DUBAI: Cars and clothes have a long, intertwined history. While it may seem like the two are radically different, fashion has a longstanding relationship with the automotive industry, with designers continuously looking to the road when creating their collections and runway looks.
Coco Chanel’s 1926 Little Black Dress was inspired by Henry Ford’s Model T; in the 1970s, car customizer Kenny “Von Dutch” Howard helped spawn the trucker hat trend; Thierry Mugler presented a Cadillac-inspired corset in the 1980s, and more recently, Demna Gvasalia turned floor mats and side mirrors into skirts and clutches for Balenciaga’s Fall 2017 ready-to-wear collection.
Also in 2017, American designer and avid car collector Ralph Lauren presented his fall offering in his Bedford Hills garage for a spectacle inspired by luxury sports cars. For the same season this year, Casablanca designer Charaf Tajer took inspiration from Formula One for his collection, aptly titled “Grand Prix.”
Then there are the countless car collaborations: Hermes’s Bugatti Chiron, Gucci’s monogram Fiat 500, and a Lamborghini Murcielago customized by Versace. Just last week, Mercedes-Benz tapped multi-hyphenate Virgil Abloh to redesign the Mercedes Maybach.
Now, the latest label to seek inspiration from the automobile industry is Istanbul-based brand Les Benjamins, helmed by German-born Bunyamin Aydin alongside his Saudi wife Lamia, who is responsible for the womenswear portion of the streetwear brand’s collections.
Titled “Forgotten Pacenotes,” the label’s new offering for fall 2021 celebrates Turkey’s rally icons of the 1970s and 1980s, such as Renç Koçibey, Serdar Bostanci and Ali Sipahi, among others.
The collection, which is split into two chapters “rally style” and “crash & repair,” is punctuated with pieces one would find on the Grand Prix or Daytona 500 stands. There are sleek, leather zip-up jackets, oil spill prints, track jackets and pants, balaclava hoods, vegan leather vests and zip-ups emblazoned with Les Benjamins patches, evoking the bright sponsor logos on heavily-modded race cars.
As for the accessories, there are racing gloves, logo-dotted dad caps and sleek handbags with magnetic clasps that open and close with the ease of a push-to-start button.
When it came to the womenswear, Lamia gave a sartorial nod to French pilot Michèle Mouton, who became the first, and only, woman to win a world rally championship event in 1981.
“The heritage of racing and stories that inspired me merging with my creative vision brings together a contemporary take on rally racing,” Aydin told Arab News.
The designer has always had a fascination with cars. “I love cars,” he said, adding that he’s mostly interested in the design aspect and clothing style. “I’d love to design a car one day and maybe a racing team,” he added.
The new offering is available online and will also be showcased at the upcoming Les Benjamins flagship in Dubai, which will mark the mostly genderless streetwear brand’s first store in the Gulf and wider Middle East — bar Turkey.
The brand, which has found fans in Kim Kardashian West, Justin Bieber and Saweetie, already has two stores in Istanbul and over 150 stockists.
“The community we have here in Dubai has always welcomed me and Les Benjamins,” shared Aydin. “I feel at home here.”