Since launching his eponymous label in 2007, Chris Benz has had the fashion world under his spell. The young designer unabashedly blends retro shapes (the ‘40s and ‘50s are a favorite) with exaggerated modern details (think giant floral appliqués), and exotic color combinations that have been known to spark wide-sweeping trends for seasons to come. It turns out the young designer is also a bit of a collector, too—from Chinese figurines to mid-century ceramics. Benz recently sat down with Stephen Watson, a regular contributor to The Inside Source, an online style magazine presented by eBay, to talk about his collections, the latest Resort lineup and how eBay served as his own personal decorating service during his move to a historic brownstone in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.
The Inside Source: Your collections always give a nod to vintage looks. Are there any periods that are grabbing your attention right now?
Chris Benz: I love American sportswear, so I’m always paying homage in one way or another to that pastiche: the ‘20s for it’s sportiness, the ‘30s for casual glamour, the ‘40s tomboy, and the ‘50s optimistic beauty. And for the Resort 2011 collection, I was inspired by the exuberant motifs in the works of mid-century ceramist Sascha Brastoff.
TIS: Wow, Sascha Brastoff seems like an abstract source of inspiration for fashion. How did you discover his work?
CB: On eBay ages ago, actually, and I’ve been collecting his ceramics piece-by-piece ever since. It’s very charming, brightly colored and the spirit is both loud and quiet—a contrast I try to include in my own collection.
TIS: And how did that translate into the Resort 2011 lineup?
CB: Well, one of my favorite parts of fashion design is fabric selection. We used some interesting new techniques—like a silk organza embroidered with strips of chiffon, cotton tulle and ribbon, which ends up looking like a traditional “spring tweed,” only far more lightweight. This season brings the Chris Benz girl into a more refined place in her life.
TIS: We hear you have a new space. What’s it like and how’d you decorate it?
CB: Yes. We moved into our new design studio in October, and recently went on a buying rampage to decorate it. Most everything came from eBay. (I don’t think a day goes by that we don’t get a package.) And I really have no criteria for shopping: mid-century pottery, vintage industrial, funny paintings, pretty much anything that’s interesting.
TIS: I know you have quite a few eBay watch-lists set up. Can you give us some tips for navigating eBay?
CB: I have the maximum number of watched items on my list—which is 200—but I could certainly ﬁll it with many, many more. I start by searching more vague concepts, like ‘mid-century’ or ‘vintage red.’ I also ﬁnd that resisting the urge to bid on an item until after you get a sense of its popularity is a good tactic. No reason to bid too early and drive up the price.
For more with Benz, including a look at what he’s shopping for, visit The Inside Source.
The Inside Source writer Stephen Watson authored this article in its original form. Images of Chris Benz and Chris Benz collection provided by the subject. All photos unless otherwise indicated courtesy of The Inside Source.