36-year-old Umit Benan Sahin grew up in Istanbul with starry-eyed aspirations of immersing himself in the Hollywood film industry. The closest he got was taking summer school courses in L.A. as a teenager, before his parents moved him from a high school in Switzerland to live in Boston with his older brother.

Life in Boston allowed Benan to stay close with the family that has both inspired him and kept him grounded, and his father’s work in textile manufacturing informed his decision to focus seriously on fashion as a career. He began spending summers in Milan taking drawing classes, which led him to enroll in a program in fashion design at the Marangoni Institute, before moving on to Central Saint Martin’s and spending months at a time studying textile manufacturing techniques from his father in Istanbul. In 2004, he enrolled in Parsons The New School for Design in New York and over the next few years gained experience working for Marc Jacobs and several other NY-based labels. 

By 2009, having intensively studied nearly every aspect of the fashion industry, Benan finally launched his eponymous label and went on to win the prestigious “Who Is On Next?” award at Pitti Uomo in 2010 for his second collection. His collections since have not only garnered critical acclaim, but led to a brief creative direction role at Trussardi between 2011 and 2013 in which he had planned out over 12 collections before parting ways.

His worldly, polyglot background and insouciant way of life has informed his design direction with an emphasis on luxury, volume and masculine elegance. Inspiration for past collections have ranged from third-generation Italians and investment bankers to retired rockers and "home sweet home." With a recently opened flagship store in Shibuya, Benan showed his collection at Tokyo Fashion Week last year, his work focusing on an East-meets-West fusion with nods to the Old West and the vintage Americana that is so fervently admired in Japan.

With Benan constantly looking to new horizons, while drawing on the rich history of a certain time and place, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine him taking up a role at a major design house to showcase to a larger audience. For now, Benan seems content to answer to no one and not take himself too seriously. One can only assume his collections are for those who feel the same.

Lead image via Chris Fenimore.

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