Following an undisclosed investment from Esas Holdings — one of Turkey’s largest family-owned investment firms — led by Fethi Sabancı Kamışlı, Les Benjamins has been repositioning for international expansion over the last three years. Sabancı Kamışlı is guiding Les Benjamins’s retail strategy. The brand has increased its number of physical stores from one to 10, and now has approximately 150 employees. Sabancı Kamışlı also brought in Les Benjamins’s first chief executive, Serkan Asikoglu.
Revenue hit $32 million in 2023, up 100 per cent on the previous year; the brand forecasts a similar growth for 2024. Les Benjamins has expanded its collection from T-shirts and sweatshirts to now a full range, with six to 12 drops a year. Prices range from €40 for biker shorts to €1,500 for a multicoloured coat.
“In 2024, we’re going to continue being aggressive on expansion and growth, but we’re going to do it in a profitable way,” says Sabancı Kamışlı. Some 40 per cent of sales take place online and 60 per cent bricks-and-mortar.
In 2018, Les Benjamins collaborated with the Turkish football team Beşiktaş JK, designing their kit. The brand has also collaborated with sportswear giants including Nike and Puma, as well as Coca-Cola and Apple. It was these initial collaborations that caught the attention of Sabancı Kamışlı and secured Les Benjamins’s investment. “There was something different about the way [Aydin] was running the business,” Sabancı Kamışlı says. “I hadn’t seen anyone doing these kinds of collaborations before in Turkey and that was something that was very new. That got us very excited.” Last month, Les Benjamins collaborated with buzzy LA-based streetwear label Market to release a limited-edition capsule collection.
Bringing back the Silk Road
Les Benjamins is using historical references to guide its retail strategy. The Silk Road — the ancient trade route that bridged the Western world with the Middle East and Asia — has become an important source of inspiration for the Turkish brand, which is expanding eastwards with physical stores and pop-ups planned across Japan, South Korea, UAE and Saudi Arabia next year.
“The entire story of Near East, Middle East and Far East, the histories about the Silk Road; the trade that’s been done and how culture can spread, these are all inspirations,” says Aydin. “We see Les Benjamins as a way of [communicating] how the East is now.”