Umit Benan may have been thinking about bank balances before his highly commercial collection at Trussardi, but for his eponymous show he was channelling Banksy and other similar urban bad boys. Benan’s shows are notoriously a jolly affair. Last season he dressed his venue up like different bedrooms complete with sleeping couples. For Autumn/Winter 2013 he took us to a less romantic setting, a dingy alley around the back of a club. Clearly not wooed by the glitz, gloss and glamour that surrounds much Milanese fashion, Benan had covered the space with graffiti, rubbish and discarded alcohol bottles, with a couple of hookers and tramps thrown in to boot. He’d also forgone the traditional light canapés and champagne in favour of a hot dog stand. The message - Umit Benan is not afraid to do things differently.
The collection was all about dissent and freedom of expression. His models roamed the runway like it was a backstreet in New York, Tijuana or Istanbul (Benan’s childhood city) clad in knitted patchwork balaclavas as if ready to sink into the area’s crime scene at any point. As usual, shapes were bold and voluminous thanks to bulky trenches, chunky patterned knits and loose-fitting tracksuits (Benan had gone to town with sportswear this season). Signature retro references came in the graphic leather jacket with oversized shoulders and a sporty waist tie, as well as the baggy velour sweater in burnt orange and red.
Benan’s championing of traditional masculinity with his sturdy fabrics and autumnal colours is interesting given the current state of men’s fashion. There’s no doubt that this part of the industry is on the up - according to Charlie Porter writing in the FT, sales of luxury menswear are outperforming womenswear in many areas. In response to men becoming more style conscious and experimental, designers have embraced the dandy and the peacock – just look at the sheer number who show eye-popping all over print, foppish tailoring or the kind of extravagant accessories that were previously confined to the women’s shows. While Umit Benan is riding this menswear wave he is ardently refusing to get caught up in it. He designs as if for shoppers from a different age – those cool eighties heroes who looked fantastic without batting an eyelid at the fashion world. His men don’t seem to care about how they dress - maybe that’s why Benan’s collection felt like the most appealing thing Milan has had to offer. Devoid of airs and graces, it showed us a nostalgic vision of men as rugged, boisterous, confident beings. Boys will be boys when on Umit Benan’s runway - what a relief.