Was ist Heimat, Umit Benan Sahin?

Nomads - originally the term meant members of a tribe of mostly shepherds who move from place to place, the term has long since become a symbol of our hypermobile society. What does Heimat still stand for? Stuttgart, Istanbul, Lugano, Boston - Umit Benan Sahin explains us how one can find a home in homelessness.


Shortly before the publication of our new issue, we look back at our last one. And what could be more fitting, now that we are all sitting at home, than to ask ourselves what Heimat means to us. So we asked our creative talents from Achtung Nr. 38 and they took us with them – to their Heimat.

He wanted to be a filmmaker. Spoilers: He’s not. Still he tells stories. And his own would surely be ready for a movie and, as in any exciting film, we first take a stealthy look at his present life, which leaves us questioning: The designer’s current collection is a tribute to working Mexicans in Texas, where they are marginalized by the current government as unwanted intruders. Again, and again, references to the concept of home can be found in his collections, such as home sweet home or efendi, where he questions his own Turkish roots. His collections are a cultural clash: traditional Turkish and modern multicultural. Where do these influences come from? In the film there would be a flashback now: The son of so-called “Gastarbeiter” is born in Stuttgart. But the family returns to Istanbul, where Benan grows up. Ah and here the stage direction gives the first hint of his past to his future: The father builds up a textile production company. Benan has been helping out from an early age. Before leaving his family for ten years as a teenager. Boarding school in Switzerland, studies in Boston. But Benan also finds his way back to fashion from afar and works for the giants of the industry such as Marc Jacobs and Trussardi. But that striving to realize himself recites him stronger than the big names and, to close the plot, he founds his own label in 2009: it is cultic and unconventional, just like his story itself. A happy ending, right? Umit Benan Sahin tells us more…

Your full name?
Umit Benan Sahin.

Where is your current home?

Umit Benan Sahin founded his label in 2009. His collections are cultural clashes: “I am interested in contrasts. That’s what life is all about, isn’t it?” he says on his website.

Where do you feel at home?
I have been away from home for 23 years. Lived in eight different cities. So I would say New York. Where for me it’s the home of the homeless.

Homesick – what do you do?
Listen to 90s Turkish music.

Left: Suit VINTAGE KITON. Right: Pants UMIT BENAN.

Your favorite word in your mother tongue and what does it mean? 
Papatya. It means Daisy.

Scents or foods which represent your home region?
For me home is mom’s scent.

Staffwear uniform UMIT BENAN.

Photographed by Ralph Mecke in Istanbul.
This questionnaire first appeared in Achtung Mode Nr. 38 (September 2019).