An excellent post from Fashionista that gives me that extra little pep I when I’m a little down on working in fashion – I will get there someday!
Lauren Sherman went down to SCAD (yay Ga!) to hear Chris Benz speak about how he got his start in the industry and how to build a brand. His tips are excellent – hopefully this will help any of y’all out there with your nose to the grind know that you’ll get there one day, too!
Two looks from Chris Benz’ Spring 2010 collection
Relationships might be the most important element of running a successful business, no matter what medium you’re working in. Ashley and Chris met at age 16 while attending a summer program at Parsons. Today they’re business partners. Eugene and Kelly met while working at Ralph Lauren. Eugene and Chris met while working at Marc Jacobs. The company’s casting director is also a friend from Parsons. “Look at the person next to you, because you will cross paths with them during your career,” said Ashley.
Learning how the business works is just as important as designing great clothes. Chris worked at J.Crew for a few years after graduation, designing dresses under CEO Mickey Drexler and fashion director Jenna Lyons. “We had to deliver 16 collections a year,” he explained. That experience was as valuable as the work he did while interning at Marc Jacobs.
If you want to produce everything locally, you can. About 98% of all Chris Benz clothing is produced in New York City. While his prices aren’t low, they aren’t outrageous either. (Dresses hover in the $1,000 range.) “Using the garment center means that we can maintain control over the quality of the clothes,” said Ashley. “Anyone who tells you it’s impossible [to manufacture a collection in New York] hasn’t done their legwork.”
A big part of being a designer is selling your vision. The team travels from Chicago to Los Angeles to meet with store owners, buyers and stylists. Chris talks to the customers to see what they love and what they think could be different. “About 5 to 10% of my job is actually designing clothes,” he explained. “The rest is hitting the pavement.”
Fashion is a grueling industry, but don’t let the naysayers fool you: It’s quite glamorous, too. Chris loves fashion, and he loves his job. “It’s good to enjoy what you do!”