Spotlight: Benny Castles, WORLD Director & Designer

Benny Castles is a busy man. The Project Runway NZ judge steers the iconic NZ brand WORLD through multiple menswear & womenswear collections every year, each covering all bases from tailoring to tees to eveningwear, accessories and everything in between. We caught up with Benny at a recent Asset Factory photoshoot and got his thoughts on finding inspiration, retaining enthusiastic retail staff and creating a diverse in-store customer experience.

WORLD founder Francis Hooper (L) & WORLD Director & Designer Benny Castles (R) put the finishing touches to an outfit.

WORLD founder Francis Hooper (L) & WORLD Director & Designer Benny Castles (R) put the finishing touches to an outfit.

One of the Asset Factory team had a sneaky recent shopping experience in store that was second to none. How do you go about consistently finding and retaining retail staff that are such enthusiastic ambassadors of the WORLD brand?
We are very lucky to have such a remarkable team of passionate people, they are such an important part of our culture and personality of the brand - so for us it is about endeavouring to find the right people and nurture their skills and characteristics.

We have never followed fashions or trends so have never had to worry about the business of keeping up - We fought fashion and lost...
— Benny Castles, WORLD

World was established back in 1989, so after all this time, what would have made the journey smoother?
Any business that knows nothing could smooth the journey - it is the journey, not the destination, that it is all about.

What are some of the key factors or events that have lead to World’s longevity as a business?
Remaining ambivalent to the world around us making sure our offering is passionately, designed, created or discovered.

Tell us about the next collection to be released, what are the key themes and inspiration behind the range?
TWO WRONGS DON'T MAKE A RIGHT

(Or do they...) A clash of pattern, texture and formality. This collection is play on bold and curious patterns mixing, melting and misshaping the silhouette. With a nod to the 60's the prints and textures combine across effortlessly elegant essentials to build a dress-up wardrobe that is with ease and comfortability.

For a bold creative aesthetic like WORLD’s, you’re constantly evolving but you have a loyal group of fans that have spanned WORLD’s entire existence. How do you balance having a strong core identity with adapting your look season to season with fashion?
Growing up with the customer and reflecting their character is an important part of evolution in a brand - but so is staying true to your tastes and opinions. We have never followed fashions or trends so have never had to worry about the business of keeping up - We fought fashion and lost...

Product diversification is never an easy task within retail, tell us about establishing the fragrance lines years back, alongside your fashion lines, and what factors lead to the success of this newer area of the business?
WORLD has always been what is loosely termed a Concept store, not just a fashion label, so the growth of certain aspects within the retail mix is something we felt passionate about and evolved in that direction naturally. We simply grew an area of the business that we found fascinating and tried to further our customers experience and enjoyment of the brands we were excited to discover. We appreciate that not everyone loves every aspect of what we do, so we try and create an environment and collection of products that are inclusive, helping us excite the widest group of people possible.

How do you get inspiration?
Our team and the people around us are always the most inspiring, how are ideas are taken by the team and enjoyed beyond what we thought possible is so much fun to experience. Seeing how customers enjoy the product and where different ideas fit in their life is always fascinating and inspiring!

When there’s a business crisis, what are the best strategies for restoring calm and working through it?
Communication - business is constant crisis and manufacturing as well as retail throws up many a challenge so we try to communicate and work with those around us to find solutions and partnership.

How has the NZ fashion industry changed? Give us your thoughts on where you see the future of NZ fashion.
The industry has changed and evolved in too many ways to list - but still it is an artisanal collection of the designers, creators, manufactures all endeavouring to do something special that someone else loves enough to purchase. People have no idea of how niche and special a New Zealand made garment or product is and how strenuous it is to create, it takes passion and that is the industry’s defining characteristic which has and will never change.

What advice do you have for anyone starting their own clothing line?
Be true to your passions but make sure to offer the customer something special in terms of product and experience, fashion is not the item - it is the feeling derived from the experience of wearing and enjoying the item.

Tell us about your experience working with Asset factory!
Easy peasy! Asset Factory have been integral in maintaining our online and digital connection with customers by making the creation of content and high quality imagery of garments an easy, quick and pain free experience. An instant combination of the creative and functional part of our output, making sure we are keeping up with online standards whilst also having fun!

worldbrand.co.nz

People have no idea of how niche and special a New Zealand made garment or product is and how strenuous it is to create, it takes passion and that is the industry’s defining characteristic which has and will never change.
— Benny Castles on the NZ Fashion industry
Sam Clode