Creative Notions: Nicole Benefield
By Nicole Benefield in conversation with Kibwe Chase-Marshall
February 14, 2022
In celebration of the exhibition Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love and Black History Month, the Kelly Initiative and the de Young paired up to invite creatives across fields to share a sketch inspired by Kelly and his designs. Here, Kibwe Chase-Marshall, cofounder of the Kelly Initiative, speaks with apparel designer Nicole Benefield about her sketch and Kelly’s legacy.
Tell us about the medium you selected to create your sketch; what informed that decision?
I start with a croquis figure. Lately I work in marker, but I learned at Parsons in gouache; since then, marker [has] changed my life. I do a “holding line” in design pencil to get that line quality. I did little croquis of the garments before I started, then I began the illustrations. I started building it that way.
Describe the garments you chose to sketch; does your sketch depict an archival Kelly piece, an evolution of one of his signature looks, or a creation that is purely of your own design?
On the left, there’s an oversize coat with a short A-line sleeve—kind of the DNA of my brand. The pants with the cutouts and covered buttons are leather. On the right, I interpreted a sweatshirt the way that I imagine Patrick would today. There’s a net overlay on top of the sweatshirt that is embellished with buttons.
Describe your relationship with the enduring legacy of Patrick Kelly; what have Mr. Kelly’s style and story meant to you?
I was probably in college when I first heard his name. For this project, I went online and did a lot of research about who he was and I was really blown away—blown away by how his story sounds so much like those of right now.
Nicole Benefield’s Parsons-honed skills factor centrally in her success as an apparel designer. Beyond single garments, she intuitively builds collections, as she has done for a series of landmark brands (LOFT, Banana Republic, Elizabeth and James). She has now stepped into the spotlight, founding her namesake brand Nicole Benefield Portfolio, which centers boldly feminine, investment outerwear. @nicolebenefield_portfolio
Kibwe Chase-Marshall cut his professional teeth as an apparel designer, working within the studios of some of 7th Avenue's most influential brands (Michael Kors, Isaac Mizrahi, Gap Inc.), before carving out a space in the editorial community as a contributing writer and market editor (Town & Country, Paper, Elle.com). Since 2018, he has diligently operated as an equity advocate, most recently cofounding the Kelly Initiative, a four-point, industry-evolving plan to increase access to opportunities for Black fashion professionals. @byanyseamnecessary
Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love is on view at the de Young museum from October 23, 2021 to April 24, 2022.