The official site for "Project Runway" Season 11 offers video, designer portfolios, Rate the Runway photos, blogs and more.
Age 35, Sydney, AUS - Out Episode 6
QDescribe your family. AFull of love and laughs; everyone has a unique personality!
QCurrent occupation? AI work creatively on so many projects, including set design, costume design and graphic design, and when I am not being paid to design for others I am working away at establishing the "NARCISSUS by Benjamin Mach" brand.
QPast jobs? AI have done almost every job under the sun in my working life - you have to do what it takes to survive, right? Most notably in my fashion and design career I have worked as a senior designer for luxury menswear brand WINTLE; I used to cut patterns and construct one-off dresses by hand for MARCHESA when they were first starting out in London; there was a brand in Madrid I used to assist the creative director on, called Roberto Torretta, which was always a fun challenge; I worked on loads of exciting projects styling and creating costumes for the BBC, Pepsi, Sir Cliff Richard and other event design in London.
QPets? AI don't have any pets now, but growing up we had many cats: Boots, Eliot, Clarence, Picola; a gorgeous dog called Razz; and when I was 5 I had two goldfish called Fish and Chips. My life is so busy and so transient now that I wouldn't be able to look after a pet properly, but I would LOVE a dog again.
QNicknames? A"Monsieur Mach" I think it came about when I used to travel between London and Paris for work. It was just an era of my life, and somehow I started being called this as a joke and it stuck. It was all a joke really, but I do like it.
QWhen did you realize you had designer potential? AI grew up in a very creative household and my Mum taught me to sew very early in life. I used to make clothes for my teddy and even got my hands on some Barbie dolls to fashion garments for. I never realized it was going to end up as my career - there was a keen interest very early on though.
QFirst garment you ever made? AI have made SO MANY! I don't think there is any evidence of the clothes I made for toys or even for myself early on, but the first piece of "couture" I made and won accolades for was a piece inspired by the Paris Metro for a college competition.
QWhat's your design training/schooling, etc.? AFour years studying fashion design at Sydney Institute of Technology - Fashion Design Studio, East Sydney Campus.
QHave you won any awards for your designs/work related to design? AIn the final year of college I won the Grand Marnier Evening Wear Award.
QStrengths as a designer? AI have a strong "inner voice" that tells me when to stop. My attention to detail has always been a strongly recognized element of my work as a designer. I have a sound knowledge and understanding of the history of fashion and how the social landscape has influenced the story of fashion over decades and, indeed, centuries. This helps in referencing the history of fashion and carrying it forward. Style is an evolution.
QWeaknesses as a designer? AMy vision can sometimes be too grandiose for the reality of the situation or environment I am in. This is not to say my designs are ostentatious; they are far from that. The weakness lies in the fact I don't always manage to really get my true vision across, because of time, material, or the quality of team I might be working with. The day will come when my vision is carried through wholly and I am surrounded by a team who are as committed to the "vision" as I am.
QWhat are your influences? AI am constantly inspired by the world around me be it the textiles flying about my studio or a person I see on the street pushing a style that resonates with me. My underlying influences always come from deep in the past though - the revolutionary approach of Madeleine Vionnet in her manipulation of textiles and Crisobal Balenciaga in his genius with silhouette and volume. There are so many more greats from the first half of the 20th century whose ground-breaking moments in fashion influence my approach to design in the 21st century.
QWhat's playing on your iPod when you're designing? ASO MUCH! Music is one of the key elements to my work process - working without it is like working with my hands cut off - impossible! Currently I'm listening to Northern Soul (Rita & The Tiaras), '70s disco (France Joli, Passion, Teena Marie), '80s pop rock (The Police), contemporary artists like HURTS, Lana Del Rey, Lianne La Havas, and most things Kris Di Angelis plays "down the club."
QFavorite material or fabric to work with? AI like to drape and use the body to give form to a dress, so fluid fabrics are best: silk chiffon, silk crepe, silk jersey. I also love to use beautiful woven cashmere to tailor a good coat, or super 180 wool suiting, which I guess is influenced by time designing menswear and working with Savile Row tailors. Leather and suede can produce amazing pieces too! Juxtaposition is key.
QItem you're most proud of designing? AWhen I designed menswear for WINTLE we were commissioned to create a one-off womenswear piece. Given my background before menswear was in womenswear, I was given the task to design and construct this piece for actress Joely Richardson to wear to a summer ball in London. It flowed beautifully yet still had a masculine edge in the design. It has been one of my highlight pieces in my career to date.
