Enough with the dreary winter weather already! Luckily, Chris Benz, the king of color, is here to brighten the upcoming New York Fashion Week with his Fall 2011 Ready to Wear Collection. In addition, Chris’ fall offerings will include new fur designs, sky-high shoes by Alejandro Ingelmo for Chris Benz, and spectacular hats designed in collaboration with Patricia Underwood. All of these playful brand extensions will be in keeping with his signature chic sportswear-meets-street style that has gained him such fabulous followers as Eva Amurri, Kelly Osbourne, Brad Goreski, and — the pièce de résistance — Malia Obama!
Here Chris shares a bit about his forthcoming show, the business of fashion, as well as some sage advice for getting started in design…
What inspired your latest collection and what will we see on the runway next week?
Savannah, Georgia served as the inspiration for Fall 2011 and you’ll be seeing elongated, flowing blouses and attenuated trousers punctuated with refined outerwear and antebellum detailing.
And what inspired you to get into fashion initially?
I grew up in Seattle, on the water, so a lot of what I was inspired by was a very natty, preppy aesthetic. But since it was the ’80s and ’90s there was a bit of flash, too. I think both of these qualities have carried through my work even today.
Whose work do you admire in contemporary design?
I’m always impressed by the business of fashion. I have a tremendous amount of respect for companies that can mitigate creativity and business which are often at odds on the selling floor. Obviously, I admire Marc Jacobs and Robert Duffy very much in terms of this synergy, as well as Ralph Lauren for his wide-reaching aesthetic.
Who have you learned from in fashion?
I think in any industry you pick up bits of knowledge along your career path. For me, having the opportunity to spend time at Marc Jacobs was invaluable in terms of providing me a glimpse early on of the whirlwind world of designer fashion – the fabrics, the trim, models, and magic. Likewise at J. Crew. I owe a debt of gratitude to both Mickey Drexler and Jenna Lyons for really shaping my understanding of how clothes sell, fit, merchandise, etc.
Where do you like to travel?
I like travelling for work. When you own your own company, it’s sort of unnerving to travel for pleasure, at least for me. I prefer multi-city trips to places with nicer weather than New York.
What are your favorite restaurants in NYC and beyond?
Sant Ambroeus, En Brasserie, and Seersucker in New York. I like Dave, Cafe de l’Industrie and Cafe de Flore in Paris.
What’s a fun fact that others might not know about you?
I have never cooked one thing in ten years in New York City. My kitchen is like a stage set for my apartment!
Any favorite reading material?
Monocle, New York Magazine, Elle Decor, and Martha Stewart Living.
Your best advice for breaking into the fashion business?
Intern. Intern. Intern.
What would you like to see for Spring 2012?
More and more colorful fashion!