Paul Bench is the new boy on the menswear block. The young British designer gravitated from his native Warwickshire, via Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication, to London, where he currently resides.
The 28 year old (who formerly worked for Giles Deacon, in tandem with his college studies) showed his debut men’s collection for spring/summer 2011 during London Fashion Week, pleasing even the most seen-it-all-before industry bods in the process. A tightly edited array of pieces merged a quiet sense of confidence and craft, resulting in a youthful collection punctuated by concealed fastenings, nifty box pleats and hand-painted U-shaped stripes – fashioned by his own deft mitts – that conjured-up a kind of 60s-yet-modern mood of teens-from-outer-space beamed down to contemporary London. Bench describes his aesthetic as being, “Boyish, neat, slim, clean and fun.” Indeed, not for him the “grand or florid gesture,” but instead, “balanced colours and a boyish silhouette” were steadfastly honed to create consistency and simplicity.” I think the crisp neatness of this suggested the masculinity I was after in an oblique way,” he explains. “I am interested in a masculinity that is more subtle than a posturing, exaggerated version of maleness, which is perhaps why I wanted my imaginary muse to have a pissed off teenager menace juxtaposed with an odd 60s playful space-age feel in a tall slim build.” Bench’s show and collection succeeded – as with many menswear designers – in suggesting some sort of stylised gang, clad in its own special dress codes; something the designer became aware of while toiling in his studio: “In a terribly selfish way I design for an exaggerated and single element of myself, because I think it can be a purer vision,” he concludes. “But as the collection developed it felt more and more like a uniform – without those military clichés. It began to feel like I was creating a group rather than individuals…” A group whose membership will, no doubt, soon be growing.