Sunday 25 September 2016

Style democrat: Debenhams star Ben de Lisi

Ben de Lisi is unequivocal about sizing - he wants women of all shapes, and heights, to look good, writes our fashion editor, who spoke to the Debenhams star about his designing ways

Published 24/01/2016 | 02:30

Principles by Ben De Lisi grey and black print jumpsuit, €67.50
Principles by Ben De Lisi grey and black print jumpsuit, €67.50
Principles by Ben De Lisi monochrome coat and with black collar and belt, €148.50
Betty Jackson Black magnolia floral print shirt, €67.50, and trousers, €63
Giles Edition blue leather jacket, €266.50, and skirt, €225.
Jasper Conran blue and white geo coat, €118.50.
Principles by Ben De Lisi zig zag dress, €90, all available from Debenhams stores nationwide and debenhams.ie
Ben de Lisi

'The ethos for my collection is that I've never met a woman alive that's happy with what she's got," declares Mr de Lisi with characteristic frankness.

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This is the man behind Kate Winslet's much loved one-shouldered red gown from the 2002 Oscars; still a red carpet favourite 14 years later. Having made the deliberate move away from high-end glamour to the cut and thrust of the high street, Ben's philosophy is to be: "not over done, at an affordable price and with good quality."

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The London-based New Yorker (pictured above) first came on our radar at Debenhams designing an occasion wear diffusion line, BDL, in the late 1990s. When the store invited him to design a new Principles line for it, he breathed life into a tired brand and it has turned into a major success story.

Originally inspired by Michelle Obama's modus operandi of mixing high street with designer pieces, Ben has established a sense of his 'woman' and the latest spring/summer 2016 pieces in his 'Principles by Ben de Lisi' collection are made in sizes 8-20 for maximum customer reach. He has also introduced a range for women of smaller stature and they too go up into double digit sizes.

"I try and be creative and do a beautiful collection which is quite timely and current. It references trends but it's not a victim to what's happening in the market.

"I think my customer, she is more about style than about trends. She is very savvy, she knows herself, she knows her body and she doesn't need her husband to go shopping. She makes her own decisions and I take that information and build it into a collection.

"If I do a dress with a strap, the strap is big enough to cover a bra. If I do a dress with a sleeve, it has to have a young approach to a dress with a sleeve because sometimes when you do dresses with sleeves, they become dowdy.

"I'm never frightened of colour because 'she' is not frightened of colour. I'm not sizeist so I cut from size eight to 20 because large women should look stylish as well.

"And that's also why we have a petite range because women of a shorter stature should have clothes that are proportionately cut to fit their bodies, not just something that is cut at the hem and shortened."

Ben says there are so many women that are of a diminutive height and need a collection proportionally suited to their body type with key measurement zones factored in, from waist to the hip and from hip to the knee. "It's all about her, I'm basically driven by my customer and as a business man, that is a savvy way to approach it," says Ben who has does a homewares range for Debenhams, many pieces featuring an image of his beloved French bulldog, Ella.

Interestingly, when Ben was asked by the British health authorities to pick a project he wanted to redesign, he chose the hospital gown. But that's typical Ben - an advocate for making everyday life that little bit more stylish no matter what size you are.

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