PHOTO: COURTESY OF BILL BLASS

Chris Benz
Fashion Designer, Bill Blass

Bringing back a heritage brand is no easy feat. Better yet, reinventing a brand who helped define the relaxed, pared-down elegance that would characterize American fashion in the seventies is even more difficult. Imagine rummaging through extensive archival collections and modernizing the vision of a strong name like Bill Blass.  But Chris Benz is doing just that.

  • VacationStyle: What about designing fashion most excites you?

    Chris Benz: I have always loved clothes and putting them together – the artistic part of designing. I like to design everyday wear because it practical and useful for everyone.  My favorite item is navy blue blazer because it’s so functional and ubiquitous.  I love finding the best versions of a classic piece and recreating it 20 different ways.

  • VS:How did you come up with the inspiration for the collection? Did you use any of the archives?

    CB: We lucky to have such a large archive at Bill Blass, which is fantastic and a wonderful sounding board as we come up for future designs.  It was very important to find the DNA of what made Bill Blass great back then and to apply those to the modern day woman.  The uniqueness of the Bill Blass woman is that she is global professional, a doer, a go-getter, an espy, and has a great sense of humor! She is uniquely American in all  aspects of her life which is why I think Bill Blass is such an important American brand.

  • VS: What destinations can you see this collection being worn?

    CB: So much of the collection is designed for travel. We included emory foam in every insole of the shoes, the bags are engineered to fit a laptops and electronics, and everything is extremely easy to pack. So many of the peices are great for all types of destination...Navy Blazer in New York, Papaya Orange by pool with a  blazer

  • VS: How does travel inspire you?

    CB: Travel is very inspirational for me and I am lucky to be able to go to Paris and Milan all the time for work trips – doing research is a part of the job. Every season in fashion we have to think about what concepts fit in the world and the more I travel the more I can come up with new ideas and capsule collections.

  • VS: Favorite trip you have taken?

    CB: Trips to Greece are high up there for me… it’s so relaxing and beautiful. I also love travelling throughout the US; exploring local vintage stores and getting to see cool, chic, stylish women on the pulse of fashion in their local towns. It’s very inspiring.  

  • VS: What are 3 places on your bucket list?

    CB: I would love to go to India, South America, and Africa; all which fascinates me in a major way. I have nothing to relate it to and am so curious about what these destinations hold... I am sure they will each inspire me in a major way once I visit one day.

  • VS: What are a few amazing finds along your travels?

    CB:  In Paris...Cafe de l’Industrie –  I go with the design team it’s the best find – African French colonial, all French locals and very chic;  Cafe La PerleMeurice Hotel lobby bar – especially love it for design meetings; Pavillon de la Reine is my go-to hotel; Merci Market (shopping)

    In Milan... Fonderie Milanese;  Marchesi; Palazzo Parigi (hotel); Bar Luca at Fondazione Prada

  • VS: What would are a few key items a woman should bring to the beach on vacation?

    CB: I love a huge tote bag, it’s a must so that you can always shove everything in and not be concerned about getting it sandy. Lots of big jewelry...nothing chicer than a girl in all her jewelry hopping out of the ocean then putting on her sunscreen without even a  care. Random pieces of fabric that you can use as a turban, pareo, cover up...a little piece of fabulousness.

  • VS: Your favorite items to travel with?

    CB: I always have lots of zipper pouches.  Commes de Garcon makes all these fab colors.  iPad mini – only time I use it is when I’m travelling so I can catch up on all the Housewives shows from Bravo.

    A fresh brand new pair of white converse – and worse case you can always throw them out if you need the room in your suitcase since they are pretty cheap. Products: I always get the tiny La Mer samples  Kiehl's De-puffer – it’s so little don’t have to dip fingers in it – its like a chapstick. 

    My carry on is a Monocle bag  – it has hundreds of pockets that fit EVERYTHING. I just love pockets, pouches, anything to help me be more organized.

  • VS: What would you like to be doing in 5 years?

    CB: Hopefully this...I am really proud of all the work we’ve don here. Building the new foundation of Bill Blass with a strategic aesthetic and creating a retail plan has been extremely rewarding. I can see us adding a lot of additional categories in the next 5 years such as fragance (Bill Blass had one 70s that people call us everyday to bring back), home, and mens.

  • VS: Favorite Hotels?

    CB: I love the Standard Hotels, I feel like all Andre Balazs properties are so genius. I’m very habitual – stay at Chateau Marmont in LA

    Milan-Palazza Parisi – Its new and super chic

    Paris – Hotel Maurice 

    Greece – The Belvedere in Mykonos which I have known the owner from when it was a sleepy cottage and no one knew about it

  • VS: What are your passions outside of Fashion?

    CB: Renovating Houses – it's the Ying to my yang after working all the time. I am currently renovating a brownstone in Brooklyn, which is funny because there are so many parallels with my work at Bill Blass as I am building both together.  In the same way that I like to renovate houses,  I take things from different time periods and bring it together in a digestible way – I’m not trying to repeat Bill Blass's history, but take different parts from different times and create something new with my own fresh spin on it.

  • VS: Any other Designers that are doing great things?

    CB: I’ve always liked Prada. I worked at Marc Jacobs for a long time so I compare everything to that experience. I love Prada because it’s so self-referencing. It’s so off trend but on time in a very specific way. People’s eyes have to adjust to Prada but people end up loving it so quickly despite instinctively fearing it at first.

  • While On Vacation... 

    Overpack or underpack? Under

    Luggage? Romova

    Bathingsuit? Red Vilbrequin

    Warm or cold weather vacation? Warm

    Detox or Retox? Retox