The debate over show of the season can now be put to bed - literally. After a winning collection at Trussardi, young designer Umit Benan brought down the house with his own eponymous show. A continuation of this season’s playful gender-bending trend, kicked off by Miuccia Prada herself, Benan explored the adaptable, fluid nature of male tailoring by displaying it on a woman.
Titled ‘I once love a woman who loved menswear’, the collection was as much a series of short autobiographical plays as a fashion show. Eight beds faced the audience, each complete with a slumbering couple entwined together between the sheets. The candid display continued as the men steadily got up and completed their morning routine – kissing their belles, reading the paper, stretching. Then slowly one by one they put on their jackets, shirts and trousers – with some preening help from their girlfriends – and took to the catwalk with a carefully cultivated post-sex smirk. This was an attitude-driven show if ever there was one, perfectly cast with diverse models to enhance the rich spirit and vigour in Benan’s clothing.
And what clothing it was. Menswear at its best with perfect straight leg jeans, flattering jackets with low wide lapels and voluminous trenches. Cut is at the core of Benan’s success, he knows just how to toy with the male form, bulking out the torso and boosting shape without ever letting his pieces appear try-hard or vein. This collection had a confident sensuality, epitomised in firm silhouettes, assertive facial hair and retro shades of rich navy and burnt orange (Benan does love to reference the eighties, the decade of his birth). The clothing contrasted strength and delicacy, using soft sleepwear as its starting point - reworked into loose cotton pyjama pants, sumptuous silk shirts and slubby knit jumpers – which was toughened by the inclusion of compact fabrics such as mohair, denim and leather. Men dressed as men – a vision also explored this season at Calvin Klein – does this signal the coming end of androgynous young models and tight shrunken boyish tailoring? Here’s hoping.
The real magic in this show was the Benan ethos – one that paradoxically celebrates individually while also proving universally appealing. The most refreshing thing of all is Benan’s irrepressible wit. Keen not to take himself too seriously, Benan ended the collection with a bang. After dispatching his last model, a woman – see, really anyone can sport this garb – the designer himself leapt up like a mischievous child from his hiding place in the central bed on stage, and exuberantly thanked his audience by leaping from bed to bed to bed. Who could blame his elation?
Businessman, dynamic creative and sharp choreographer. What can’t Umit Benan do?