I first met Chris Benz at a party in January of this year. Immediately, I knew I was chatting with a creative and clever spirit. In between the clinking of champagne glasses, I found myself under his effervescent spell. The magic of the CHRIS BENZ brand is influenced by a rainbow of life, including a throwback love of Lucille Ball to a real-day adoration of the brownstones of Boerum Hill. Mr. Benz bares all on how he prefers to decorate, who he wants to dress, lessons learned, and where he will be later this month when he rings in his thirtieth year.
What captivated you as a child?
I always liked watching old TV shows. I was never really watching new things, like Saved by the Bell. I feel like I was always watching I Love Lucy and The Brady Bunch. All of those old tongue-in-cheek shows.
What will never go out of style?
I feel like the white t-shirt will never go out of style. It is always my default.
Describe your process in creating a new collection. Do you have a method to your madness?
We like to work according to a calendar. That is one of those things as a designer; you have to learn to be creative on a schedule. Fashion week isn’t going to push back if you’re not inspired or whatever. I am always pretty instinctual with the design process and try to pick things and draw things that I like at the moment. For me, it always starts with the inspiration board. Often times, it is more than one inspiration board and we work on these big foam core boards, where we will do pictures from everywhere. Fabric swatches, color chips, trim, a zipper that we might like…all of that goes up on the board. From that, we figure out fabrics, and then I do a million sketches and we edit it down to the actual pieces we want to make….and then we transfer it onto a different set of boards, which is like a big grid. It has all of the fabrics on one side and all these tiny sketches of every single sample going across to every row for every fabric. We really plan out what the collection will look like on those boards. I feel like that keeps it really clean and it is really easy for everyone to understand what is coming.
Who is this season’s girl?
This season is pretty feminine. We really liked the idea of the sickeningly-sweet detailing of things. Little lace bits…the palette is pretty girly with a little bit of a twist.
Have you ever had a creative block? What do you do to cross through it? Especially when you are on a timeline…
Thankfully, that hasn’t happened. I feel like you can be inspired by anything. You could do an entire collection by just picking a time and a place and that gets your brain going. I feel like it is people, places and things – at least for me. Whenever I come up with a concept, for the inspiration, it always has to be a person and a place and what the person is doing. Every season we try to hit those key notes.
You have dressed the First Lady and Barbie. Anyone else who would be a big fat YES to dress?
I feel like there are always people you wish were still around (to dress). For me, I would have loved to dress Lucille Ball. I love Carol Channing and Cher…a funny, independent free-spirit.
Your New York Fashion Week invitation is brilliant. Another example of the CHRIS BENZ brand embracing social media. If you could pick only one form of social media to use right now, which would it be?
I’m really into Instagram right now. I work in a visual capacity most of the time, so for me, I feel like Instagram is really, really fun. That is my number one right now. But, Facebook aggregates everything.
What quality would you never want to lose?
Optimism. Particularly in owning your own business, you always have to be optimistic….and move forward. The past is always the past.
What stands out as a strong lesson you have learned in owning your own business?
My biggest lesson that I always have to think about all the time is to remember to do what I want to do. That is why you create things and why people have their own companies; to do it their own way. I always have to remind myself that I can make those decisions, and whatever I decide is the way that it will be.
Song on repeat?
We have been listening to that Lumineers song.
I love upholstery fabric. Although, we never get to use it because it is really too heavy for clothes.
I feel like your hair is your best accessory. At least for me, I have a built-in accessory. You actually don’t need an accessory if you do something fun with your hair.
Wardrobe piece that is a must-have for both men and women?
A navy blue blazer is the ultimate in day to evening. It looks good with everything. Just put on a navy blue blazer with gold buttons and you are instantly ready for any occasion.
Favorite New York city street or neighborhood?
I’m really into Brooklyn right now. I live in Manhattan, but I have been going on the weekends to open houses. I’m into Boerum Hill right now. It is so pretty. Block after block after block of blocks that look like the West Village. The costume designer from Girls was telling me all about the hipster kids who are heading to the Rockaways. You can buy a little beach cottage…your own one room…
Decorating rule to live by?
In decorating, I am a maximalist. I figured that out living in small apartments in New York. The more stuff you can figure out how to shove in, the more stuff on the walls, the greater your apartment feels. Or, it is my excuse to buy stuff on eBay.
What was your last eBay purchase?
I got some really cool Comme des Garçons shoes for Fall.
I never take a vacation! I haven’t stepped one toe into an ocean or a pool in over two years, I am not kidding you. I love Greece. The only real vacation that feels like a vacation is when I go to Greece.
With fashion week ending just before your 30th birthday, do you have a fun plan to celebrate?
I land in Paris on my actual birthday. It is amazing, but I literally get off the plane and drive to the big fabric fair and have to do an entire day of appointments, in a cubicle, in a convention center. It’s fine…it is another day. If I can muster the energy to do one fun thing in Paris, I’ll probably go for a cocktail at the Meurice.
Image Credits: Jenny by design via Chris Benz
I think I write for all of us when I say September 10th cannot come quick enough! Check back here next week for more on Chris Benz SS13.