Fashionista columnist/designer extraordinaire Chris Benz is one of the hardest working, talented and approachable people in the business. So we're thrilled to announce that he'll be joining you for lunch at Fashionista's "How to Make it In Fashion" conference on June 21. Being able to talk so candidly to someone like Chris is pretty rare in this business. We hope you take advantage of the opportunity and sign up today!
Dear Chris, My name is Emily and I'm a college freshman--I know I still have time when it comes to finding a future job but am also well aware of the importance of internships. I'm a journalism student and my dream is working in the fashion industry in some way or another. Unfortunately I go to school in Oklahoma, which isn't exactly a hotbed of fashion magazines. What can I do to build my resume while I'm still an undergrad and unable to travel to NYC? I'm interested in learning all I can about fashion in general, and your help is greatly appreciated! Emily
Hi Chris, I, like most fashion-obsessed college seniors, read your posts on Fashionista RELIGIOUSLY. I truly admire all of the help you are giving to young people looking to break into the industry, especially because I am one of them. Luckily, I have been able to intern with great companies and get close to my bosses, where I gained tremendous experience working with editors and stylists. I am nearing the end of my college education (time is speeding by so fast I can't remember what season we're actually in!), and I am not sure when and how to begin looking for a full-time job. I scour the career websites, only to find offers either for internships or upper-level management. What suggestions do you have for young people about to enter a tough job market and an even tougher fashion industry? Thank you! Best, Mark Baldino
Dear Chris, I am 12, but I look 15 or 16. Everyone has told me to be a model/designer all my life and I believe I want to start looking now. But I live in a little town named Conway, in South Carolina. We aren't known for anything but being country. I was born in Washington D.C, so I know a little about fashion but I have no idea how to approach the modeling world or anything like that. My mom is very supportive and all but she has no clue either. What can I do to get noticed, and put myself out there? -Gracie Dear Gracie, Oh the mercurial world of modeling--nothing if not full of twists, turns, scandals, and triumphs.
Dear Chris, Every time I go to Style.com it feels like there's another fashion season taking place. Pre-fall, resort, pre-spring...how do you keep up? And why are the seasons broken up like that? --Avid Reader3
Dear Chris, I'm an 18-year-old community college student, working as a sales associate at a high end clothing store. It's a great experience and I'm learning a lot. I'm thinking of expanding my fashion knowledge and possibly interning with a stylist. But I don't know how to go about asking for an internship. I found one stylist I'm absolutely in love with, but I don't know what to say in the email, or even if i have the qualifications!! I've only been at this job for a few months, and other than being a huge lover of fashion for the past few years, this job is my only real fashion experience. Advice? Suggestions? HELP! I really want this internship, if there's even one available! Daniel.
Dear Chris, I'm a first year international marketing student at a university in London. I really want to pursue a career in fashion marketing, but unfortunately my uni does not offer internships for the first years students--not even advice. How can I get into the whole London fashion vibe other than shopping? Do you know what an inexperienced but determined, fashion-loving girl can do? Cheers and Thank you.
Dear Chris, I want to look festive at my holiday parties, but I am so not a sequins kind of girl. Any ideas on how can make a cocktail dress look season-appropriate? Dear No-Sequins- I absolutely love the holiday season for all of the reasons you have written into the column. It’s full of parties, sparkle, cocktails, and festivities! There are so many reasons to get dressed up and feel dazzling. A little bit of rhinestone, a little piece of fur, or a shiny patent accessory can holiday-ize even the most reserved look. I think that this time of year, it’s about piling it on – collars, necklaces, bracelets, headbands, bows, nail varnish, a glamorous shiny lip. What better time to dress yourself up like a present than the month where you might find yourself under the mistletoe? That little black dress that’s been hiding in the back of your closet can make the foundation for a terrific party outfit.
Chris, I'm new to the fashion world as a fashion photographer and I'm working at a high fashion retailer, and I wanted to know how to match colors with people skin tones. What colors go well with light medium and dark skin tones? FilmsterBen Dear Filmster Ben - We joke about it all the time at the studio, but if you want to invest in some home-grown 1980’s fashion knowledge, get yourself a copy of Color Me Beautiful immediately! I remember reading this as a kid to great discovery that I was an “Autumn.” Also makes for hilarious dinner conversation.
