Culture

Benjamin Alexander on winning Project Runway New Zealand and what’s next for the designer

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The relentless 23-year-old Aucklander wasted no time on New Zealand’s debut season of Project Runway to assert himself as an extremely capable, no-nonsense designer.

From week one, Benjamin was one to watch. His quiet, but brutally honest, disposition made him a threat in the eyes of envious designers, and his assurance and vision translated into his work. An unexpected friendship between him and fellow designer 22-year-old Caitlin Crisp from Canterbury had the competition’s heads rolling as they groomed each other to victories in the weekly challenges. But when it came down to the final, it was his final product that did the talking and led him to win the first season of Project Runway New Zealand.

Benjamin speaks to Fashion Quarterly following his win:


How has your life changed since Project Runway?
I’ve met so many beautiful people and have made lifelong friends that have changed my life.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen or read about yourself on social media/the internet?
Recently I read that someone believes I’m either on the ‘spectrum’ or just annoying. Lol.

When and where was the first time someone recognised you?
I was out having lunch with Caitlin and a woman came up to the both of us and asked for a selfie. I love meeting people that are really enthusiastic about the show!

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Total cute.

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Your friendship with Caitlin caused a lot of beef with the other designers. In your opinion, how important is having friendships on the Project Runway? Do you think they help or hinder the process?
I thought that whole thing was bullshit. People were upset that I made friends with Caitlin? Stupid.

How did reality TV meet or not meet your expectations? What was it like watching yourself on the show?
It was exactly what I thought it was going to be and I had the time of my life. I love hard work and working under pressure. The first few episodes I’d cringe when I saw myself on the show, but now I’m not bothered and kinda love it.

When it comes to your designs, who are they intended for? Describe your muse:
A woman who understands the critical value in art and fashion and a woman who considers dressing a demanding form of self-expression.

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Spring 2018 Collection.

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How did you remain focused in light of challenges that pushed you beyond your style?
I wholeheartedly love what I do and I found that because of the way I view things or intemperate things I was able to bend the brief to some extent to match what I wanted to make for each challenge.

A woman who understands the critical value in art and fashion and a woman who considers dressing a demanding form of self-expression.

What advice would you give to other young creative or entrepreneurs developing their aesthetic or brand?
Trust your gut. Work f**king hard and don’t care in the slightest what people think of you or your work. Just do whatever you feel is right.

Being told no, being rejected, and failure, in general, are hard realities we all face at some stage. How did you bounce back from weeks where the judges were more critical than kind?
I took everything on board but always stayed true to what I believed was right. It’s important to remain yourself and trust your instinct when it comes to design because more often than not you’re right. You can always tell if something or someone isn’t authentic.

What’s something our audience didn’t see or know about you on Project Runway?
I used to play rugby believe it or not.

Benjamin Design: “Chic, sharp and sexy – but masculine.” Benjamin has designed a short suit made out of black suede featuring a black blazer with a large buckled belt through the waist and an oversized shoulder. The jacket is worn over a polo neck pinstripe white shirt with a full sleeve extending past the hands. A wide-legged mid-thigh short is worn on the base. Judges’ comments: Georgia: “I think it looks really expensive. That suede is divine. But he hasn’t pushed it, for him” Sally-Ann: “It’s fun, it’s tomboyish and I can see a lot of women wanting to wear this. Overall, really impressed.” Benny: “I wrote Stevie Nicks goes to the office. The exaggerating shoulder is thanks to the pinching in at the waist and it’s a gorgeous silhouette.” Paris: “The utilitarian details; the epaulettes at the shoulder, the vent at the back – I thought it was stunning. And it’s hard working with suede. But it definitely didn’t challenge my mind.”

What has been your favourite outfit in the series and why (of yours and from another designer)?
My favourite outfit was the black suede tailored shorts suit. I just thought it was super chic and hot as f**k. And I loved Caitlin’s polka-dot top and flared trousers.

The $50,000 question… what will you be doing with the cash?
It will go straight into my business.

Can you share any teasers as to what we can expect from your six page editorial feature in Fashion Quarterly?
It’s still in the works, but it’ll be f**king chic.

And lastly, what’s next for you?
Right now it’s straight to the beach. I’ll be working on the brand in the new year!

Scroll for Benjamin’s best designs from Project Runway New Zealand:

Benjamin's runway look five.

Benjamin's runway look two.

Benjamin's runway look three.

Benjamin's runway look four.

 

Benjamin A midi length orange and white print dress with flutter sleeve forms the basis of a wrap top with blouson sleeve. A peach tweed A-line miniskirt with fur hem is designed for the base. The tweed is carried on in the hem of the top and wrap ties. Judges’ comments: Sally-Ann: “I love this look and I think it’s incredible. It’s so far removed from my personal style and yet I want to be Gracie.” Robert: “Overall, I think it’s a really fantastic look.” Benny: “ love the touch of fur and that’s what makes it for me.”

Project Runway New Zealand EP6 - photocredit Tom Hollow (42)

Photos: Supplied, Instagram

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