NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 14: Chris Benz poses with models during the Chris Benz Fall 2011 presentation during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at David Rubenstein Atrium on February 14, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Gentner/Getty Images)
We’ve come to count on Chris Benz for color and charisma, and although his Fall 2011 collection didn’t fail to deliver on either, it felt slightly more seasoned than the rainbow brights we’ve seen from Benz in the past.
Amidst the quiet roar of his gallery presentation, the designer (his hair standing up in tufts of pink, yellow, and lime) told us he’d been particularly inspired by Savannah, Georgia, a city he’s fallen in love with during mentoring visits to the Savannah College of Art and Design.
“It’s such a strange place,” he said, and went on to describe the juxtaposition of old-school Southern decorum and contemporary art school students, amidst a landscape of “gorgeous gardens and graveyards.” In the collection, these gardens appeared in a print of hydrangeas, in shades of cream, lilac, pale blue, and mauve, which fell onto long silk chiffon dresses, with layered ruffles at their skirts and sleeves.
As usual, there was no shortage of sparkle, which came in the form of sequins on a sheer little short-sleeved jacket, and was also woven into more mature-feeling fabrics like nubby tweeds and floral jacquards in mellow golds.
A black silk gown with a voluminous drape hanging beneath the model’s back, printed with white swirls of smoke – or perhaps Benz’s aforementioned Savannah spirits – seemed like the most elegant expression of the designer’s inspiration. On the whole, the presentation felt like a continuation of the one we attended in Spring, complete with accessories: witchy felted wool hats, basket-weave Alejandro Ingelmo wedges (like those we loved in Spring), and surreal sightings like Bryan Boy beneath a giant arc of fur and Johnny Weir, Birkin bag in tow.