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Image courtesy Bill Blass
Interview

Chris Benz

06.16.16

At first, one might have been surprised when Chris Benz was appointed creative director at Bill Blass, but the two have more overlap than you might think. Benz was hired to revive the house of American sportswear that had over years faded into something no one recognized. Benz relied on his instincts, experience, and specific point of view to restore what had been lost and enhance the Bill Blass signatures. Benz started with a new logo- inspired by the personal stationary of Mr. Blass. Quirky details, sequins, and nods to the 70s are elements synonymous with Benz’s Blass. Benz also overhauled the brand’s digital footprint, increasing the online presence, and adhering to a see now, buy now model. Bill Blass is for the modern, cool woman not looking for a plain black pencil skirt.

Interview

When you received the first call about the Bill Blass opportunity, what were your thoughts?

When I first was approached about Bill Blass I think I shared a lot of the confusion the outside world had surrounding the brand. It hadn’t been treated so kindly for quite awhile, but the opportunity to transition a great 20th century company into a 21st century digital design company, and launching with e-commerce exclusively, was tremendously exciting.

What was your relationship or familiarity with the brand before taking over creatively?

I really only remembered the brand from fashion history at Parsons – it was such a powerhouse across so many categories that there really wasn’t anything specifically iconic. It’s really about the idea of the brand and the cool spirit of American sportswear that remains.

The brand has passed through many hands before you joined – were there any preconditions you needed met before considering the job?

My only condition was that we would do everything in the most modern way possible. The strategy to launch with e-commerce in an almost solely digital space has been very fulfilling – building the team and the structure from scratch, as a startup, but one with a well-known name.

What can you tell me specifically about the direction you’re taking Bill Blass?

The direction is really about narrowing the focus of what the customer desires from the brand – shoes have been a tremendous category as well as anything sparkly, special or unique. We’ve never been about a plain black pencil skirt so we are forging ahead with anything that feels opposite of basic.

Your Bill Blass has basically already applied the “see now, buy now” approach to retail – how is this working for the brand?

The immediacy of e-commerce compliments the see now, wear now accessibility of retail today – it’s reflective of how women shop, especially online.

Do you see this evolving into an industry standard as the conversation on this topic grows?

I like the idea that we are on a continuous design calendar, that as new products are available we can announce them and create newness with a fluid cadence. I think as all of the seasons blend together this feels more in line with the direction of the world.

Are you guys still releasing new product every month or so?

Yes! My hope is that each time a customer visits billblass.com that they will find something new.

How does this schedule impact your schedule? Does it leave time for you to be creative?

Yes, it’s an incredibly creative environment, particularly because we don’t need to rush into fashion week or wedge ourselves into a retail calendar.

What Bill Blass signature are you preserving?

Our new lower-case logo came from Mr. Blass’ personal stationery in the 1970s, for one cool thing.

How much of Chris Benz are you infusing into Bill Blass?

Thankfully my aesthetic blends quite well with that of the brand, so it’s really about colorful, casual, embellished product all the time. We always say everyday can feel like a holiday.

In your words, who is the Bill Blass woman?

Mobile, modern, cool.

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