FUN FACTOR: Artees & Les Benjamins

[Part of Vancouver-Istanbul fashion sister cities coverage]

Post-paris fashion circuit provides an exhibition platform for designers whose work otherwise might not get runway/editorial treatment and attention it deserves. (Canadian Keniya-X or Indian QuirkBox are good case studies.) Vancouver and Istanbul fashion weeks spotlight streetwear brands ARTEES & LES BENJAMINS, respectively. You know the score: high-end sweats, luxury jeans, custom print T-shirts. The upscale casual niche is a treacherous stylistic territory where a line between zeitgeist coolness and “dis/comfort of power” douchebaggery is micro-fine.

Designer Diego Venturino launched ARTEES with an idea to translate extensive Italian arts heritage into contemporary urban fashion language. On one hand, iconic statues in sports uniforms and re-contextualized monuments is a hardly novel concept. On the other, “handmade in Italy” ethos sets this venture apart from kitschy souvenir mass-market. Moreover, it continues discourse on the relationship between prints and garments touched upon earlier in “Weird R Us” and other posts. Would a cool print make any-thing look awesome? And does an awesomely cut piece need a print to command attention? And could a best-of-both-worlds look be that of Artees?

Bunyamin Aydin attributes conceptual roots of his label LES BENJAMINS to the legacy of Les Jeunes Turcs, a group of young intellectual dissidents who believed in Progress at the time of the Ottoman Empire. While such meta-coding may not be readable in the garments, the darkly nostalgic flair is evident. The brand’s Galata flagship store is promptly added to my Istanbul bucket list itinerary. From dissidence to decadence (and back) is one of fashion lords’ mysterious ways, for sure!

As for my Istanbul-Vancouver wardrobe endgame, while more Les Benjamins garments are wishlist-able, Artees stuff appears more affordable/attainable. What’s a man to do… Mix ‘n match?!

Instagram: Artees and Les Benjamins / Facebook: Vancouver Fashion Week and Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Istanbul

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