Identity is a central topic in the work of designer Umit Benan. This season, he felt the urge to question his Turkish roots. An advocate for freedom of expression, Umit asked himself “Who are we? Where are we going?”, looking back at a distincive moment of sophisticated cosmopolitism which puts into perspective the country’s growing climate of cultural darkness of the last decade. Not being a politician, however, nor trying to, Umit used his means of fashion designer and storyteller to give an answer, opting for a light, elegantly surreal take on serious matters. Umit Benan entitles his new collection Efendi, meaning sir in Turkish. There was once a Turkish gentleman, he suggests, welcoming guest into a meyhane, a traditionally masculine, lively place where upper class Ottoman gents would gather to meet, drink and listen to live music. He captures the essence of cultured conviviality and masculine bonding into an ambience of effortless sophistication. Far from the historical reconstruction of the last days of the Ottoman empire, it’s the natural elegance and the mingling of amusement, socializing and intense debate that used to happen in the meyhane that interest him. Umit opts for a theatrical and ironic mise-en-scene set in a darkly-lit room with live music giving pace to the show and masks trasforming each man into a cartoonish character. Defining traits of the Efendi are the fez hat and the moustache, isolated and highlighted, like it would happen in a comic strip. In contrast, clothes are essential yet bold, with an air of sophsticated ease and a streamlined masculine presence. The silhouette is solemn yet easy: it suggests slow gestures, self-awarenes, refinement. Nerhu collars on caftans and shirts define an idea of lessness as cool, not a necktie in sight. Classicism recurs, together with Umit’s trademark interest for volume, unexpected details and contamination. On three-piece suits, jackets button-up like a baracuta blouson; matching caftans worn with suits create a new idea of formality; trench-coats have an assertive presence. Pieces are reduced to their uttermost essence: bombers, blusons, fieldjackets, dusters turn into blueprints of savoir-faire and precision. Soft, deconstructed jackets have fuller sleeves. Double-pleat trousers stop right at the ankle to show tick-soled loafers. Fabrics are precious and dry: British mohair, jersey, wool. The classic color palette mixes tones of blue, grey, olive and khaki with touches of red and notes of burgundy and dusty mauve; windowpane checks, pinstripes and stripes strenghten the classicist vibe. Umit Benan celebrates elegance as a naturally masculine quality. He does so by delving into a timeless Turkish past with the promise to go further, in an ongoing personal and sartorial quest set to be continued.