by Julia Cardi
September means the prettiest foliage of the year, pumpkin spice lattes, and most importantly, shopping for new boots and sweaters. So recently I caught up with Georgia Benjou, venerable contributing fashion editor to Denver’s own 5280, to talk about the city’s style scene and this fall’s best trends.
Georgia has the personable demeanor and easy laugh you’d expect from a Colorado native, with none of the aloofness you’d expect from someone with a résumé that includes Chanel, Christian Dior and Dolce & Gabbana. After stints with some of fashion’s biggest houses that involved (several) trips to Paris and Milan each year, Georgia returned to Denver in 2002 for a quieter career. She connected with a 5280 editor and settled back into her home front. The rest, the cliché says, is history.
Georgia’s well-versed fashion past has kept 5280 a viable guide to the best of Denver’s style scene. So it’s with a discerning but unpretentious eye that Georgia weighs in on modern label mixing, how Denver fashion still surprises her, and too many pairs of boots (hint: no such thing).
As a contributing fashion editor of 5280, do you have a favorite part of the job?
I really like being on set, styling on photo shoots. The whole process of putting together a photo shoot is what I love – taking a point of inspiration, exploring it, and then working with a team to realize that. It’s always a different approach, depending on who the client is or where your inspiration point is; it’s always something new.
[In photo shoots], 5280 has taken a stand and wants the product to be locally available, and it’s interesting to see how big a spread that can be. But it’s still wearable clothing. It’s not all just runway fashion that you’ll never see in the store.
What have you found to be unique about Denver’s fashion scene, as compared to a larger city with a more established industry?
There are always stores that surprise me because of what they’re willing to branch out and take a risk on. When I first came back to Denver, there was a boutique carrying Yohji Yamamoto – they carried him for years. At the time I was seriously shocked; I would not put Yohji Yamamoto and Denver in the same sentence. But when you think about it, it totally makes sense in some ways for Denver because there are wearable pieces in his collection. There are a lot of things that are gently draped that you can wear with a cool pair of kicks, so you can definitely style it up.
And for Vanessa [Barcus], Helmut Lang works well for her; again, it’s a really modern collection that you can style up a bunch of different ways. I think that’s the key; Denver definitely has a relaxed sensibility to it. So that kind of progressive designer does well here, and I think that might surprise people.
I’ve gotten a little dismayed that from L.A. to New York to London, you see all the same stores now. It’s cool to see that Denver still has thriving local boutiques that hopefully will continue to take chances on progressive or new designers.
Sure, I’ve been to luncheons where I see women outfitted in Chanel, no doubt about it. But that’s a different [type of] person, and younger women today aren’t looking to wear Chanel head-to-toe; they’re looking to maybe take a bag and combine it with some cool Rachel Comey pieces. It’s all about how you mix it up. Having less loyalty, too, to a specific designer has really opened up that aspect of personal style.
Do you think Denver has the potential to evolve into a more fashionable city overall?
It’s a really casual city, and I think people really prize their lifestyles here. It seems like people are either into sports, or they’re into fashion, and those two camps don’t speak. So it’s about educating people on how they can incorporate fashion into their daily lives. It’s getting people to explore their personal style more. Everyone can do a t-shirt-and-jean look here; we don’t need to show people how to wear that. Bumping that up to the next level is a bit more what people need.
What do you love about fall fashion? The season is coming up, and I think it’s everyone’s favorite for style.
Personally, I love the fall season because there’s so much more you can play with in terms of fabric. You’re not worried about staying cool, so you get to play with layering, especially luxurious wools and cashmeres; I also tend to enjoy the color palette more. I think this fall in particular is a super-strong season for outerwear and knitwear. I tend to live in knits, so I was excited to see that.
And I’m excited to see those designers who are really pushing the functional aspect of fashion. I always mention him, but Thomas Maier at Bottega Veneta – that’s one of the collections that always amazes me because it’s so wearable, and yet still so beautiful. I think Céline is the same way [even though] the price point is a whole separate story. And Rick Owens is in that category too – beautiful leather and knitwear pieces, totally wearable. It’s totally functional for modern living. So I think designers like that have really been exciting to watch.