QFavorite designer(s)? AMadame Grès, Madeleine Vionnet, Cristobal Balenciaga, Elsa Schiaparelli, Valentino (the ORIGINAL), Halston (the ORIGINAL), Alexander "Lee" McQueen, Tom Ford, Yves Saint Laurent (the ORIGINAL).
QSketch or drape? AIt depends on the piece I am creating. I love to drape most of the time, but sometimes the idea just has to start from a sketch.
QPatterns or solids? AI work best with solids and creating texture using the fabric, or applying texture. If the mood takes me and the collection calls for it, I may experiment with patterns.
QFavorite colors? AI love sophisticated tones, but colour is something that is very specific to the season and the fashion climate for which I am designing, so it is not an area where I am prone to favourites. "Yves Klein Blue" will always be stunning to me.
QBiggest fear as a designer? AI try not to live with fear; it just tears you apart. Though I guess as a designer, I am creating something that comes from within me and I want people to love it, because I want to be loved as a person too...but you can't make people love you and you can't make them love your work.
QFashion must? AAn internal sense of personal style - if you have that, then anything you put together will show your personality. Aside from the practical reasons for dressing, we express ourselves with what we put on our body, so take what you have on the inside and express yourself on the outside! OR just embrace a delusional fantasy!
QFashion faux pas that drives you crazy? AIt drives me mental to see people obsessed with trends, particularly if they try to throw them all together!! Trends are there, they are unavoidable, if at times predictable...but if you are going to adopt a trend, integrate it into your own personal style. Give a nod to a trend, but don't be consumed by it.
QUgliest item of clothing/accessory you've worn? AHmmmm - well, I'd be lying if I didn't say there have been some mistakes, looking back at my fashion history. Let's hope there are no pictures!!
QFavorite style icon? AThis is always a difficult question to answer, because I can be fickle and not always loyal to one "icon." I'd like to think my favourite style icon is the woman who appreciates my design and wears it well. So, women from the past, present and future who possess a powerful elegance are my favourite style icons.
QWhat would you design for the first lady? AIt would thrill me just to meet and shake hands with the first lady, because she is a woman who possesses strength, power and elegance. If I were honoured with the task of creating a piece for Mrs. Obama, it would have to be for a special event, so a floor-length gown that captures her strength, elegance and spirit.
QCelebrity you wish you could design for? AThere are many creative artists I would love to design for, and I plan to grow my brand to a level where that becomes a reality. If I had to think of someone right now, I would say Marion Cotillard, Julianne Moore or Blake Lively, perhaps.
QFavorite supermodel muse? AThroughout every decade of her career I would have to say Carmen Dell'Orefice pure elegance!
QIf you had to name your label, you'd call it... AMy label is "NARCISSUS by Benjamin Mach."
QIf you weren't designing, you'd be... AA director of films. I am fascinated with creating "alternate worlds," so that would be the next best thing to designing collections.
QPlaces/cultures you wish you could design for? AI have traveled to so many corners of the earth, and I am still yet to see many more countries and their cultures. I'd like to think that my collections will always have something that resonates with all cultures in many different marketplaces around the world.
QDream place to set up your business? AI have worked in the fashion industry in Sydney, London, Paris and Madrid, but I am really looking forward to setting up shop in New York City. I fell in love with New York the first time I visited, and each time I have left the city felt like I left a piece of my heart.
QWebsites that feature your work? Anarcissuswoman.com, benjaminmach.com
QHow were you described as a kid? AI was a sweet kid. I got teased a bit for being different sometimes, but I generally was happy and got along with everyone. Usually pretty cheeky and quite gregarious!
QHow are you described by your family and friends? AI am surrounded by so many wonderful family and friends who are all so supportive. They would definitely say I am determined to realize my dreams.
QWhy do you think you're easy to live with? AI am easy to live with because I have a common respect for others around me and I am reasonable. However, if I am faced with someone, or a situation, that I feel is unreasonable, as hard as I try, that reasonable and calm demeanor can be swept away and I can become stubborn and really speak my mind. Most of the time I feel justified in doing so. I can be wrong too, though.
QFavorite hangout? AIn summer, the beach (although not for the past eight years living in London!!) or the park. I like hanging out at street cafes and watching the world go by. That is something you can do in any city you are in, and you see so much!
QHobbies? AI love to make things. At the moment I am making little bits of jewellery to sell through my Etsy online shop, NARCISSUSwoman.
