On this week’s episode Kyle, Jeff and I delve into the career of Turkish designer Umit Benan Sahin. Since his debut as the “Rising Star” of the Fall 2009 edition of Pitti Uomo, Umit has become somewhat of a folk hero for the young menswear community. In this episode we discuss his ability to meld tailoring with streetwear, his familial influences, and even his tattoos as we try to determine what makes Umit Benan one of the most fascinating figures in modern menswear.
Growing up, as I remember it, my parents had these matching belts from Singapore, or maybe Spain, or maybe it was even Argentina. As you can tell, I can’t recall the specifics all that well, but I do remember as a kid that I’d look up and see that multi-colored motif of mother’s beaded belt staring down at me. That was the memory that came back to me this past week, as I opened up a package from La Matera, a Brooklyn based accessories start up, and saw the green and gold pattern of their Bariloche belt.
New York Fashion Week is nigh upon us here in the city, which means that it’s been about a year now since I first came face to face with the bizarre world of “capital F Fashion.” In that year, my style hasn’t changed much, (which I’m happy about for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is monetary), so with a few exceptions here and there, I plan to keep it pretty boring and just wear the same pieces this time around as I did twelve months ago. Although, there are two things that I wore heavily this past winter, but will remain in my closet this time around, and that’s my pair of down vests. It was around this time last year, as menswear was reaching it’s peak of Italian infatuation, that the down vest was thrust from the L.L. Bean back catalog, slimmed down and reinterpreted as winter’s layering pièce de résistance for much of the younger generation (myself included.)
If I’ve spoken to you over this past week or so, you probably could’ve seen this post coming from a mile away, because I’ll admit I don’t think there’s been an waking hour that’s gone by since the start of the new year that I haven’t brought up The West Wing. For about ten days now, thanks to Netflix’s ever so wise decision to finally buck up and offer Aaron Sorkin’s political masterpiece (which all of you should check out if you have the chance) I’ve been fortunate enough to spend the majority of my days basking in the liberal utopia that is The West Wing. While I love The West Wing, and I’d like to believe that it accurately portrayals the inner workings of our political system, I’m not naive, it is still television after all and it’s no secret that the show takes it’s fair share of liberties with history. Yet, one area where it is not off base is in the attire of the president and his team. President Josiah Bartlett and rest of his staff dress like pretty much all modern day politicians: lame, cookie cutter, stagnant, and all around average. As with any rule though, there is one large exception, and that’s John Spencer’s character, White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry.
I realize it’s quite a cliche to start off a week about politics by writing on America’s most storied first family, a clan that includes some of the most revered (and written about) style icons of all time, but truth be told it’s still the Kennedy’s and the precedents they set that sit as the benchmark for how all politicians present themselves today. Watching the debates leading up to this year’s election, it was difficult for me to ignore each candidate’s respective appearance. Issues and substance are always paramount in politics (or at least they should be), but there must be a foundation to build all of this upon otherwise all we have is a series of pandering talking heads.
Walking into the L.B.M. 1911 showroom this past week, I had one question on my mind: what happens after the hype? When the unstructured wave hit menswear in full force a couple years back, L.B.M. was perfectly positioned. Accessible, well-made, and designed to meet the demands of a younger audience that suddenly wanted to wear jackets, L.B.M. quickly became one of the most talked about menswear brands. The kicker with L.B.M. though was that unlike say Brunello Cucinelli or Thom Browne, the twenty-something bloggers that were writing about the brand, were actually wearing their jackets too.
Dare I say that we’re nearing the end of the soft seasons? Fueled by menswear’s Neapolitan love affair, for years now the dominant belief has been, the more unstructured the body, the more subtle the shoulder the better, but based on what I saw this past week I have a feeling we might be heading toward a changing of the guard. This isn’t to say that I’m relishing the day that the soft shoulder is no longer king, I mean to be fair the jackets that I throw on most often are all Italian made, unstructured slopping shouldered sport coats, and I happen to think they fit me better than anything else in my closet. Yet, even I’ll admit that it’s high time we get a few more options out there. The soft shouldered jacket is an undeniably great piece of design, but that doesn’t mean every label should go find their own tailoring house in Naples and forget every other suiting style out there. Which is why, a couple collections I saw a week ago felt like a breath of fresh air, albeit a very small one, but menswear is glacially slow, and it all it takes is a handful of looks now, and maybe things will be different in say half a decade or so (if we’re lucky.) What I’m referring to of course, is the return of the under-appreciated roped shoulder.
Looking back on these past ten or so days, I would have to say that the best way to describe Fashion Week is like watching a thousand movie clips, all at once. Sped up, slowed down, spliced together, forward, backward, until I can’t even tell what I’m watching anymore, everything just becomes a two dimensional blur. Sitting through show after show, picking up on a random shirt here, a fabric there, maybe a pair of shoes, or a full suit in a rare moment of clarity, it all became really difficult to process. And I won’t even try to touch upon the nauseating circus of try-hards in their best “please-take-my-photo-please-please” outfits that congregated outside the show. All I know is that by the end of the week it was next to process anything. Each show had some takeaways but trying to interpret them instantly just became an exercise in futility.
Whit Stillman is a rare find – a man that actually enjoys disco. Stillman’s love for the much loathed genre runs deep, going as far as being the impetus for 1998′s, The Last Days of Disco. Following a group of friends as they spend their nights at the club, the film takes a look at the untold side of disco, those people, that like Stillman, not only enjoyed the music but lived for it. For these friends in the early 80′s they aren’t only watching their favorite music fade away, but they’re watching the death of their current social life. For Stillman, and for preps in general in this era, their world was changing. Their lifestyle was evolving and losing favor, forcing those that held fast to it to make a decision. As contrast collars and checked suits contrast with tee shirts and washed denim, The Last Days of Disco recognizes a shift in the American prep scene, leaving the old guard behind, and beginning to move toward a more casual aesthetic. Stillman recognizes this change as the characters seem to not only mourn the death of disco, but the death of their very style as well.