Austin fashion designer Ross Bennett loves dressing women and doesn’t waste time. Ross himself is put together with impeccable taste paired with a southern charm and wit that he employs in discovering what each woman he dresses truly desires for herself.
Spending time with Ross, one gains a unique perspective on fashion and design. Our photo shoot with Ross was a stroll down one of his favorite style eras: the 1930s and ’40s, which Ross calls “dark and dapper.”
AFM: What is the inspiration for your latest collection?
RB: Along with custom work, I am designing a collection for Fall/Resort that will debut this March. The inspiration for the collection is inspired by a dark and dapper movement. I am inspired by Boardwalk Empire and the whole idea of Speakeasies. The ’30s and ’40s were romantic but with gangsters and gun-slinging. Yet the fashion was beautifully classic, tailored, and elegant. The collection will be made-to-order and offered on the Ross Bennett Collection website.
After the Fall/Resort collection launches, I am doing a bridal collection with the magazine The Knot for an event called I.Thee.Wed. After that, I may go to Charleston for their Fashion Week to do a bridal collection as well.
AFM: Can you take me through the process of getting a custom-made piece from you?
RB: Let’s take a cocktail gown for example. First I will ask a client what event they are going to. A lot of the times, most of my clients are in the same situation. They are in Junior League or are going to a charity event where they need to look respectful and conservative but still want to have a sexy and elegant look to them. My clients are 100 percent involved in the dress making process, from conception to fabric selection. I request 3-5 pictures of dresses they love and just as many styles they hate. Why do I ask for something they hate? Nine times out of ten, people say they hate something because they are jealous of it. Subconsciously, they wish they could wear a low back or a sweetheart neckline. I try to take all those elements and incorporate them into 3-7 dress sketches that I present to the client. I know women and it is neat to coach them through the dress designing process. After a style is chosen, we move onto fabric selection and fittings. Each garment has a personalized tag on the inside with my client’s name and date.
AFM: You mentioned a bridal collection earlier. Is that something you do a lot of?
RB: My wife, Erin, has always wanted me to do bridal. She loves weddings. Weddings are a different kind of thing; wedding gowns are all about perfection. A wedding dress isn’t just a dress that someone is going to wear to a party, it is a dress that a woman will wear at her event. It can be challenging to read brides’ minds because brides are so particular on what they want. However, I really enjoy designing bridal gowns because you get to see women feel so happy and comfortable entrusting you to make their dress. Yeah, it’s a lot of pressure, but I like [it]; It just causes me to get better at what I do.
AFM: What keeps you going through the tribulations of being a growing small business?
RB: I have a passion for what I do. I do it everyday because I love putting my blood, sweat, and tears into making women feel beautiful. Recently, a bride came by my studio with a vintage gown she thought needed to be re-worked to fit her. Turns out, it fit her like a glove. We consulted on the style of her shoes and accessories. When it came time to pay for my time, I told her that she didn’t owe me anything and that all I could ask was for a smile and a referral to her girlfriends. I loved seeing that smile on her face because I know she’s thinking “that was awesome”.
AFM: What’s in store for RBC in 2012?
RB: A lot is happening in 2012, but at this moment I can’t discuss details. In a week or two, my answer could be a lot longer. I know a lot will be in the public eye in terms of my brand and image. I’m a South Texas guy who loves to hunt, wear bow ties, and design women’s clothes. My goal for the next year is to raise half a million to a million dollars in funding. There are a few buildings on South Congress that I want. I am inspired to build my business like the Brooks Brothers. Brooks Brothers started as one store in Oxford that made everything custom. As they started to expand and grow, they opened private stores everywhere. They have always been private label, and to this date, ninety percent of their suits are still made in Oxford. It’s a beautiful thing.
With the March 2012 debut of the made-to-order Fall/Resort Ross Bennett Collection and a slew of bridal shows, we are excited to see one of our favorite local designers grow in Texas and beyond.
Written by Chonie Bradley (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Images by Sheeanna Singer