The New Potato

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Chris Benz

On His Daily Uniform And Most Memorable Dinner

Before designer Chris Benz was – well – Chris Benz, he was quite busy fishing through vintage treasures in his Grandmother’s attic. Like any great designer, Benz has an appreciation for what’s timeless (from a young age apparently), which is why we had him pick out an outfit from his own closet that he can see someone coveting two generations from now.

What was our role? We brought over a classic dish to accompany the outfit – because what’s a photo shoot without great fashion and great food? The never-gets-old bacon, egg and cheese is Benz’s go-to each morning; it went perfectly with a Brooks Brothers blazer, Levi’s and white Margiela sneakers (an outfit sure to be relevant two generations from now). Benz also filled us in on everything from his most memorable dinner, to the most memorable subject he’s ever dressed, to his one piece of advice for those of us stumped in front of the mirror this morning (we know some of you are doing that right now)…

What, personally, would be your ideal food day from start to finish? 

Well, no matter what else happens, I always start with two fried eggs and cheese on whole wheat toast and a large iced black coffee. Middle-of-the-day meals are negligible to me and ideally I would skip these, heading straight into a martini and a steak at The Odeon. Consistency is key.

What’s your go-to drink after a long day? 

Ordinarily it’s a vodka martini up, but a good old fashioned vodka and soda works just as well.

A typical studio lunch… 

Like I said, it’s never really been about a midday meal for me. Ever since middle school I’ve kept it to a minimum. If I can grab another iced coffee or a diet coke, then I’m all good.

How do you always start your day on a good note? 

Well this is hardly an easy task – but a good routine keeps me in a good mood.

What are your favorite places to travel to? 

I travel very often for work, and I have fallen in love with Tokyo and everything Japanese, really. I learned a bit of Japanese as a kid and it almost seems like a second home in a very nostalgic way. But of course, Paris in the spring or fall is magical. Rome is the best in high summer with all the gorgeous Italians in dark glasses, shimmering hair, at café tables, smoking and carrying on into the night. I love Greece; it feels like the edge of the earth sometimes – the energy in that part of the world is unbelievable – the light, and the fig-scented air.

I do love going home to Seattle, too – so much easier to enjoy as an adult, and Bainbridge Island is quite charming when you can appreciate it from afar and don’t feel trapped on a tiny island. It’s really the most beautiful place if you can catch the two weeks of sun in the late summer.

What won’t you travel without?

I always travel with my phone – regardless of roaming charges or concern. It’s shameful but I just really love having it in hand at all times. I also love having my Rimowa luggage – I try to be carry-on only as much as possible and have been covering my luggage with travel stickers for years.

Do you dress differently for different restaurants? How so?

I have pretty much dressed exactly the same since I was a little kid. It’s always ripped jeans, vintage t-shirt, flannel shirts, and navy blazers. I have a slight pass as a designer because no one ever wants to comment on your outfit. So in that case, I don’t dress differently for different restaurants. Unless it’s like … a wedding or very fancy place, in which case I’d swap out ripped for clean-denim.

Who is the most memorable person you’ve dressed? Why?

Well, the First Lady Michelle Obama was quite a thrill – as you can imagine. And it’s quite rare, really, that I get to see my clothing worn by very important people, since we hardly ever do red-carpet gowns. But everyone is always exciting for me, even a non-celebrity. It’s fun to see real women feeling colorful and glamorous in something you’ve worked very hard to create. Katy Perry was fun, and Rihanna in a giant feather jacket for her tour.

Who is the most memorable person who’s come into the studio?

I love when Iman drops by – she’s very glamorous and grand. You know, always in capes and sunglasses and turbans and things. She’s the master of the drop-by, which is something people very rarely do!

The most memorable dinner you’ve had and why…

Oh God – I’ve literally eaten dinner every night for the past thirty years! Well, I do look back very fondly at a dinner I had at Villa San Michele in Fiesole, Italy (an old monastery overlooking Florence, now turned into a hotel). I was dying to go, and booked a room for only one night after a trade show in Florence. It’s where Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor had their honeymoon – the views are out of this world. Red geraniums spill out of every terra cotta pot and off of every sill. The restaurant is all along this enormous pergola with these sort of low upholstered chairs, and you just sit back and watch the sun set over the Duomo. It’s really quite amazing. And, always get the Bolognese.

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