dIETERbENNET wants the world
By Byron Flitsch
Let’s talk about synergy. You know, the idea that two people can partner up and create a uniquely powerful force as a result of their combined energies. It’s this synergistic effect that has propelled local line dIETERbENNET from an idea to one of the most recognizable up-and-comers on the Chicago fashion scene. Fresh off a successful showing at the Gen Art runway show during Fashion Focus Chicago, dIETERbENNET is poised to take its clean, classic women’s line to the next level.
If you ask Bennet Cousins and Dieter Kirkland how their passion for fashion started, you will see a twinkle in their eye when they begin to tell of their design beginnings. Cousins was introduced to sewing and patterns by his grandmother at a young age and remained inspired by her talent as he grew and became more involved in textiles. Kirkland always knew that design was his calling, whether it was industrial or interior, and in the end he chose to create with fabric. After a chance introduction by their Columbia College Chicago advisor in the fall of 2006, Cousins and Kirkland became fast design pals, intent on taking the fashion world by storm with their like aesthetic. After a brief time apart, they re-emerged in the spring of 2007 with a fresh outlook on women’s fashion: clean, subtle and modern. The synergy was born.
Now working out of home studios, these gents are humble about their work and inspirations. They’re not the type of artists who, when asked about what inspires them, jolt into lengthy, metaphysical hoopla. For both, inspiration comes in the everyday. “[We] may come across a building and think a structural element is interesting, and four weeks down the road realize that [we] interpreted that element into a skirt detail,” the duo says.
It’s their attention to even the smallest elements that embosses dIETERbENNET’s name from the list of up-and-coming local Chicago designers. Their subtle details range from the use of sleek, muted, organic-looking fabric to the delivery of stitch. “Our pieces have hidden subtleties, like dart manipulation, that no one but the wearer notices,” they say. But women are applauding much more than the detailing. They are excited about the realistic wear-ability. “[We] see so many runway shows and appreciate what they are doing from an artistic viewpoint, but sometimes ponder how it will relate to the real world.”
Designers need to consider where their clothing falls between the real world and fashion world. There are the mass-produced, everyday styles; the sassy, upscale items we drool over through windows; and the extravagant, how-in-hell-do-I-sport-that high-fashion pieces sprawled in magazines and on the runway. So how does this talented team fit in? As perfectly as a neatly sewn running stitch. Their Jil Sander admiration is evident, as dIETERbENNET coheres to all the realms of fashion by being functional, original and approachable. The clothes speak for themselves with sleek skirts that hug the thighs in a high-fashion cut, but are still wearable enough for the office; coats that you swear belong in a magazine spread, but will be perfect for that fall night out in the West Loop. They are designing for the women of today: elegantly styled yet living at a hectic pace. Of course the fashion world is ever changing. How will dIETERbENNET evolve to keep in touch with the times? They don’t claim to be psychics, but they foretell a resurgence of a time when clothes were meant to individualize a person. “A lot of people are over the mega-brands and the ubiquitousness of it all,” they say. “They are looking for something more intimate and special.”
A possible men’s line, a showroom and plans to take their look to New York and beyond are all part of dIETERbENNET’s goal of becoming a global player. And they are sure to succeed. Because when you see the success of their synergy resulting in the exceptional dIETERbENNET creations, you know that it would be impossible to contain that energy in one place. It has to be shared with the world.
dIETERbENNET designs can be found at Jake, 939 North Rush, (312)664-5553, shopjake.com or at dieterbennet.com.