A constant in Umit Benan's career has been his fascination with closed male societies. Maybe it was originally something to do with growing up in Turkey, but it has matured into the inspiration for some desirable menswear and equally memorable shows. Last Fall's military barracks—and the collection that went with them—were a tour de force. Benan returned to the same desolate industrial spot for his new show. This time, the set was a reeking, trash-strewn alley, complete with tranny hookers, a hot dog stand, an after-hours spot, and a couple of Indian flower vendors who'd clearly lost their way. "Art Made at Night" was the theme. Throughout the presentation, the alley wall was the canvas for the creations of a tribe of Milanese graffiti artists. Because they use their own names as tags, they couldn't afford identification, so they remained masked in designer balaclavas backstage and onstage. Once again, men closed against the outside world.
Benan explained that among these guys were dads with serious day jobs who were irresistibly drawn to the risks attached to tagging, sometimes without their families even knowing where they went at night. He loved the idea of the worlds contaminating each other. "Italian menswear meets Supreme," he called it. High got a touch of low with a three-piece navy pinstripe suit whose waistcoat zipped rather than buttoned. Other jackets were transformed by contrast sleeves and zipped pockets. Low got high when Benan expanded a parka into a silken blue robe, or attached houndstooth sleeves to a bomber jacket in a deluxe nylon.
Given that it was inspired by polar opposites, the collection was never going to sit together with any particular coherence. Those pinstripes shared the catwalk with cartoon checkerboard sweats, after all. It's Benan's respect for the risk-taking individual that guarantees that his own strength as a designer lies in the creation of stand-alone items, like the leather jackets here, that hardly need the theatrics to make sense. Not that we would want Umit to stop the show. It's the coolest catwalk in Milan.