For his latest menswear collection, "Third Generation Italians," Umit Benan
imagined the grandson of his mentor—iconic clothing designer Nino Cerruti—as a young man, wearing clothes from his grandfather's wardrobe. The collection is a tribute to another generation of style, to 80s fits, denim shirts, and oversized tees worn with Wayfarers. But it's also a vision of the future: in 2012 Oscar Cerruti is still wearing diapers and it will be years before he can appreciate the phenomenal materials and tongue-in-cheek styling of the collection made partly in his honor.
Like Oscar, Umit grew up with clothes in the background. His father managed a textile factory in Turkey, where Umit learned to make the fabrics that now define his garments—super-soft cottons that feel like 5-star hotel sheets. In addition to designing his own line, Umit, now based in Milan, took over creative direction for Trussardi last year, and immediately landed his debut collection among Style.com's favorite shows of Spring/Summer 2012.
Like a method actor of fashion, every season, Umit immerses himself in a new character: previous collections include "Investment Bankers" and "Retired Rockers." "Third Generation Italians" is his first to sell at OC, and we're obsessed with its luxurious fabrics and wry sense of humor. FInd out more in our interview with Umit below.
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Alice Newell-Hanson: For the spring collection, you imagined Nino Cerruti's grandson and friends dressed up in clothes from Nino's wardrobe. What pieces do you hope you'll be known for in two generations' time? And what do you hope your grandson will be doing?
Umit Benan: I hope my grandson will be either a tennis player or a director, and that he will wear all my old tuxedo jackets from my collections. I would also like to be known for my sunglasses—which I hope to start producing soon.
ANH: Nino Cerruti has had a long-running relationship with cinema, making costumes for Bonnie and Clyde among many other films. What movie would you want to make costumes for?
UB: Plot: the life of Pablo James Kidd. Director: Umit Benan. Actor: Colin Farrell.
ANH: What is the most important thing you've learned from Mr. Cerruti?
UB: Not to lose my dream and my sense of humor! And the way he feels the fabric.
ANH: You've said that in the 80s "people were born cool." Who epitomizes cool for you—then and now?
UB: Richard Gere was cool. Don Johnson was cool. For me cool is natural smoothness. I feel like today agressiveness is cool—a strong, agressive attitude or style is cool. I prefer 80s cool.
ANH: Tim Blanks has called you "a standard-bearer for the next generation of Italian menswear designers." Do you feel like the "next generation"? Or are you more old school?
UB: I'm more old school style-wise, but the way I think is very "next generation," and actually that contrast is what makes what I do interesting.
ANH: When you open your first Umit Benan store, what will it look like?
UB: I've only been discovering myself in the decoration world recently, because I'm putting together a new apartment. I think by the time I have the chance to open up my store, I will be much more precise about interior design. But one thing I know is that it will be rough and aggressive, but fresh, rather than like a nice living room.
ANH: Irony is a big part of your approach to fashion. Would you say that's true?
UB: Yes, for sure. It's what makes me different from other designers. And I can only show that ironic attitude in my own line because it's so personal and flexible as a brand.
ANH: What are you strictly un-ironic about?
UB: If people joke about my mother or my girlfriend.
ANH: If you had to make a motto for the house of Benan, what would it be?
UB: Nothing is as it seems.
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