QFavorite movies and TV shows? AI become easily addicted to TV series. At the moment I am hooked on "Homeland," "Revenge," "The Good Wife" and "2 Broke Girls," and I LOVE watching Chelsea Lately, she's one funny b****. I love so many films, there are too many to list! All-time favourites would include "Blade Runner," "The Eyes of Laura Mars," "Xanadu," "The Wiz," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "The Breakfast Club" - there are too many!
QFavorite books/authors? AI recently read Rupert Everett's autobiography; he is a brilliant storyteller. I like to read fiction books, but I am intrigued by true stories too. I have been flipping the pages of "The Beautiful Fall" during the past three years of summer vacations. Perhaps I'll get to finish it on my next vacation.
QFavorite websites? AEtsy.com because it supports creative people in getting their work out there. It's like the local market stall for the 21st century. Wikipedia.com because where else do you go to find out EVERYTHING! narcissuswoman.com because it is a labor of love and a work in progress!
QYour Twitter handle? A@Benjamin_Mach and my brand @NARCISSUSwoman
QFavorite Twitter accounts? A@ManRepeller @BoF @andersoncooper @ninagarcia @tomandlorenzo @TOMENYC @Zac_Posen @FivestoryNY @JocetteCoote
QiPhone/Android/Blackberry? AWho cares?
QFast food or gourmet? AI like to eat healthy and I do appreciate the finer things, but I love a good burger and fries washed down with a salted-caramel milkshake! YUM!
QCooking or takeout? AI actually prefer to cook when I have the time. I'm a good cook, and I like to throw some music on, pour a glass of wine and dance around the kitchen whilst I cook up a storm!
QFavorite foods? AVeal Milanese has been without doubt my favourite meal since I was a kid. I also really love Vietnamese food, Thai curries, and I can always go a spicy Malaysian laksa.
QBeer or wine? AIt depends on my mood, where I am, what I am eating...but it would be a good red wine or an ice-cold lager.
QGuiltiest pleasure? AWhat?...with food...or music...or TV...or trashy magazines?...Let's stick with food on this occasion. There is this pear and ginger tart my mum has made for me since I was a kid, and I LOVE it. It's been so long since I have had it that when I next see one of these tarts I will sit and eat the whole thing in one go...and then I'll feel not only guilty, but probably quite sick.
QBiggest pet peeve? APeople who are passive-aggressive - LEARN TO COMMUNICATE!
QHow did you end up auditioning for PR? AA few years ago an email came across my desk at a design studio I was working in, broadcasting that auditions were open. I applied, but I was not so serious about it, and in the end I didn.t even make it onto the "Project Runway" radar. Fast-forward a couple of years and I decided to look into it again. I made my video and sent my application the day it was due, and within 20 minutes of emailing I had a response. Before I knew it, I was flying to L.A. for an audition!
QFavorite past PR designer? AMondo is a super sweet guy, and I really like him for that quality!
QChallenge you wish they'd bring back? AAs long as it embraces sophistication I'm up for anything! This is "Project Runway," though...anything could be thrown at us!
QChallenge you hope they don't? AI really don't want to find myself creating something out of trash!
QYour take on team challenges: AIn the context of "Project Runway," I don't love the team challenges. Well, actually, who am I kidding, they are the most entertaining challenges to watch, because someone is bound to lose the plot! To be a part of them, though, I think I would see it differently . it's really important to be able to work as part of a team in any industry, and in the fashion industry, everything you see coming down the runway has been made possible by a team, but with one visionary leading the way. This is where it becomes a problem on "Project Runway," because the team is made up of ALL Visionaries. Let the games begin!
QWhat do you look for in a model? AI create high-fashion looks and red-carpet pieces, so when it comes to casting models, I like strong facial features but fresh faces. European models are always good, but I am really keen to meet some great American models too! For a runway, as a designer you are creating a moment or telling a story, and I like the girls to possess an unconventional beauty and be striking with height - and, most important, to be a healthy weight! There is nothing more distracting than girls who are too skinny. I am creating a fashion moment, but I want to project a positive image for all women too.
QDo you think you can win "Project Runway"? AFor me the winner of "Project Runway" is n't the person who walks away with the money prize in the final episode. The winner is the person who has longevity in the international fashion industry and is also embraced by the international fashion community over seasons to come. I have been designing for other brands for a long time, and I have gained experience on so many levels in my career that I feel as though I have the talent and skills to be a brilliant winner for "Project Runway." My end goal is to establish myself as a celebrated designer in the real world, whatever the outcome of the competition. I'm living life to win.