Being a woman requires overtime. Women stretch out to break glass ceilings, struggle with mindsets that are filthier than a dumpster, work to deserve their rights, and fight the anomalies that have been normalized. And unfortunately, women are still dealing with these “ancient” issues in 2021. Fortunately, each woman heals one another. They are each other’s voice, spiritual essence, and strength.
Les Benjamins women’s collection head designer Lamia Al Otaishan Aydın and visual artist and designer Esra Gülmen’s special collection for International Women’s Day comes from right there. The collection, which has feminism in its fabric, expresses the holler in the hearts of many women.
What do the intersections of fashion and art, which have influenced each other throughout history, influenced the world, and can unite and open the door to other worlds, mean to you?
Esra: I have always been very excited that art, which does not serve such a purpose in its essence, becomes functional and wearable when combined with fashion. An art that is more accessible and mobile. I think it’s great.
Lamia: The interaction of fashion, music, art, film, and events makes you feel that everything is possible.
Are fashion and art two ancient friends, friends with benefits, or soul mates?
Esra: I think friends with benefits. It’s a relationship that you have fun together without commitment.
Until the invention of photography, we saw the fashion of that specific period through the portraits painted by the artists. Today, brands are the canvas of the artists and they allow them to spread their voices to a wider audience. And in this case, is art for art’s sake or society’s sake?
Esra: I guess, in this case, it’s for society’s sake. It becomes something that is easily accessible to the public, more economical, and reaches a pl ace closer to our lives.
As brand and artist collaborations increase day by day, which partnerships are etched in your heart?
Esra: When I think about a collaboration, I immediately think of Louis Vuitton x Takashi Murakami. It’s extremely iconic and it’s a work that I looooove. The collab they did with Yayoi Kusama was also very good. I also like Uniqlo’s collaborations with KAWS. I like the idea that an art lover who can never afford to buy a KAWS work can access his art like this.
Lamia: Les Benjamins x Esra Gülmen :)
The collection draws its inspiration from us women and what we go through every day. Esra’s art, too, simply brings back sensitive issues to people’s attention. – Lamia Ünsal
Men can simply be doctors, lawyers, engineers while women who are doctors are still called “female doctors.” When you think about the past, Guerrilla Girl’s 1989 iconic poster comes to mind that says, “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?”
How do you think the fashion and art world is now in the context of gender equality?
Esra: With the rise of the women’s movement, we began to see more women artists, designers all over the world. This is a good thing. But on the other hand, I can’t help but think that this is long overdue. You know, it’s 2021…
Lamia: Unfortunately, there is still no gender equality…
As two powerful and empowering women such as yourselves, the collection you have collaborated on, “Les Benjamins x Esra Gülmen”, expresses the voice of many women and becomes an interpreter to their feelings. So, what is this collection inspired by and what is the reason behind its existence?
Esra: Gender inequality in society, sexism, stereotypes about women, gender identities… We actually tried to cover every topic that feminism is interested in. I am very, very happy that we are able to give these messages from this country where being a woman is so hard.
Lamia: The collection draws its inspiration from us women and what we go through every day. Esra’s art, too, simply brings back sensitive issues to people’s attention.
I am very, very happy that we are able to give these messages from this country where being a woman is so hard. – Esra Gülmen
In a world where people pour their feelings into a message, tweet their jokes, express their ideas in the Clubhouse, do clothes also play the role of a social media medium in terms of personal expression?
Esra: Yeah, I think so. There are many ways to post your message on social media, doing it with clothes is very creative and beautiful.
Although the spirit of sisterhood is one of the most fundamental ideas on which the feminist movement is based, we see that women can be very cruel to one another. The worst is that oftentimes they’re not even aware of this psychological violence. So, what do you think are the factors that create this pattern of “friendly fire?”
Esra: I think of it like that: Imagine a table and there is only one seat for a woman. A woman has to whatever it takes to stay on that table. I think this is because of the unfair environment caused by gender inequality. “Women are women’s worst enemies” is another sentence that the patriarchy taught us. I’ve only seen positive things when working with women in a fair world. So, I say, a women are women’s best friends.