Benny Cas­tles

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - THE GRILL -

Pho­to­graph by Stephen Til­ley / Words by Britt Mann “Naked peo­ple have lit­tle or no in­flu­ence on so­ci­ety. Clothes maketh the man.”

Benny Cas­tles is quot­ing Mark Twain, but is him­self well-qual­i­fied to com­ment on the topic. Born and bred in Auck­land, Cas­tles learnt the fash­ion busi­ness from the bot­tom up, work­ing at World’s menswear store in High St af­ter high school, even­tu­ally be­com­ing a de­signer and direc­tor for the iconic Kiwi la­bel. In pub­lic, he’s known for his bright trousers, waist­coats, jack­ets, and ac­ces­sories: bow tie, a hat, and specs to match. It makes him­self feel like him­self, he says. At home, he’s par­tial to a track­suit. “I en­joy the couch. I en­joy not only the love and the em­brace of the couch, but be­com­ing one with the couch. That’s not some­thing I’m ashamed of.”

Back to fash­ion. I’d asked Cas­tles, 34 – step­fa­ther of two and judge on Pro­ject Run­way New Zea­land – a lin­ger­ing ex­is­ten­tial ques­tion of the mod­ern era: what is the point of it?

He says clothes should of­fer us some­thing – he lists con­fi­dence, com­fort, el­e­gance, and fun as ex­am­ples.

“There’s noth­ing in fash­ion that any­one ‘needs’ in a hunter­gath­erer sense. But in the same way we can’t re­ally live with­out the Eif­fel Tower or the Mona Lisa, we can’t live with­out a way of ac­tu­ally rep­re­sent­ing who we are as in­di­vid­u­als.

“Where I think peo­ple get con­fused with this con­ver­sa­tion is they think that means you have to spend a lot of money or you need to give it huge amounts of thought, and that’s not the case. The guy who picks out the shirt at the top of his drawer and a pair of Stub­bies is rep­re­sent­ing him­self. And he is dress­ing him­self to feel com­fort­able…”

Cas­tles is not com­fort­able in Stub­bies and a T-shirt. But, he says: “It doesn’t mean that me and this other gen­tle­man won’t get on like a house on fire.”

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Pro­ject Run­way New Zea­land pre­mieres to­mor­row at 7.30pm on TVNZ 2.

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