Has there ever been a celebrity who, in the cause of promoting a fashion label, did not want to be known as more of a designer than a celebrity? It is kind of nice to imagine all the man-hours Jennifer Lopez, Sean Combs and BeyoncÃ© have spent laboring at a sewing machine lest anyone doubt the sincerity that went into affixing their logos on $90 jeans.
But at a party at Barneys New York during Fashion Week, AndrÃ© Benjamin, his hands thrust into the pockets of his suspender pants, really did look as if he would rather curl up at home with his Singer than be known as another singer who can sew. He was there to introduce a line of menâ€™s wear called Benjamin Bixby, which includes tweed plus fours and club sweaters with leather elbow patches. The collection was inspired by Ivy League athletics of the 1930s. It looked like Ralph Lauren having a Steampunk moment.
By designing under an assumed name, Mr. Benjamin is reflecting the latest trend in celebrity fashion, which is for celebrity designers to masquerade as nobody designers, and thereby appear to be more authentic than opportunistic. (William Rast and Edie Rose are not Parsons alumni, but the labels of Justin Timberlake and Rachel Bilson.)
Most of those collections, minus the labels, would look exactly the same: artsy dyed jeans, trendy T-shirts, fur-trimmed bomber jackets, etc. But plus fours? Mr. Benjamin has the field to himself. His collection is so unexpectedly nostalgic as to seem designed for another era. Or another world.
â€œI think people will judge what I do a little harder than someone who was just starting out,â€ said Mr. Benjamin, who has a point.
As AndrÃ© 3000 of OutKast, he suavely crafted an alter ego with a distinctive retro-preppy-nerdy style and used fashion magazines, which were captivated by his look, to promote his image. He often showed up at photo shoots with bags of his own dandy clothes and was photographed in them, as when he appeared in a long houndstooth overcoat with Kate Moss in Rolling Stone. In 2005, he made the International Best-Dressed List in Vanity Fair.
But it was, to an extent, an act. Mr. Benjamin, 33, describes his true personality as more reserved and says that the flair was largely effect, to create a character. Then, as his career grew from singing to acting and now fashion, he became more skilled at manipulating the image.
For his latest movie role, Mr. Benjamin, portraying a protester at the 1999 demonstrations against the World Trade Organization in â€œBattle in Seattle,â€ dressed as a turtle.
â€œWhat I love are the possibilities,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s the same thing in music and the same thing in acting and the same thing in fashion. If I want to play this person, I can become this person.â€ (more)
Category: STYLE WATCH