Interview with designer Chris Benz! | Bostonista: Interview with designer Chris Benz!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Interview with designer Chris Benz!

Chris Benz discussing pieces with a client at Gretta Luxe

Today, I was honored to have the opportunity of interviewing one of my favorite, emerging designers, Chris Benz at his trunk show at the beautiful Gretta Luxe Wellselley
There are some people in fashion who have huge egos or are just plain mean- Chris is not one of them. He couldn't have been sweeter when I admitted how nervous I was ("Want a glass of wine? We have people walking around with wine and champagne!") or when I started fashion geek-ing out ("I totally understand! I was the same way!").
Plus, it's really hard not to love a man who pulls off pink hair so well!

Gretta Luxe models wearing Chris Benz

Bostonista: Thank you so much for taking time out to talk with me today! I'm such a big fan!
Chris Benz: Of course! Thanks for coming!

Bostonista: You’ve said that the S/S 2012 collection was about an escape from the summer heat of the city. Like a wild trip to Coney Island. That inspiration is evident in the prints and colors but the silhouettes are very ladylike! What inspired the shapes? 
Chris Benz: Well, I mean, it was definitely about escaping. A lot of our collections are about escape! Our customer is often times very ladylike and free spirited at the same time. So, we were looking a lot at Andy Warhol and his contemporaries at the time like Candy Darling and how they were all very inspired by the idea of old hollywood glamour kind of in a tongue and cheek way and using that proportion to dress up for day so thats where a lot of the shapes came from.


Bostonista: You’re known for your use of color. How do you decide on a color palette every season? Does it come before or after the story for the collection?
  Chris Benz: It depends. It depends on the season sometimes, like the fall 2012 collection that we’re working on right now, we actually came up with the color palette before and then kind of backed up into the inspiration. So it depends. It always changes throughout the process. You know, at the very beginning we might want it to be all black and white and then like color is an accessory to it and then it will ultimately become a really colorful collection. Philosophically I like to design in a way where we’re open to as much inspiration through out the process as possible rather than coming up with an idea and having to...(Bostonista: Stick to it?) Yeah, exactly I like to be a little more fluid.
(Chris Benz with a blazer from his Spring 2012)

Bostonista: Do you have a favorite piece here today?
 Chris Benz: Well...I do love this dress. (Picks up a pink color blocked silk dress)Which actually at a store level- I spend so much time going around to stores and meeting with customers this is one that looks so great on everyone! Its a little bit of color blocking without feeling too crazy. Its really fun to have people try on this dress because its such a kind of like a crowd pleaser. And philosophically it goes back to every thing should be as comfortable as a t-shirt!
(Chris's favorite piece via the Spring 2012 look book)

Bostonista: You’ve been collaborating on shoes with Alejandro Ingelmo for a few seasons now- how did that come about? Can you elaborate on that process?
 Chris Benz: We’re very much contemporaries. Our business are at the same point. I know him just from living in New York and from being CFDA members together. I think we were both inducted in the same year. And it just came about as a natural progression. Obviously, we always need shoes! And, you know, he has a very specific aesthetic and so do I and in many ways (are) kind of opposite of each other so when we collaborate together it makes for such an interesting result in the end. The way that we do it is we have three meetings before, you know, while we’re developing the collection and we kind of pick what our silhouette is and Alejandro will create the shoe and then I’ll do whatever the color or application of print or whatever it is. The print and the colors always come from our end and then the structure is Alejandro. 

Bostonista: Any more collaborations planned for the future?
 Chris Benz: Well, we do jewelry also! This is all jewelry from Spring 2012 which we do with friends of mine whose collection is called The Woods and they are out of Colorado actually! They do a lot of high/low really well. Like, this (pointing to a necklace) is sandal wood and diamonds! Then there is all these Tibetan prayer pockets with these really gorgeous metal seed beads. We work with them much in the same way as we do with the other collaborations I give them inspiration and then let them go and they go and do their own spin on it. It always ends up being really great. They have really great taste and it always ends up being really beautiful.

 Bostonista: Would you consider doing a “Fast fashion” collaboration?
 Chris Benz: Maybe. I mean, at this point, we’re so busy with our main collection and whats exciting to me is developing that in a bunch of different ways. I’d love to do our own fast fashion moment! I feel like so many people have done it it doesn’t seem as exciting to me. But, you know, I think there is always a place for a little take-a-way.

 Bostonista: You started with an internship at Marc Jacobs and then designed for J. Crew. They are such different companies were there specific things you wanted to apply or avoid when you started your own business?
 Chris Benz: I don’t know that specifically there were things to replicate or not. I always say, when people ask me, "what should I be looking for? Whats the formula for doing things?" I feel like every experience is a learning process and theres always successes and failures throughout your life. For me, working for Marc was really great because it was the most beautiful fabrics, the most expensive buttons and hand sewing and all of those techniques that are kind of very old world designer which I loved. On the flip side a great takeaway from J. Crew was selling clothes! And really getting into the mind of the customer and merchandising and so the combination of those two experiences was what was really valuable.


 Bostonista: February is almost here which means the fall collections! How far along in the design process are you? What can we expect to see?
 Chris Benz: Well, its definitely dressy. We’re really feeling dressy and migrating away from the very casual and um kind of like sophisticated casual and going in a little bit dressier way.
Bostonista: To me, you’re the best at doing a neat, slouchy look- so is that still there?!
Chris Benz: Oh its definitely that! Absolutely!
(The scene during Chris's trunk show at Gretta Luxe!)

Thank you so much to Chris Benz, Eugene Migliaro, Gretta Monahan & her team at Gretta Luxe Wellesley, and Blair Smith and everyone at Krupp Group!

3 comments:

Jaime @ La vie...J'aime said...

how awesome! great interview... i am loving the jewelry and the black/white blazer. wonder how $$ the jewelry is...

Bostonista said...

Hi Jaime,
Thanks! It was a really fantastic afternoon!
The Woods jewelry (their stand alone line anyway) seems to start at around $400 and go from there, most of the pieces I found online were in the $2000 range. I'd assume that their collaboration with Chris is about the same but honestly I didn't look out of fear for my wallet!
xo

The Boston Fashionista said...

Great job on this interview, Kara! You really did your homework and knew his work. A pleasure to read!

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