Chris Benz credits his love of fashion to an unlikely metropolis: Seattle. The creative director of recently relaunched Bill Blass said the seaport city might not have the glitz of New York or Paris, but it certainly made its mark when Benz was growing up there in the 1990s, during the height of the grunge-rock movement.
“I would go to the grocery store and get all the new issues of the fashion magazines,” he said. “I loved that it was art and design and everything sort of combined into one. That is what drew me to fashion.”
Today, Benz is leading a major overhaul at Bill Blass, carving out a niche for spirited, feminine clothes for the modern millennial.
In addition to orchestrating a redesign at the iconic American label, he’s also been busy getting it ready for a return to retail in April with a pop-up shop in Bloomingdale’s in New York and expansion by category into select stores. A graduate of Parsons School of Design with experience at Marc Jacobs, J.Crew and an eponymous line, Benz has a big challenge ahead of him.
Here, he talks about the sounds and sights that keep him inspired, and his favorites in fashion.
Best shoe store in New York City: “Front Street General Store in Dumbo. It’s the most perfectly edited assortment of what it means to buy vintage.”
Favorite thing to do back home: “I grew up on Bainbridge Island, just off Seattle. There’s one chic bakery that everyone goes to.”
Greatest vintage find: “I’m a huge eBay shopper. I found a Milo Baughman parlor suite from the 1970s. It’s one of the times you just click ‘Buy It Now.’ ”
Music I can’t get enough of: “I’ve been listening nonstop to the ‘Fun Home’ soundtrack because I love any Broadway show.”
Book of the moment: “The Ellen DeGeneres coffee-table book. I don’t think there is any great antique left because Ellen has them all in her houses.”
Movie I know by heart: “ ‘Six Degrees of Separation.’ It’s always on my iPad or queued on Apple TV.”