LA meets Istanbul in the Les Benjamins x Market Collaboration 

LA meets Istanbul in the Les Benjamins x Market Collaboration 

by Ollie Cox
8 min

Istanbul-based Les Benjamins has teamed up with LA streetwear label Market for a buzzy and exciting cross-cultural exchange. 

The collaborative offering consists of short-sleeve tees, back-print hoodies, jackets, sweatshirts, denim pants, slippers, shirts and a teddy bear – an inclusive offering to cater to all fashion enthusiasts.  

A standout feature from the launch is Les Benjamins and Market’s reinterpretation of the classic carpet print, which is at the heart of the Les Benjamins brand, with the slogan “Rug Dealer” graphic adding a playful and intriguing layer to the collection. 

The collaboration builds on the initial link-up between the two brands at Paris Fashion Week in January, which reflected a trail-blazing fusion of streetwear and menswear. Melih Kun shot the campaign on an iPhone 15 Pro in the old town of Istanbul – a place which was foundational to the collection. 

Ahead of the launch, we caught up with Les Benjamins founder Bunyamin Aydin to discuss carpets, California and collaborating. 

How did the collection come about? What is it about Market that made the perfect collaborator?

It all starts with the friendship [between] Mike Cherman and myself, the fact that my father was a rug collector, and the Les Benjamins’ DNA being a carpet.  

My Father was a carpet and rug collector. He passed away, and I wanted to make that my brand DNA. The Les Benjamins signature is the carpet monogram. Mike is really into collecting carpets too, so we just wanted to bring both of our DNAs together. 

We love connecting with the youth and giving access to the youth, so we came up with the idea of the rug dealer. [Mike] came to visit me in Istanbul, and I took him to the Grand Bazaar. We just had so many people trying to sell us rugs and carpets, and we loved that Grand Bazaar feeling. 

The Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest markets in the world as well. It was an interesting story, and when I told Mike about the idea, he loved it. He said, “Say no more. I’m coming to Istanbul.” 

I also have access to the rooftop where James Bond was filmed on the top of the Grand Bazaar. I just showed him all around. The entire collaboration is inspired by the Grand Bazaar and stuff we have built with Mike. 

We found these carpet embroiderers and labels from this one guy who was doing this embroidery work, and we were like, “We want them,” and we just came up with the idea of paying homage to one of the first markets in the world and bringing the Market and Les Benjamins DNA together. 

Market is an LA-based brand, and Les Benjamins is based in Istanbul. Was there a cultural exchange that took place as part of this collaboration? 

Yeah, 100%. Market’s DNA [is from] California. Whenever I think of California, I always think about being at Venice Beach or being yourself, doing whatever you want to do. It has this playfulness and calmness. Whenever I look at Market, [I look at] how Mike and I are different but similar. 

I think bringing together different cultural backgrounds, and California/LA and Istanbul hasn’t been done before, and that’s also a great example to show that you can do something. When you’re all the way in the West, and you’re collaborating with a brand from Istanbul, it’s quite an untapped area. 

I think the important part of how we collaborated was also him [Mike Cherman] coming to Istanbul and working at the Les Benjamins headquarters. We literally did 60% of the design on the second day at the office, and whatever ideas we had while walking around, they came together.

Usually, how these collaborations come about is through this 50/50 approach: We wanted the playfulness of Market, and we also wanted [to have] the Les Benjamins carpet story and DNA. 

It just made sense, when you look at this collaboration, you see Market and Les Benjamins. You see the playfulness and the realness of Market and the depth and ethnic touch, the tapestry and rock symbols from Les Benjamins. It feels well-balanced, which is really hard. 

Most collaborations don’t get the balance. The balance is our friendship. Mike really respects what I do, and I respect what he does, and it was effortless, to be honest, and that makes the best collabs. 

1 / 19
2 / 19
3 / 19
4 / 19
5 / 19
6 / 19
8 / 19
9 / 19
10 / 19
11 / 19
12 / 19
13 / 19
14 / 19
15 / 19
16 / 19
18 / 19
20 / 19
21 / 19
22 / 19
previous arrow
next arrow

Each piece is said to be infused with cultural references. What are these references, and what role do they play in the collaboration?

One of the references was the labels that we found in the Grand Bazaar. We literally purchased them from this guy who has been doing this for more than 30 years. He had been doing advertisements and labels for companies and brands. 

He was putting company names on carpets and rugs. At first, he wouldn’t sell it, and then Mike was like, “Come on, I’ll give you dollars.” And then he was like, “Okay, take it.” The labels are all inspired by this guy who was doing advertisements, and then we reworked it. 

[Another] reference was American Tobacco, like Camel tobacco. There was a period of time when this was also produced in Turkey. 

We had the “Call My Rug Dealer” reference, which is actually a Market reference, but we titled the collection “Call My Rug Dealer.” 

It was pretty effortless, it was just ideas that flew into my mind. We don’t take it too seriously.   

Were there any barriers you had to overcome when designing the collaboration? 

The main barrier was the LA-Istanbul time zones. When we slept, Mike would wake up, so we would do calls at 10 p.m. our time or 8 or 9 a.m. his time. Time was a barrier. 

If we were in the same city, we could do a two or three-times bigger collection. 

Mike and I are both very well-travelled, and we respect each other’s cultural backgrounds. When the energy is right, and at the heart is love, little things like communication or time-zones don’t matter, you know. When the intent is good, everything falls in place. 

Also, we want to show the youth that we are together, you know. 

If you had to sum up the collaboration in three words, what would they be? 

Istanbul to LA. 

A highlight from the collection is the Rug Dealer graphic tees, which feel like a playful yet poignant nod to the brand’s Turkish DNA. Can you talk to me a little more about this? 

The rug dealer is very important because when you go to the Grand Bazaar, you will meet the most cultured people. The best salespeople come from the Grand Bazaar. 

Carpets and rugs are one of Turkey’s most important national treasures. If you go to Versailles in France, all those carpets and rugs are from this region [Istanbul], and rugs don’t belong just to the country. It’s regional. 

For me, it’s like a cultural treasure, and I want the youth to celebrate this treasure. I also want to say that carpets and rugs – yes, it’s a Les Benjamins signature – but it doesn’t only belong to us. They belong to everyone. 

Is there anything else you would like to share about the collection? 

My biggest takeaway is seeing an LA-based brand collaborate with a brand from Istanbul is a completely new perspective. 

I think this will set an example that through art, fashion, and music, we can build cultural bridges, we can understand each other more, and we can share beautiful stories with each other. I think that’s the most important part. It’s just [about] showing love to the youth. 

Les Benjamins serves as a catalyst for unifying street culture, with the brand building a bridge between the East and the West. It was founded by Aydin in 2011 and has since built a loyal following, including Kim Kardashian and Travis Scott. Market is an LA-based streetwear label founded by Mike Cherman, inspired by NYC’s Canal Street, serving as the perfect collaborator for Aydin’s East-meets-West vision. 

The Market x Les Benjamins collaboration is available to shop from October 23 from the Market and Les Benjamins website. 

More on Culted: 

See: SKIMS introduces its menswear line with a Neymar-fronted campaign

See: Palace takes a trip to the Barbour 

in other news