Umit Benan is a menswear designer who was born and bred in Istanbul, Turkey. Like many Turkish citizens, Benan is advocating against Prime Minister Erdogan and his dictatorial regime that is slowly but surely leading to what may be a civil war for the once-hopeful European Union member.
"I started designing this collection six months ago, but I decided to do it two years ago because it made me think about who we are and where we are going with Turkey," Benan said in an interview with Style.com after his spring 2014 menswear presentation on Monday. "This has been going on for 10 years, I feel like we are loosing our identity."
The fashion industry is not directly correlated with politics. One is a creative, business-driven trade while the other manages government, policy, plus internal and external affairs. Benan's collection not only criticizes the current Turkish state but also alludes to the country's Ottoman antiquity. This inspired his collection but also provided for a fresh, eye-opening approach to fashion, which sometimes is extremely shallow.
Benan's models walked down the runway in long tunics, three-piece suits and identical paper masks over their faces all with the show of the classic fez hats that were in style during the Ottoman rule. Despite the collection being shown for the spring season, the palette was dominated by dark colors such as navy, brown and a dark, blood red.
"The way I am presenting is pretty serious, pretty important volume," Benan said after his show. "I don't want to take the subject lightly, because if I presented it lightly it would not be taken seriously."
It is interesting to observe how fashion suddenly became a part of something bigger. What is stereotyped as materialistic nonsense, with a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes costing upwards of a thousand bucks, suddenly opened the door for political evaluation.
The context is everything. While police were using threats and tear gas on protestors as Prime Minister Erdogan stood aside, Benan debuted his exquisite collection in Milan, Italy, only a few countries away. Had Benan been presenting his collection in his own country, he would have been jailed, just as so many journalists have been for speaking negatively of the Prime Minister and his anti-secular policy.
There's no doubt that Benan's collection will receive mixed reviews for creating a collection based off a very strong critique. The state of the government in Turkey inspired Benan just as prohibition inspired Gatsby and corruption inspired Kanye. The ideas these artists base their work off involves the understanding of complex, detailed events lying beneath the surface of what they created but still lending themselves to individual creative expression.
For many people, international conflict does not affect daily life. Coffee will still be offered with cream and the grocery store will always be stocked with crunchy peanut butter and strawberry jelly. Maybe it is because American media focuses too much on gossip and fluff to fully inform their citizens, but with the knowledge of global affairs and news outside of the domestic borders comes the ability to understand conflict and explain culture, fashion and much more within the correct context.
It is very easy to be ignorant of world affairs and disregard global news, especially since it won't negatively affect your sandwich making. The world will still turn if the television mysteriously changes channels to Bravo at the sight or mention of Afghanistan. Although, with Benan's collection, it is obvious that current affairs happening across the globe shape the rest of the world in a subtle yet effective way, easily flying under many radars that don't know better.
Ultimately, by staying in tune with the rest of the world, life becomes a little more interesting, and who wouldn't want that?
Melodi Erdogan is a sophomore in journalism and electronic media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.