I couldn’t wait to meet Ross Bennett of NBC’s Fashion Star at the UT Club’s special viewing of the show’s fifth episode last night. We talked on the phone last week, and he is personable and enthusiastic. Face-to-face, he doesn’t disappoint.
Ross greeted folks with a genuine charm, while his wife Erin sported a pair of the pink shorts (available at Macy’s) that put Ross in the winners circle during the show’s third week. He had another hit last night with a double-breasted cropped vest, also available at Macy’s.
Austin Chronicle fashion columnist Stephen MacMillan Moser and his date Jacki-OH (Jaqlyn Havlak) of 101X and The Art Department made an appearance. Stephen previously wrote a sharp critique of Ross’ ill-fitting slacks that didn’t impress Fashion Star judges, prompting the response “I have to face Ross sometime ;)” when he responded to the event invitation. Clearly there were no hard feelings, as the two hugged and chatted at the viewing.
Ross agreed to a video interview with me this weekend, but I just couldn’t wait that long to share some insights into this local rising star. So, here’s a short Q&A to get the party started.
TW: How did you hear about Fashion Star auditions and what was the process for becoming a Fashion Star contestant?
RB: I was actually recruited to be a part of the show… They found me from some other local (Dallas) things I did a couple years ago…. I did an entire organic collection for the State Fair of Texas and that is how they found me!
After that I had to go through a couple of intense interviews in Dallas and LA, but after that it was smooth sailing, a lot of fun, and something that has seriously changed my life for the better!
TW: Your first big score was a $120,000 bid from Macy’s for your Spring shorts collection. How many garments did Macy’s purchase and how did you get them to market?
RB: This question I really cannot answer at this moment, but I know they have sold out at least once and keep posting more to the site for ordering. Macy’s bought the patterns and then they take care of manufacturing and distribution. We shot the show last summer so that all the manufacturing could be handled and ready for the stores and more importantly, the viewers!
TW: How has life changed for you since Fashion Star first aired?
RB: Well my social network has increased well over 1000 followers on both FB and Twitter, my email box is full of people wanting to order pieces…. It’s been a lot of fun, but things (I hope) are only getting started. More and more people are contacting me for pieces, and shortly I am going to have to hire more stitchers.
TW: Austin isn’t a fashion mecca– yet! Do you plan to stay here or is there a move on the horizon?
RB: I plan on staying here! I want this city to start getting into fashion. I know about 5-10% of the population is interested in fashion, its just getting people to know who I am and how I can help not only create pieces for them, but educate them on how garments are supposed to fit and look for the right event (very similar to styling but I also create the garment). I always ask what they will be accessorizing the piece with. There are so many people here in Texas that want and love the style of fashion I create. Hopefully with the exposure I am currently receiving, my business will only get busier and busier.
TW: As a stylist, I tell my clients that store-bought clothing is rarely “ready-to-wear.” You have a special interest in custom clothing for women, which isn’t on the fashion radar. Why do you think custom clothing for women isn’t as popular as it is for men and do you see the market changing?
RB: I just feel that women, especially here in Austin, haven’t had the experience of knowing where to get custom clothing made. It’s a whole experience that I feel women would love to be a part of if they just knew where to get the right garments. Here at Ross Bennett, we do just that.
TW: You are a UT graduate and speak highly of your mentors. If you were mentoring aspiring designers, what is the most valuable piece of advice you’d pass on to them?
RB: Never ever give up, and never let anyone tell you cannot do anything. Trust me over the past 10 years I have had a lot of ups and downs in this business, but I am so passionate about what I do and what I stand for, I wake up everyday knowing I am doing something I truly love. Every day I strive to be a better person in my field of business, and by staying ahead of the game and constantly educating oneself in life, you will break through to the other side and see your passions and dreams become a reality. I am a living example of that happening right now.
I always say: “Getting things done, 1 stitch at a time.” That is really true to all life- take your time and do things carefully and precisely. You will go a long way.
TW: Where can we see and buy your collections locally?
RB: At this current moment clients have to contact me personally for custom pieces, but hopefully here in the near future, I will again have a dress shop downtown with a small limited line in store along with my passion- custom fashion for the sophisticated lady.
You can contact Ross Bennett directly through his web site at www.therossbennettcollection.com. Stay tuned for the video interview next week!Thea Wood Austin’s Signature Stylist www.theawood.com