What are some of your favorite fall trends that you’ve seen for this season in particular?
There’s a lot of beautiful knitwear this season – the very ‘70s-inspired sleek head-to-toe looks at Cèline, oversized chunky sweaters from The Row, and the tonal layers at Hader Ackermann. Whether it’s a flat, cable or ribbed kit, designers made it all about texture and tone this season.
Outerwear has been amazingly strong. There’s the shearling trend, obviously; the blanket coats, the capes; there’s just such a huge variety of outerwear pieces that were shown. Figure out what piece really works for you and your wardrobe; a shearling piece can easily translate from city to mountains, while, say, an oversized cape in winter white is the perfect city topper. I think everyone’s been anticipating another cold winter!
Then there are all the op-art prints in high-wattage color and graphic print. My favorites were at Dries Van Noten and cut in feminine shapes. It’s not something I would personally wear, but if it speaks to you and you can pull off this kind of a trend, all of that color and pattern will look amazing in the middle of winter.
On her personal style and the merits of a minimalist aesthetic…
[Minimalism] is a lot of what I do with my own wardrobe, and I think what I really like about it is you can always buy something that makes more of a statement, and still incorporate it into your closet. But the core of your wardrobe is really easy day-in, day-out to change up; it’s easy to travel with. I’m all about having a more pared-back and multi-functional wardrobe.
This season, are there any pieces you’re looking forward to buying?
I’d love a great mid-weight parka; I definitely am in need of something that’s more of a transitional piece. And new boots. (Laughs) Every time fall rolls around, I can always make excuses as to why I need a pair (or two or three) of boots. And again, I’ll probably invest in some more knitwear.
Those are my bigger pieces I’m looking at. More specific than that, I haven’t decided yet. I’m late – when the rest of the serious fashion people are shopping, when all the fall collections just ship, I find that I’m so busy working on photo shoots and writing online content that I have now become the late shopper (laughs).
Are there any trends you’re not so keen on, whether it’s stuff that won’t be in fashion anymore because the weather is going to get colder, or something you’ve seen for fall that you don’t think is great?
Some of it doesn’t really seem like a “trend”. Every season rolls around, and in the fashion magazines, it’s “animal prints are in, metallics are in.” And I’m like, “OK, I’ve seen metallics for the last five years.” (laughs) But I don’t think there’s anything I thought was really awful.
Although I would say that platforms and body-con dresses, if you’re still wearing those kinds of pieces, feel really off-trend for the season. Sexiness this season is more languid, like at Altuzarra.
Then finally, season-specific or not, what are your wardrobe essentials?
In my wardrobe, I definitely would say go-to’s are my jackets, whether it’s a boyfriend cut, or a classic Chanel jacket…they’re great pieces you can play with, especially if you have a really casual wardrobe. Having something tailored that you can add and instantly dress an outfit up is a great way to maximize your closet.
Even though designers are trying to get us out of our skinnies, I have a pair of skinny black wool Jason Wu pants I adore. I especially love wearing them in the evening, because sometimes a cocktail dress feels a little frumpy to me. I even have a pair of black satin palazzo pants. I’ll pair them with a T-shirt or sweater during the day, or a silk tank top for evening.
Definitely boots of all varieties – short boots, ankle boots, tall boots – I’m big on them. I love wearing my ankle boots even in the summer on those days when it’s not stinking hot. They look cool with little dresses, skirts, jeans.
My wardrobe is so particular to me. You know how fashion authorities say that everyone needs a classic white cotton shirt – well, I don’t have a classic white cotton shirt in my wardrobe and I don’t need it (laughs).
Finally I think jewelry can really define an outfit. The way you mix it is so personal. You can buy fun pieces that you have for a season or two, and then you have the really special pieces. Some of those are investment pieces that you buy; some of them have been handed down through your family. I love mixing [high-end] jewelry with costume…I have a lot of vintage jewelry from my grandmother and her sisters, so I have a lot of [pieces] from the ‘20s and ‘30s. I think jewelry is one of the most personal ways to adorn yourself; the more eclectic the better, because that’s what makes anyone’s jewelry collection cool. Of course, Goldyn carries some amazing jewelry designers like The Woods, Selin Kent and Communion by Joy.