Welcome back to our new column, Desk Side! Sorry, PRs, we stole your lingo and in this new feature we’ll go to the desks of some of your favorite designers, editors, stylists and assorted industry insiders to see where the magic happens–and then share it with you!
Before fashion month, we chatted with Lucky EIC Brandon Holley at her desk, where she keeps a crop of her own home-grown tomatoes for staffers. This week we're catching up with our favorite pink-haired designer and Fashionista contributor Chris Benz in his quirky studio. He talked to us about everything from designing for Barbie to where he finds his inspiration.
The studio, much like Chris, is filled with fun touches (he has some very naughty horse statuettes!). Though he states his spring collection was inspired by lots of "sweet, sick things," his favorite Pandora station is the decidedly un-saccharine music of Fleetwood Mac. You'll definitely want to read on to learn about his biggest vice (think a Seattle staple) and where his favorite after-hours hangout is.
Fashionista: What or who has been the biggest influence in your career so far? Chris Benz: I think working at J.Crew after school was so great, because I feel like it was such an interesting way of getting thrown into seeing how clothes are really sold. And you know, what people want and what people want to buy. So, I feel like I always count Mickey Drexler as being sort of my mentor in that way.
What is your go-to source of inspiration, one thing that always inspires you or one place that you always go to, to feel inspired for when you have designer's block? I'm always inspired by the places I travel to, so, I feel like the most important part about being inspired is to always be open to inspiration. And you know, whether it's the color of an airplane seat or like, a restaurant that you go to in Tokyo or something. I thankfully don't have that much of an issue with being inspired, so I feel like the trouble is filtering through all of the inspiration.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? Probably sitting at this desk doing a lot of what I'm doing now, which is a dream come true and I hope I never have to leave this desk, you know? But, obviously with every season we like to broaden the collection and do something new. So, hopefully we'll have a lot of new things ten years from now!
What's one new thing that you're obsessed with right now? We're sort of on this big kick of like, sweet, really sick things. Which, I feel like I'm never ordinarily drawn to and I always like to do things that we've never done before, each season. So, this season we're really into sweet things. You know, like cupcakes and pastels...
What's your biggest vice?
What's your biggest vice? I feel like iced coffee is really my biggest vice, because I grew up in Seattle. And we were literally drinking coffee out of our baby bottles.
Do you have an office mascot? Although she doesn't come here very often, it's probably my French bull dog, Olive... but, she doesn't really like to leave the apartment.
What's the most random thing in your office right now? I have that weird lamp that just came from eBay, it came from the Netherlands and it attaches to the wall, but it has a European plug so I have to get the cord changed.
What's the most fun place you've ever traveled to? I've been going to Tokyo a lot recently so I feel like I always have the most fun in places I become familiar with. I feel like everyone's goal in life should be to touch-down anywhere in the world and know exactly what restaurant they like to go to in that place or whatever and I'm sort of getting to that point in Tokyo, where I have my routine and I know how to have fun there, you know? Instead of just like wandering around. So, I'd say Tokyo.
Is there a spot that you always go to to get coffee or a place that you always head to after work to blow off steam? Well, I love my stoop, because I have a proper stoop. So, I try and hang out on my stoop. But, I always stop at my deli on the way home and get an iced coffee.
So, you've created clothes for the 2012 Barbie for President doll in the Barbie "I Can Be..." line; if there were a Chris Benz doll, what would he look like and wear? A pink-haired Ken doll?! Haha, probably a navy blue blazer and pink hair, I feel like those are my two "things" that I love.
In terms of music, what is constantly playing in your studio? It's always like a Fleetwood Mac moment, I feel like I've never really gotten over Fleetwood Mac. So it's always the Fleetwood Mac Pandora station is kind of our go-to. And we also love TLC. (side note: "Creep" by TLC was blasting when I arrived at the studio and later, Alanis Morissette, Joan Osborne -ton's of 90's classics)
If we opened your desk drawers right now, what would we find? Like a million horrible files of like a million sketches is what all of my drawers are filled with! Papers and papers and papers and papers!
Photos by Ashley Jahncke