In a society of fast fashion and an obsession with being 'on trend' Benjamin Fox offers a more introspective clothing experience. Launched over the weekend, the thoughtful and reflective birth of this brand continues into its creative process. Modéle talked to Ciara from Benjamin Fox all about creating sustainable dresses that have their own identity - giving customers a more sentimental view of their clothes.
This collection is like flowers bursting up out of the snow, her style is a fresh and hopeful welcome. A touch of early spring. Ciara embraces her newfound ideas of feminity with an all-pink collection, loose fitted and comfortable, it's designed for women to feel free...
Firstly, tell us a little about yourself and your dressmaking brand...
After studying Law in London for four years, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted for myself and for my future after I graduated. I realised that I had been working towards a style of life and career that I didn't really want and couldn't identify with anymore. So I left the city, came back to the country, and took some time out for myself. During this time I felt increasingly drawn back into the world of dressmaking, which I’d previously turned to help me in dealing with my mental health, and fell in love with it all over again. That's when I decided to design and create my first collection of dresses for Benjamin Fox.
The Venus Dress
Where did the name 'Benjamin Fox' come from?
I chose Benjamin because I’ve always been obsessed with that name I don’t know why! My mother has a book from her childhood about a donkey named Benjamin that she read to me and my siblings when we were small and the name has just always resonated with me. And then I added the Fox for gravitas I guess - I wanted something that sounded serious. Plus I’m completely in love with the animals. So many people have asked me about the meaning behind the name and I wish I had a better answer! But I just chose something that I loved and as soon as I put Benjamin Fox together it just completely resonated with me and felt right.
The Ruffle Dress
Can you tell me all about the sustainability of the dresses and why that's important to you?
The sustainability of Benjamin Fox is of huge importance to me. I think that one of the biggest challenges facing the future of the fashion industry is in reducing the amount of waste we produce, and so trying to minimise waste has been one of my top priorities. That's why I chose to create the dresses only on a made to order basis, buying very small amounts of fabric at a time, and also to repurpose any leftover fabric into smaller items, like square scarves or hair accessories.
All of the fabric that I choose to work with is made of a single fibre and biodegradable (so far I’ve been working with bamboo and cotton), hand-dyed by me using eco-reactive dyes, or hand-printed in Jaipur using all-natural inks and paints. Not only are hand dyes and inks better for the environment, but its also kinder on your skin!
The Ruffle Dress II
Tell us about the new collection you're launching...
I really wanted this collection to be all about the fabric – where it came from and who designed and made it. I chose to work with all hand printed and hand dyed fabrics because I think it adds so much character and personal value to the piece.
There are five dresses in total (all pink!). I hand printed the fabric for the first dress I created, The Ruffle Dress I, using the traditional wood block printing method with vegan, non-toxic fabric ink, and the second two (The Ruffle Dress II and the Venus Dress) are both hand dyed by me using eco-reactive dyes. The Ada Dress and The Sunday Dress are both made from 100% Indian cotton, hand printed with all-natural inks and dyes, and sourced from a lovely small independent seller based in Jaipur.
The Ada Dress
And, why pink…?
It was never actually in the plan to have all of the dresses in the collection pink, I just constantly found myself drawn to pink fabrics while I was sourcing materials for my designs. It’s interesting though because if I stop and think about it, I’ve always shied away from pink while growing up because of all of the stereotypical connotations of girlish femininity attached to it. But I’m now completely obsessed with it and find myself so drawn to anything pink. I think it's become a way for me to really embrace my femininity; by working with so much pink it's allowed me to develop my own ideas as to what I think femininity is and enabled me to replace the traditional stereotypical ideas that I used to associate with it growing up.
How would you describe your style as a fashion designer?
I would describe my style as thoughtful, feminine, and based on comfort. I have yet to design a piece that is tight fitting or body hugging – I like to wear clothes that are roomy and give me space to breathe!
The Sunday Dress
I saw ‘The Sunday Dress’ on Instagram - love it! Can you explain some of the names behind the pieces?
I chose to name all of the dresses that I made for the collection because I grew so attached to all of the designs! Working with hand printed and hand dyed fabric added so much personality to each of them and I wanted to capture this by naming them. So, for example, The Venus Dress was named as such because the lower cut ruffled neckline and more subtle shade of pink reminds me of a modern take on classical depictions of love and femininity in ancient Greece and Rome, whereas the vibrant pattern and bold pink of The Sunday Dress conjure up images of idyllic Summer Sundays spent in the sun.
One way to address over-purchasing is to value our clothes more, and I think that by giving what you're wear more of an identity, it contributes to the value that you have for it. If you purchase something with personality, hand made to order especially for you, and if you know who has made it, it increases its personal value and makes it more likely to be something you cherish and treasure. There’s nothing like waiting out the production period of a made to order dress to inspire appreciation for the piece!
The Sunday Square Scarf
What are your hopes for the future of your brand?
My main hope is to offer a more sustainable and personal method of consuming. I don't think there is much that can beat buying a handmade dress, made to order especially for you and knowing who made it!
Explore the collection here.