Georgia Alexia Benjou, Fashion Editor 5280 Magazine
For our series Closet Confidential, we interview interesting and uber cool people in their homes wearing outfits from their closet. Esther Lee Leach caught up with Georgia Alexia Benjou at her home in Cherry Creek.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ESTHER LEE LEACH
Esther Lee Leach: Tell us about your background and how you got your start in fashion.
Georgia Alexia Benjou: Growing up in Denver as the child of New Yorkers, I was always the artistic child who got to indulge my interests in theatre, literature, photography, drawing, singing, and piano. So, it wasn’t much of a surprise to my family when I decided to move to New York City to pursue a graduate degree in Art History at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. But after my first semester, I really felt isolated and I took a year off to decide what I really wanted to do.
Of course, I had to get a job once I left school! I met with a headhunter and she told me from our first meeting, “I have the job for you. You’re going to be the Merchandise Assistant at Chanel.” I knew enough about Chanel to go dressed to the job interview in a vintage 1960’s black suit – courtesy of my mother - with a white blouse and pumps. It was perfect. I landed my first fashion job and never went back to graduate school.
I continued working as a national buyer and merchandiser in New York City, Milan and Paris for luxury and designer houses including Hermes, Dolce & Gabbana, and Christian Dior. After hitting my burnout stage and realizing fashion companies were becoming all about their P and L statements, I wanted more creative work; I left NYC in 2002 for the West Coast and decided to take the unconventional leap – at the time - from merchandiser to editor and stylist. I’ve been working as an editor, stylist and brand consultant ever since.
ELL: How did you become a Fashion Editor?
GAB: Styling – in some ways – is like merchandising to me; you really have to understand product, how to edit product, and how to pull a story together. When I moved back to Denver after leaving NYC in 2002, I started working as a stylist for regional magazines, and eventually that evolved into a Fashion Editor position with 5280 Magazine. In a way, it was an easy role for me to step into; my NYC fashion training meant that I really understood how fashion houses and stores lent clothes and accessories to stylists and magazines. So, I was prepared on both the creative and business sides of my job. Since then, my work has evolved into shooting for national and international titles, as well as styling ad and social media campaigns, and getting more involved in video and film work.
ELL: Describe your role as a Fashion Editor?
GAB: My job is really to be a professional tastemaker, fashion curator and trend spotter.
ELL: How would you describe your style?
GAB: This is such a hard question for me, because I never like categorizing myself (I’m such an Aquarius!). Overall, I like classic pieces with clean lines and functional details (like great pockets!), and mix those with either something really feminine or an on-trend find. I never like anything that is gimmicky or fashion victim trendy. With accessories, I like things to be really focused – so a fabulous scarf, a single beautiful sautoir or a layered look with medallion necklaces, a stack of bracelets, a couple of oversized rings. And I love shoes!
ELL: Where do you find your style inspiration?
GAB: I really believe in having a multi-functional wardrobe, so it really comes down to what’s in my closet and what I need when I go into it! For example, this winter I’ve been working on T-shirts and cardigans (finding the perfect new ones has been an obsession!); once I zero in on what colors and materials I want, I then start the hunt for the exact piece that will work with the rest of my wardrobe and – of course – within my budget.
ELL: Who are your favorite designers?
GAB: The question I blew on in the video! You wouldn’t think this would be a tough question for a fashion editor, but I tend to think in terms of who is relevant today. I really like designers who pursue their own aesthetic and don’t feel the need to tick off the trend boxes that editors or trend forecasters predict will be the next big thing: Yohji Yamamoto, Haider Ackermann, Comme des Garçons, The Row, Narciso Rodriguez, Simon Holloway at Angona, and Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski at Hermès are all favorites of mine.
ELL: What are your three favorite places to shop for clothing in Denver?
GAB: I think the stores who have been curating their own boutiques the longest tend to still have the most interesting selection in town: Max, because owner Max Martinez incorporates new designers into his lineup every season; Lawrence Covell for their understated, non-logo selection of modernist designers; and Sacred Thistle for their amazing jewelry.
ELL: Do you think Denver has a style language like New York or Paris? What is it?
GAB: To me, Denver’s fashion has – historically –been like a mid-Western city: Practical and not showy (so the antithesis of Dallas and Los Angeles). But with the influx of people moving here from the Coasts over the last 5 – 7 years and the increasing impact of social media, I think the city has been evolving slowly. I think people are more interested in fashion than ever, but also probably more confused about what they should be buying for themselves.
ELL: What are your five favorite pieces from your closet?
GAB: Easy: A black Ann Demeulemeester jacket; my black Jason Wu skinny pants; a COS black, fitted turtleneck dress (I can wear it with anything!); a pair of Stella McCartney deep purple knee-high boots; and a Joseph blouse in deep eggplant crepe satin.
ELL: Do you have any items in your closet that you regret buying? Why?
GAB: No! Over the last few years, I’ve really been targeted with my wardrobe buys. I believe in buying better and buying less, so that helps me avoid any wardrobe purchase mishaps.
Georgia Alexia Benjou: @gabenjou
In this week’s 24 Questions, Georgia Alexia Benjou gets personal.