Sole DXB 2018 has been filled with many great drops, performances, and pop-ups. One of the collections that were dropped during the event was the anticipated Les Benjamins X Puma collaboration. MOJEH MEN spoke to Les Benjamins founder and creative director Bunyamin Aydin and discussed the importance of regionals brands sticking together and how he plans to empower youth.
MOJEH MEN: Welcome to Dubai and congratulations on the collaboration with Puma and the Road to Ball collection. Can you tell us why you chose to drop the collection in Dubai during SOLE DXB?
Bunyamin Aydin: Our region has to stick together in order for us to move the culture forward. Last year we had only 4 Turkish guests attending the event and alone this year we have around 15 people join and visit just to experience the movement. For me as a designer that is inspired by culture, it’s key to give back and inspire youth. It comes from our culture also to support and help each other.
MM: And how important is the UAE and GCC markets to Les Benjamins?
BA: It is extremely important as Turkey and the GCC are growing at a very fast pace. Our Les Benjamins Flagship Concept store that also has a multi-brand section and special Les Benjamins products also got a lot of recognition. The region is at a stage where it is just evolving in terms of street and sneaker culture and being part of the pioneers is exciting as a designer.
MM: The collection has been highly anticipated, how did this collaboration with Puma come about?
BA: Puma contacted me roughly one year ago and asked if I would be interested in designing a collaborative collection with them. I already had an idea and concept before they approached me and I knew that I would combine the Puma Thunder sole with the Disc upper along with the Turkish carpet pattern that pays homage to where I am from. The special Triple Black drop is a celebration for the first Global sneaker collaboration of a Sportswear brand and Turkish Designer
MM: Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind the design, aesthetic, and this collection in general?
BA: Being a sneaker collector and Designer I knew that I would combine the Puma Disc upper with the Thunder sole. It’s a reflection of who I am as a person. I respect and preserve my heritage but I have a contemporary vision. The Turkish carpet is to pay homage to my friend, family, community, and the Turkish youth into sneaker culture. I want them all to be proud and know that we can do global collaborations out of Turkey.
MM: How was the experience working with Puma on such an international collection?
BA: It was great as I already had experience with Nike before when I designed the Air Max during vote forward. Puma gave me a bigger canvas to create and communicate, which was very exciting. The full collection of our first Puma x Les Benjamins collaboration is going to be released in March 2019 in New York.
MM: Can we expect more collaborations with other brands in the foreseeable future?
BA: Definitely! We are in talks with some exciting brands and we always push to elevate and create new ideas of comfort and culturally infused products.
MM: The Road to Ball collection takes design cues from basketball culture but also manages to offer customers clothing options that can be relevant to any culture, what was the inspiration behind it?
BA: I am a big fan of Japan. It’s the country of photography and I wanted to start with Japanese culture that is inspired by American basketball heritage. I was excited to design a Kimono with basketball numbers in the back and that’s what I did and more.
MM: I would like to touch a little bit on the brand in general, what is the Les Benjamins credo?
BA: The journey of Discovery. It’s a new brand statement we are releasing together with our new rangefinder-inspired Logo. It is how we see the cultures and cities that have an outdated stereotypical image. We will be sending our brand ambassador photographers to capture moments of heritage, culture but also contemporary establishments and youth culture. Through this, we empower youth that is into street and sneaker culture but doesn’t have access to the mega cities.
MM: Who is the Les Benjamins customer?
BA: Anyone that is interested in culture, travel, and into any creative field.
MM: Have you noticed any difference between your GCC customers and other customers, particularly in the West and Asia?
BA: There are differences and also similarities. Let’s start with similarities first, due to the Instagram golden age we are all aware of the same brands and we follow the global moments as we are all millennials and socially connected digitally. Of course, every country has its own community brand but what’s coop is that we want to relate to each other by picking up different brands and representing the unified ideology. Togetherness is a keyword that I like to promote and also see in the youth. We are all one. Differences are basically variations of the development in terms of brands and also the stages each region is. GCC and Asia are at the stage of up and coming designers, whereas the west already has established streetwear and fashion brands.
MM: Where do you see Les Benjamins going in the region and what can we expect in the near future?
BA: Our team is getting bigger and that allows me to focus on designing my collection and work on collaborations. But in terms of brand, we are definitely planning on opening more global retail stores just as we did in our hometown in Istanbul. It’s an exciting moment for Les Benjamins.