Fashion Insider: Q&A with Designer Chris Benz

October 2011

Fashion designer Chris Benz will be in town this Friday at Lawrence Covell to show off his fall collection, as well as his Resort and Spring 2012 trunk shows. A Parsons alum and Council of Fashion Designers of America award winner (2004), Benz has produced collections under his own name since 2007 and is already an industry favorite. We caught up with the busy designer to chat about what we can expect from him next season, including his inspirations and must-haves items.

As a young designer, women are still getting to know you—especially here in Denver where the collection is just coming to Lawrence Covell this fall season. How would you describe your style? Who is the Chris Benz woman?

I am so excited to be coming to Denver, and it's with every day that I am able to visit stores and meet with customers that I really find more of a voice in fashion, and interpret the needs and dreams of the CB customer. The CHRIS BENZ collection is all about casual American luxury, both restrained and eccentric. I think what’s modern today is how women are able to style themselves and create their own world through fashion—mixing all periods, styles, and materials—to create something personal and special. For me, this is what the collection is reflecting—a love of color, print, texture, and effortless luxury.

How would you describe your Resort and Spring 2012 collections and the inspiration behind them?

The Resort 2012 collection is inspired by Bermuda. I loved the idea of a crisp trade wind through the lily fields. There is a very distinct high/low mix in this collection, as if everything were sea-washed and from another era—a favorite pair of tweed pants finding new life as a sun-bleached cutoff short or a cashmere T-shirt sparkling with a floral garland but coming slightly undone. I love this electricity between proper and deconstruction.

The Spring 2012 collection pushes the idea of coming a bit "undone" to more of an extreme. Wild print, color, floral, graphic, and otherwise, are mixed in a kaleidoscopic mash-up echoing the freewheeling nature of Andy Warhol and his "Superstars' of the early 1970’s NYC nightlife. It’s all about going a little bit nuts in the hot summer nights in the city.

What are your must-have items from both the Resort and Spring 2012 season?

Bold color and fun layering are two aspects of both seasons that are important. I love tying more experimental colors and prints back to a neutral, like ivory, grey, or beige, for a more real-life version of what you might see on the runway. A great, colored, cashmere cardigan and a novelty-print pair of shorts or trousers are also quite fun for the season.

Bold colors and graphic prints were big themes for Resort and Spring 2012, and both of your collections showcased these trends, sometimes together. How do you go about deciding on what makes a good print mix?

I try to always mix print, color, and texture in the same color-story rather than contrast. I think it’s much more harmonious to see a few similarly-hued prints, which play internally with scale in the same look, rather than a rainbow of colors, which can go confusing very quickly.

Your website biography talks about you being an American sportswear designer. How do you see your design aesthetic pushing the envelope forward for American sportswear?

I love the casual elegance of the American woman. It’s always about a ponytail, flat shoe, and a more separates-based wardrobe than elsewhere. I identify with this very distinctly coming from an American fashion curriculum like Parsons, as well as having trained at both Marc Jacobs and J Crew in my earlier career.

What’s exciting to you in fashion now?

I think just having fun with fashion is always exciting!

—Images courtesy of Chriz Benz