We sit down with the creative director and founder of Les Benjamins to learn first hand about his love of Dubai.
–You have launched a collaboration with Bloomingdales here in Dubai. How did this idea come about?
It all started with having the relationship with Bloomingdales. They have been working with us for four years selling “Les Benjamins” in Dubai. Naturally they just said: “Would you be interested in doing a collaboration?” I said “Of course!” So they asked to come up with the concept… I decided to mix Dubai and LA in this capsule collection. I really find Dubai to have similar vibes with LA, it’s about people and energy, and I love both cities! It’s not like in New York. Here it’s more chilled, people are very easy, and you have to drive everywhere like in LA!
–What was the process of working on this collection?
I’ve been working on it for six months. I started with the logo. It had to present LA and Dubai in a very simple way. I took vintage archive pictures of skateboarding in the US and mixed them with the skyscrapers of Dubai giving a contrast of both. I’ve added the palms as well.
–What was the main inspiration behind the collection?
Inspiration is the youth and the similarities of both cities. Kids here skateboard, kids there skateboard, those kids are the same, it’s just the city that changes everything. I see the place where we live as a playground. The people I’m targeting is a niche. You can put them anywhere, any city, and they will still listen to hip-hop music, still buy the same cars. Street culture is a global movement that you have everywhere.
–What was the way that brought you into fashion? Do you remember the first moment when you found yourself being interested in design?
My parents are a businessman and a businesswoman, so I’ve always thought that I have to follow their footsteps. But when I was studying business, politics and advertisement in three different universities, I realized I hate all of it. I already had a t-shirt brand, first I was doing it as a hobby.
-How did the first T-shirt designed by Benyamin Aydin look like?
It was in high school, I was 17 years old. That T-shirt was a gift. I did two pieces, one for me, one for my best friend. It was my nickname on it “Benjy”, and his name – “Bruno”.
-Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I usually focus on TODAY trying to do my best. I have a big goal, like a vision, but I take small, “baby steps”. Now I focus on making this interview great, and then I go on to the next one… I see a brand becoming a retail brand. Now we’ve expanded big in China, we have 8 stores there, and we are opening a big one in Istanbul now…
-What are your main directions developing on the global market?
Italian market is quite big, we’ve been doing it in Europe for four years. Turkey is big as we are from there. Middle East and Asia are the main focus now.
-You are known for creating a melting pot of cultures in your designs… Do you get your inspiration while travelling?
Sometimes it’s travelling, sometimes it’s music or movies… It could be even this conversation! Maybe I’ll find something interesting about your city… I do it with instinct, with my heart. “Les Benjamins” is about storytelling of cultures. Every season I choose one culture to work on. E.g. right now it’s Mongolia in the shops. I’ve learned a lot about the traditions, about life of the eagle hunters, and translated it into fashion. That’s what I do. I take two ingredients, one is culture, and another one is comfort, comfortable clothes. I put those ingredients together and that’s “Les Benjamins”.
-What are other cultures (or countries) that inspired you?
Australia and New Zealand are coming up in January. I’ll present another collection in Italy. I’m invited as a designer by Pitti Uomo in Florence, it’s the biggest men’s fashion week. Last year they did it with Off White, this year they are doing it with me, so I’ve rented this palace, it’s a theater… It’s going to be huge! The collection is called “The ancient skyscrapers at night”. It’s about Egypt and Aztecs. I’ve been always interested in Egypt. But it’s not that I go there, visit some touristic places, come back home and design, no! I dig more, I talk to people, ask questions… Whatever I find strong and have an emotion to, I use it in my collection.
-Congratulations! Participating in Pitti Uomo is definitely not a “baby”, but an “adult step”!
Yes, but to go there you need to do a lot of little things. I don’t just design the collection, I also follow up with branding, I follow up with sales team to make sure we sell in a good places, not in a denim section, but in a designer section… It’s very detailed and difficult work.
-Does your background in business help?
Oh yes, it helps a lot! I understand how magazines work, how shops work, how buyers think, in the end they all need to sell, and you need a lot of people to be interested in your story.
-What were the biggest achievements and challenges you faced on your creative journey?
Challenges are always there. There were three or four times I wanted to stop, I was like: “Enough! I don’t want to do fashion anymore!” It’s not a run, it’s a marathon with ups and downs, like in every business. The only thing that keeps me doing it is love to what I do. I love fashion, that’s why I’m still there. Some people think fashion is easy, but it’s not. It might look cool from the outside, but it’s a hard work indeed… The first turning point was my first show in Milano. The second turning point was Nike approaching me to design a sneaker for them…
-Oh yes! You were the only Middle Eastern designer to feature in the Nike Air Max competition. How was it? What was the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from this amazing experience?
I saw how difficult it is to create such a huge brand like Nike. Just the headquarter has 10 000 employees! They took us to DNA room of Nike, it’s confidential. We were the first people not working for Nike who had a chance to get there. They have samples of first Airmax, first Jordan there… We could see the history, how the company was growing. I was so impressed! So, what I’ve learned… You should have a big goal, but you should not expect to be there the next day. It takes time!
-How can you describe DNA of your brand?
Storytelling of culture.
-What is the first place you would recommend your friends to visit when they come to Dubai?
-And my last question is about your personal style… It looks like you prefer very simple clean design. I see you wearing very simple black t-shirt…
I dress like this every day! I have about 30 black T-shirts. I don’t like to waste time choosing what to wear. It’s like when you are a chief, you don’t want to cook when you get home. Usually what changes is just my sneakers.
-How many pairs of sneakers do you have?
Maybe 250 or more… You know, it’s funny, my wife hates me for this… We have a room which we turned into a closet room, and it’s already not enough space for my sneakers there;)
Interview by Anna Ivanova