Dear Chris, I'm currently a second year MBA student and a big fan of your column on Fashionista. I was working in financial trading for a few years and discovered that I hated it. So I came to school and realized I wanted to put my talents to use in fashion, which I love. However, the industry is really hard to penetrate and it feels like MBAs are not valued. Do you have any advice/suggestions for people who do not have a pure fashion background but would love to get into this industry? Any advice or even a word of encouragement is greatly appreciated!!! Thank you!!! J-MBA
Dear Chris, Thanks for answering my letter! Anyways, I love that pants are "back" for fall, but I'm not sure what style to try. Are there any that you're particularly fond of right now? Yours, Currently Pantless Dear Pantless, Pants are a basis for much of our collection, and I love them for many different reasons.... Whether it's a swishy pajama pant, a severe cropped matchstick, or a loud floral trouser, pants can play to so many different figures and tastes.
Mr. Benz, I hope that this finds you well. So, I'm a vintage addict. My closet is filled with second-hand clothes, particularly stuff from the '50s and 60s. I love the styles, but I'm sick of looking like a girl from my mom's yearbook. Literally. Your clothes are sometimes vintage-inspired, but they look modern, too. Do you have any ideas of how I can make my look more modern without relinquishing that vintage flair? Dear Vintage Addict - So many of my friends are vintage addicts, too, and growing up in Seattle during the grunge years, there wasn’t ever a spare moment that we weren’t combing the Salvation Army and thrifting for fuzzy old cardigans and crumpled prom dresses. There are are few sure-fire ways to make vintage pieces your own and a bit more modern.
Dear Chris, I so badly want to work as a celeb hair stylist and style hair for fashion shows. I am a recent Paul Mitchell Grad who worked very hard to be where i am at today. I'm 25 and a single mother of one, but I refused to let anyone or anything tear me down. I was determined to finish school no matter what cause i knew if i was able to finish cosmetology school, endless opportunities would come. I understand that I don't know it all and I'm hungry for more knowledge every day. I would love it if you could help me out and share with me some tips to reach my goals! Thank you, Lawanika Dear Lawanika, You sound like you have the best sort of dedication a person can have. The best you can do in this life is work very hard, be nice, and learn something new everyday.
Dear Chris, I'm a recent Parsons graduate with an EU passport. I really want to move to Paris or Milan or London to start off my career. I've had a couple of successful internships, so I'm not too worried about getting my foot in the door. I'm more worried about choosing the right city. Where are your favorite places in Europe? Dear Parsons Graduate, What an exciting dilemma! I love pitting European cities against each other. There are so many specific and inspiring things about each European capital.
Dear Chris Benz, What are you up to on Fashion's Night Out this year? Truly, Your Stalker
Chris, Your girls are so colorful. Will you ever do a black and white only collection? Dear Rainbowphobe, True story, I do love color. Still, every once in awhile I start out with the idea of doing a collection only in black and white (like Pleasantville, I suppose). But of course color always seems to creep in, and ultimately enriches the direction and palette of the entire collection. With that said, recently we have been doing a lot more black and white than seasons past, which feels very modern to me. There’s something very good about cleansing the palette with a pure black look or a good, stark white.
Dear Chris Benz, I am sure that every one in New York wants to be a stylist, designer, and everything else that revolves around fashion, and I know that the competition is steep in NY as for many other places. But I believe in my self enough to leave my hometown of Houston, TX, and move to New York in order to further myself in the fashion industry. My question for you Chris is if I want to be a stylist, designer, or even just have a paid position at a top fashion firm, do you believe that a degree is necessary? Or rather hard work and dedication? And if a degree is necessary my top interest for schooling is FIT, what degree would be best for some one who just wants to style beautiful people and further them selves in the fashion industry? I really must say RIP to my life in Houston TX, and birth a new life in NY, your words of advice will be greatly appreciated! Love, FashionsMuse
Dear Mr. Benz, How to do you keep from getting into a rut? Sometimes I feel like I'm running out of inspiration. Yours, Needs a Recharge Dear Needs-A-Recharge - Inspiration is a tricky one, for sure. On one hand, it is easy to be inspired by something specific much longer than one season, which unfortunately doesn’t work so well with the Fashion calendar. Obviously, there are things that should be continually inspiring ... For me, it’s Katherine Hepburn, Lauren Hutton, Shelley Duvall--always a casual, glamorous, colorful character. On the other hand, a deadline may be approaching whereas you have to be inspired.
