey. Since then, the brand has grown to become a global platform with a strong community and multiple retail spaces. In a statement, Aydin notes, “We are a platform of how we want the East to be today.”

Les Benjamins’ collections are now stocked in more than 40 stores worldwide such as Harvey Nichols, Saks Fifth Avenue and Antonioli. What started as a humble project by a 19-year-old is now a global success.

Here are some of the memorable moments of Les Benjamins:

2013

Les Benjamins had its first-ever fashion show appearance in Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Istanbul with its Spring/Summer 2014 collection.

Courtesy of Les Benjamins

Aydin has been surrounded by fashion his whole life as both his parents worked in the textile and fashion industry. So, when asked how he felt while preparing for his first-ever runway show, he responded by saying that “it was pretty natural,” he then adds “it is every designer’s dream to do a fashion show.”

Having only been two years since the launching of his label, mainly comprised of graphic print t-shirts, Aydin took this challenge with a stride and as a stepping stone towards realizing his dreams.

2016

The brand made its international debut show for its Fall/Winter 2016-17 collection in Milan Men’s Fashion Week.

Courtesy of Les Benjamins

This is no easy feat for a designer to land, especially if you are the first of your kind. As one of the earliest Turkish designers to showcase his work in Milan Men’s Fashion Week, Aydin describes this moment as “one of the biggest milestones” of his career.

In this show, we saw the embodiment of Les Benjamins’ mantra of “bridging the gap between the east and the west”. The whole room is decorated with hand-crafted carpets and there was even a Mevlevi Sema performance.

2016

Les Benjamins collaborated with American clothing manufacturer, Alpha Industries, for an exclusive drop of the former’s infamous bomber jacket MA-1 with LES BENJAMINS embroidered on the front and back.

Courtesy of Les Benjamins

As a fan of storytelling and meaningful endeavours, Aydin referred to this collaboration as a “no brainer.” And when you take into consideration Alpha Industries heritage, story, and pilot aesthetic, it is a no brainer that he would accept this venture

Even so, he emphasizes the importance of brand codes and the merging of both entities versus one dominating the other and vice versa.

2017 

The brand had an exclusive and limited drop of the infamous Nike sneaker silhouette, Air Force 1. The shoes are decorated by hand with carpet printed fabric keeping true to the label’s eastern heritage.

Courtesy of Les Benjamins

As a sneaker lover and a “Nike-head”, as referred to by Aydin, it was a dream come true to collaborate with Nike. However, this wasn’t his first project with Nike, but it was for Les Benjamins. 

2018/19

Les Benjamins’ first flagship opened in the heart of Nisantisi, Istanbul. The store was designed by Bünyamin Aydin’s good friend, Dong-Ping Wong and outfitted by Yoo Architecture.

Courtesy of Les Benjamins

The store was imagined with a collective vision that encompasses a space for people to gather in, for creatives to draw inspiration from and for it to be flexible enough that it can change identities as it pleases. 

A few months after the opening, the store held Daniel Arsham’s first and only exhibition in Istanbul, Turkey. The exhibit was titled “SELF-STRUCTURE” and showcased 7 artworks of drastically different scale

2020

In a very post-pandemic style, Les Benjamins started to adopt a more sustainable approach with its collections starting with the Essentials Fall/Winter 2020-21 capsule.

Courtesy of Les Benjamins

COVID-19 did not only cause us to reflect on our personal lives but our professional careers as well. Not many will say they opted to change a great deal of their production process to be more sustainable. However, Les Benjamins had done just that. 

When asked about this, Aydin says, “2020 gave us a lot of time to reflect, a lot of the designers and I felt like we were useless,” he adds, “constantly creating demand and using fabric that isn’t recyclable.” The sustainable approach is a long-term plan and vision for the LB team, and we hope to see more of the brand’s environmental ventures.

2020

In a 20-piece special capsule, Les Benjamins partners up with Coca Cola for an exclusive collection inspired by football attire. 

Courtesy of Les Benjamins

Besides the in-your-face Coca Cola logo all over, the label has kept true to itself with its now-infamous carpet print. The collection is denim heavy with many variants to the football jersey we all know, however, the matching sets just screams Les Benjamins and Coca Cola’s nostalgic branding, and its colour palette is evident throughout the line. 

2021

Les Benjamins and Very Important Puppies (more known as VIP) join together for a collection that blends both labels’ stylish and luxurious sense with the necessary touches of comfort for the sake of our furry friends. The line consists of leashes, dog carrier bags, hoodies and vests with a variety of colourful alternatives and owner-pet matching sets.

Courtesy of Les Benjamins

This has just been a brief look at a select few of Les Benjamins’ many more exciting moments. Not only is there more to reference, but there is also much more to come. As much as we have tried for some teasers on the label’s future projects, Aydin kept a tight lip. However, he did say that what they have in store will be some of their best efforts to date.

Make sure to follow Bünyamin Aydin on Instagram here, and to shop the brand visit: lesbenjamins.com.

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