“I wanted it to be like adult ‘Garanimals’’” stated Chris Benz about his Resort 2013 collection as I was greeted this AM in his Manhattan studio & showroom. “We worked off of an elaborate system of paper dolls to make sure the collection worked this way (like Garanimals).” Whatever his system… it was successful as I spent the next 30 minutes attempting to put two garments together that didn’t work in unison. Was I successful? No. Was the collection successful? Yes.
I’ve been following this designer since he was a Junior Design Student at Parsons & he’s yet to disappoint. His point of view continues to evolve for sure, but never so much so that a piece cannot be instantly identified as a “Benz” (the kind you don’t drive, of course) the moment you see it. Vintage inspired, high-chroma content, easy pieces worn in layers is the best I can do to explain what he does so well that he’s in a league of his own.
For resort, Mr. Benz found inspiration in the tropical environs of the 1950’s with a dash of 1960’s modernity thrown in for good measure. Should the remake of Gilligan’s Island be in the works, Chris Benz would be the natural choice for Ginger’s day looks & Maryann’s entire wardrobe. In fact, even Mrs. Howell would don some of the electric bright sequined floral mesh tunic dresses & tops or the Black tinsel furry Bolero jackets that would transition the wearer from day to evening with the simple addition of a piece of jewelry.
This entire collection was covetable, but the true standouts of the room were the Cashmere sweaters & dresses in bold stripe combinations & even the solids that were made ever so novel with subtle use of contrast stitching at the neckline, cuffs & hems, as well as the heavy gauge boxy cardigans & pullover sweaters in candy bright bold stripes. These pieces will undoubtedly be seen in repeat on every beach walker on the first cool evening in East Hampton this season, as they truly were some of the freshest takes on the category in recent memory, yet ever so simple – A testament to the skill in this designer’s arsenal.
While the clothes were the real act of the day, the supporting cast of players were noteworthy as well. For the second season, Benz is collaborating with the Wood sisters to create a collection of jewelry in Lucite & (ironically… or not) Wood that are embellished in subtle ways with beads that mimic gold chains. The Neon bright Orange, Hot Pink, Yellow, Acid Green & Aqua Lucite pieces, shaped in giant circles, wedges & urns lent an even more playful edge to an already whimsical collection.
Chris Benz is a name that many have yet to discover, which some may consider troublesome. I, on the other hand, consider it fortuitous for him, as he appears to be developing an increasingly broader collection with seemingly strategic support & controlling the growth to create a strong foundation that can eventually shoulder a much larger distribution network. This is a wise path to a long & prosperous future. His time in the white-hot spotlight will come, of this I’m certain… & when it does, he’ll be ready as he took the time to grow properly. All I can say is I hope the foundation that he has built can support superstardom, as I believe he’s going to deservedly be one.