Dear Chris Benz, I will be a freshman in high school next year and am interested in a career as a fashion designer. Because I live in a small town in Florida, there really aren't a lot of opportunities to intern or find a job that would prepare me for the fashion industry. The closest mall is in the town south of mine and has less than 30 apparel stores, many of which are closing or on the verge of closing. Boutiques and other such stores are virtually non-existent and/or cater to Florida's prominent senior citizen community. Without any real opportunities to explore a career in fashion design, it seems like the only thing I can do is to teach myself to sew, which I am currently doing. Also, I stay up-to-date with industry news and (try) to look at Style.com's runway slideshows as much as possible. As a successful fashion designer with your own label, what do you recommend I do if I want to be a fashion designer? Thank-you, Alissa Dear Fashion-Minded Floridian - Where you grow up, your surroundings, and all of your experiences will inform your designs for the rest of your life!
Dear Chris, Right now, you only design for women. I'm a guy, but I love your aesthetic. How do you dress? Who are your favorite designers? Inquiring minds want to know! Thank you Dear Guy - Thanks for the compliment! I am usually exhausted by the time I have to think about my own clothes, so I tend to dress simply/haphazard. My go-to is a navy blue blazer, because it's completely classic and looks perfect with everything. I think men should really restrict themselves to wearing a white shirt, navy blazer, and Levis 501s with a Converse Chuck Taylor, and call it a day. That is--until there is CB menswear, and then they should wear mustard pleat-front shorts, chiffon tuxedo shirts, sequined blazers, and loads of friendship bracelets, natch!
Dear Chris, I follow you on Twitter and you're always out and about. How do you balance being fabulous with being a hard worker? Dear Follower - One of the skills that I learned in my early years of moving to NYC (now, over ten years ago!) was that the 24 hours in the day must be compartmentalized. Moving to NYC at 17 proved a steep learning curve to this end. We would go to class at Parsons from 9-3pm, take naps, work on our projects in the dorms while also making crazy club-kid costumes, and then go out until 4 or 5 in the morning. Rinse, and repeat! I’m not sure how we survived it, but we pulled through. It’s something that was every bit as important to me as school, being a part of that collective consciousness. Listen, I haven’t seen 4am in quite a few years, but what I can tell you is that a lot of ideas come from hours of conversation and laughter outside the studio.
Dear Chris, Recently it was junior prom at my high school. I had some difficulty trying to find a prom dress as there is no definite guide as to what is an appropriate prom dress or what a fabulous prom dress should be. I was wondering if you had any ideas or examples as to what is prom chic and what isn't. Dear Prom Queen, As far as high school dances are concerned, I would err on the side of something classic, with a nice silhouette, and you can load up with costume jewelry, hair, makeup, and a fake eyelash goes a long way for easy glamor. See if you can find images of Kate Moss at her 30th birthday party – its the epitome of effortless party style in a little black dress, heavy false eyelashes, and like a tophat or something.
Mr. Benz, How are you doing? As an aspiring stylist in the fashion industry, my question for you is, how do I go about developing a well rounded portfolio and besides local work on my own, how do I go about finding a stylist experienced enough to intern for? Seeing that you are a fashion designer, I'm pretty sure you have worked with everyone from a make-up artist to a stylist. Your feedback would be greatly appreciated. Hope to hear from you soon. Dear Aspiring Stylist, If you haven’t figured it out yet, presentation is everything. And I do mean that – don’t get lost in the minutia of "portfolios" and "books." I actually can’t remember the last time I reviewed a portfolio. Curate your life and your persona, commit to your direction, and become completely dedicated to that vision. Chances are, as an aspiring stylist, you have very unique opinions about the manner in which things should look. Focus on that and anything that speaks to that direction should get assembled into a portfolio. It’s as interesting to see the process of inspiration as the end result.