At the risk of stating the apparent, brand revivals more often than not go one of two ways: hewing too fastidiously to the archives and turning out pieces that are anachronistic or costumey, or, in a misguided bid to modernize, just alienating existing fans. Chris Benz’s new vision for Bill Blass aims to eschew both of those by serving up a redux that’s neither overly fashion-y nor retro, with a goodly dose of the ladylike quirk that characterized Benz’s lapsed eponymous line.
The designer might come as something of a surprise for a successor, given Blass’s legacy of classic American sportswear. But a posse of mannequins sporting archival pieces tucked into a corner at today’s preview seemed a testimony to the common ground between the two designers—sequins, for one, but also the whimsical flourishes to be found in Blass’s work, like a trompe l’oeil cable-knit or paillette-encrusted still-life skirts. Still, that playful legacy is one that’s been dulled with time. As Benz tells it candidly, “When I first was called about it, I was like, ‘Ugh, Bill Blass!’ Because I sort of shared the [public] sentiments about the brand’s past 15 years when it was over-licensed.” Eventually, though, Blass president and COO Stuart Goldblatt was able to assure Benz of the creative freedom and support that would be made available to him, and an official announcement appointing him to the post was made a year ago.