There’s something innately cool about the t-shirt. It’s a clothing chameleon, mixing comfort with freedom of expression in a synthesis rivalled in icon status only by the blue jean. Perhaps it’s the t-shirt’s association with sex and rebellion that gives rise to its allure: Marlon Brando accessorised it with a fierce temper and fiercer guns in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ while James Dean wore it tighter, breaking hearts in his ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ moment. The band tee of the 1960’s and ‘70’s symbolised revolt via music. From there, slogan prints have become a self-expression mainstay, all the way up to the high fashion sweatshirt of today.
Les Benjamins is melting this history down into a contemporary tee brew that boasts as much intelligence as it does attitude. The Istanbul-based brand’s t-shirts combine graff culture and social movements using ‘visual art surgery’, manipulating iconic images via parody. Managing Director Bunyamin Aydin comes from a family steeped in textile manufacturing and joined with three friends (‘Les Benjamins’) to create a brand of their own. “I always had a love of fabrics and design and I believe the right time is now despite the crises; retailers are turning towards smaller, more conceptual brands that have more value in concept, like Les Benjamins,” he says.
Rebellion is at the brand’s heart, having grown out of the principles of the original Young Turks, ‘Les Jeunes Turcs’, a group of comrades bound together by political activism in the Ottoman era. “We believe that being rebellious is being charismatic,” Aydin says. “Social movements and street art heavily inspire the brand as well as the few people that stand for change and progress […] We usually make our audience think about the meaning behind each design as these people make us think about revolutionary ideas.”
Spring Summer 2014 sees Les Benjamins cross the gender threshold, complementing their established men’s range with a women’s collection that carries the same bold intellect.
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