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Fashion Week: Spotlight on Chris Benz

Designer Chris Benz at his studio in the

Designer Chris Benz at his studio in the Fashion District .(RJ Mickelson/amNY) Photo Credit: Designer Chris Benz at his studio in the Fashion District. (RJ Mickelson/amNY)

Chris Benz gets it. And by “it,” we mean how modern women want to look. Last season, Benz’s fall 2011 presentation was a favorite of editors — ourselves included — and for good reason: His designs are feminine without being cloying and have an eclectic sensibility with traces of quirky, tomboyish glamour.

Benz’s talent was recognized early on: He scored a coveted CFDA scholarship while attending Parsons The New School for Design, and he had stints at both Marc Jacobs and J.Crew before launching his eponymous collection in 2007.

The 28-year-old designer (who is known for his ever-changing hair color) spoke with amNewYork about his muses, his models and what gets him through New York Fashion Week.

What’s the inspiration behind the spring 2012 collection? What can people expect to see? For spring 2012, we’re feeling the thrill of exotic travel — be it a Southeast Asian fisherman’s pareo or a Tibetan monk’s rumpled linens, to an Osaka woodblock print. There’s a lot of mixing, which is how I really feel women dress, which is very modern. It’s about an “all sorts” closet culled from a life of travel. And, of course, it’s all seen through our specific Chris Benz lens of American eccentric glamour.

When did you begin working on the spring 2012 collection? We always jump right into the next season after the prior show. We showed the resort 2012 collection during the first week of June, so by the second week, it was spring 2012 all the way.

What type of woman do you have in mind when designing? Any muses? Our muse never really changes and [she’s] always in the same spirit: the effortless, eccentric woman. Nothing too fussy, always comfortable — anyone from Carol Channing or Lauren Hutton to Katharine Hepburn. Humor is an important element for us, too. A bit of comedy in the mix is always sexy and modern.

What type of models will you cast this season? I love casting models. After all the work our team puts into the collection, it’s such a treat to see it really come to life on a fresh, beautiful girl. I gravitate towards a more unusual type of pretty — big ears and frizzle-frazzle hair or a boy’s cut and freckles. I love idiosyncrasies in beauty.

As a designer and a New Yorker, what is your take on Fashion Week? I love that the city feels so connected and alive. Everyone knows it’s not show business that has the hardest-working people — it’s definitely the fashion industry. It’s very visceral, because time speeds up the closer to the shows we get. It’s about quick decision-making and burning the midnight oil. Work is always my favorite part.

What other designers are you feeling right now? I’m always feeling for my alma maters — Marc Jacobs and J.Crew — both of which I owe so much and by whom I’m always inspired.

What are your thoughts on working and creating in NYC? I have no idea how anyone can get even one thing done elsewhere.

What will you do when Fashion Week wraps? Fly to Paris for Première Vision [a fabric and textile trade show] to get cracking on fall 2012 — really.

Name one thing you simply can’t be without during Fashion Week. Doughnuts. 


Follow our Style and Special Sections Editor, Perrie Samotin, on Twitter: @PerrieWS

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