The heat, the Cuban soundtrack, and the mojito proffered to guests upon arrival at Umit Benan‘s runway show set a molto caliente ambiance that wasn’t belied by the collection presented today. There is an intensely cinematic quality to his work, and this season was no different as he reference a post-Revolution Ernesto Guevara and his compadres enjoying a victory toast (or ten). You could easily imagine the Turkish-born designer hatching the crackpot scenario of a soon-to-be-cult YouTube caper, in the manner of Sacha Baron Cohen.
Color-wise, Benan tweaked the hues just enough to make them stand out and pop in a uniform line-up, seeming larger-than-life for their vividness. That was an apt way of viewing his work as a whole, relying heavily on the dichotomy between formalized garments (in this case, the dignity building uniform, as Rick Owens pointed out earlier this week) and leisure wear. Tracksuit bottoms in army green suede don’t get any lusher than this.
Benan is no slouch in the tailoring department, which makes, say, a jacket look good even when pushed up at the arms. Or when a belt comes to cinch the waist of oversize army pants into a paperbag waist. American smoothness – wide shirt collars laid flat against jacket lapels, opening the neck wide to show that oft-overlooked sensual clavicle. Whip away the foulards they were styled with and you go from valor to “que calor.” And the silk battle dress looked suspiciously like a cop-out by a canny brass in order to maximize downtime. A man’s gotta have dignity, even when going from the bedroom to the war room.
Benan’s man is a fighter, but he fancies himself a lover too. In that sense, it was more Admiral General President Prime Minister Haffaz Aladeen than Che Guevara.