Little Red Village with Benson Roberts

Little Red Village Season 2 Ep. 8 with guest Benson Roberts.


Season 2 Ep. 8

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Rachel Elspeth Gross (Host)

Jonathan Joseph (Host)

Benson Roberts (Guest)


Rachel Elspeth Gross  00:00

Benson Roberts is a fashion designer and entrepreneur who has been working in the apparel industry for almost 40 years. His work is celebrated, awarded and has been seen on the covers of magazines on fancy red carpets, on musicians who are household names. He founded the Detroit Fabric Company does beautiful custom design work, teaches apparel design at the collegiate level. He also co hosts the podcast advanced fashion disruption with Megan Somerville, a past guest here and one of little reds favorite humans. Together, they are working to make fashion better. And Benson has a lot of lessons to teach some truly valuable stories to share that we can all learn from. I don't know that I've ever had a friend as generous as joyfully giving as Benson is. The fashion industry has a reputation for being cruel, harsh, mean spirited, and unfortunately, in this industry we love there are a lot of examples of people and companies doing dirty deeds or taking advantage of others, not to mention any of the unpleasant things that really aren't the focus of the series or appropriate for it. But Benson, whose heart must be compared only two things which are majestic and pure, has dedicated his career to being the antithesis of all of these bad actors and destructive forces. Benson has overcome obstacles which would have devastated anyone. But no matter what challenge he is faced with, he has this wonderful constant presumption that he can make a difference, that his work will change the world for the better. And then he does the really hard work. There are many things about my dear friend Benson, which make him a joy to behold and a constant source of inspiration. having a conversation with him. Feels like the sun shining for you specifically. And today, you'd like to share that spot in the sunshine with you.


Jonathan Joseph  02:18

Oh, hello, everyone. Welcome to today's saucy episode of The Little Red Village podcast. I am your fearless leader Jonathan Joseph joined by my comrade in arms Rachel Elspeth Gross and our amazing saucy guest today, Benson. Hi Benson.


Benson Roberts  02:31

Hey, how are you guys doing? Good to meet you both.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  02:33

We are so thrilled to have you here today. We really love getting to talk to people who have interesting experiences, and you've got so much information your career has covered so much. You're a designer, you're a teacher, you're an educator, you're an advocate, now you have a podcast, you're doing some really important criticism and conversational work. What do you think your job is? How would you how would you label yourself,


Benson Roberts  02:56

I am most loved and hated man in fashion. That should be my official label, and it should go on my business card. I'm primarily a designer, and a creative director, and an apparel manufacturer. Those are the things that I've always done. In the last decade, I've added titles to my resume, I am a fabric converter, I am a jobber or I am a sourcing agent. I teach at university, the podcasts are critical critiques and also education. They come off sometimes it's very fighting and very acidic. But that's I'm from Detroit. And we are straight shooters. I grew up I grew up here in the 60s 70s 80s. And foolishness was was a death wish that we learned to communicate clearly and succinctly and bluntly and we tell it the way it is, and some people don't care for that. So I don't want to say I'm a critic, I am making critical critique and we are also educating.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  03:58

Absolutely, I think that, you know, that is an important distinction. When I look at the industry and this industry, you know, the three of us love the people who listen to us talk about it love, right? I do feel like there's an absence of critique. And I think that what you're providing, I don't know, I grew up in Los Angeles. I went to college in Chicago, I you know, direct communication has always made the most sense to me. I've never been good at pretending or making it sound fluffy, so I completely understand.


Jonathan Joseph  04:28

Yeah, my mother's in New Yorker. So you get one flavor. It's direct very, I was just gonna say, you know, typically when I have an opinion it barrels at you like a train and if you're in the way of it and not prepared, it may knock you over. And that's not to say that you didn't get a little to toot on the horn as it was coming.


Benson Roberts  04:43

That describes the New Yorker perfectly and I will tell you back in the 80s when New Yorkers would find out that I was from Detroit New Yorkers would step back. So Detroiter have a pretty intense vibe and we're very forward.


Jonathan Joseph  05:02

I like it. I like it the New Yorker. It's like Namaste. You know, like The New Yorker, in you, and or the New York and other cities. I love directness and I think in fashion to the point, you know, there's so much hype. Everyone wants to be everyone else's hype man. Or just to you know, this collection is great. Every collection is great, great, great, great. And then by the time you've done all the terms are diluted and overused.


Benson Roberts  05:24

You need critical thinking. And Fern Mallis has very clearly stated that Project Runway, with a Project Runway of vacation of fashion has been detrimental even. And you add to that social media platform where somebody can put up an ill conceived garment that's poorly sewn with threads hanging and no hands, and all of their friends, tell them just how amazing they are. And that is problematic. Because when a person actually thinks that they have it all really going on, they never worked to better themselves. I've been doing this for 30 something years professionally, and I will learn until the day I die, which is what keeps me engaged with fashion.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  06:07

Jonathan, and I completely identify with that we are both autodidactic type people, I think anybody who is a creative person wholike can live that way, you know, needs to and I mean, I guess this relates back to the computational saying, like I prefer my favorite humans are the ones that will stand up to me and tell me when I'm wrong, because I don't want to be just told, you know, yes, that's great. And I would like our industry to be willing to hear that maybe things aren't perfect. Always.


Jonathan Joseph  06:37

Absolutely I don't like yes, people and I don't like no people. What I like, is why people, let's talk about why.


Benson Roberts  06:44

I will tell you, in my business, I am very often on purpose, the no person. And it's very frustrating to potential clients. And it's very frustrating to my staff who often have good ideas. And I finally figured out how to tell them why I am the no person. I said, we're all legit, all of these ideas are like balloons, and I am going to shoot everyone until we find the one or a dozen that do not come down when I shoot them. Those are the ones for us to pursue. So saying no is just extreme critical thinking, I've done this so long. You don't want to put a boat in the ocean that is going to say, I don't want to invest my time or energy into a project that is going to stink. And if I can find a reason that it won't work, we need to find it now. let the client know that they need to make these changes. Because until we know why it won't work, I can't I can't educate the client to understand the changes that could help him. And then sometimes quite honestly, people who have fallen in love with their genius ideas. It's just never going to work. It's just not. Right, you're gonna have to find somebody who doesn't have a system that allows them to take money for something that they know, never market never sell. Like Who the heck are you going to sell a three cup bra to? I mean, honestly, maybe you've met one woman in your life insert. There's just not i All right. This is how you would do that. So when I'm a no man, it's on purpose. And it's just critical thinking which I love New Yorkers and Chicagoans for. I lived in Texas. That's where I met Megan Somerville, my podcast collaborator and Texas. Texas is so sweet and so polite, they are not nearly as horrible as their legislature is they're actually pretty, pretty decent living let live, at least in central and western Texas, eastern Texas gets a little more Alabama and Louisiana vibe to it. But even even they've come a long way. But Texans are not critical thinkers, they are emotional thinkers, they will tell you that something feels wrong, or that doesn't feel like it will work. And they literally they express their thoughts as feelings. And so I had to learn to navigate emotional thinking. You know, I remember a certain council meeting when we were trying to pass an act to allow us to make a Fashion Incubator in Austin Fashion Incubator, which we finally succeeded with and God wanted to have the turn of like 130,000,000 and one of the counts I was presenting basic numbers, just basic numbers. This this is this and she still doesn't feel good. And you know that it trainer me wanted to. I took a deep breath, whack a mole, I took very deep breath and installed all of my Texas politeness child chips and said, Ma'am, I know it. It doesn't feel good. It feels so bad, in fact that I stayed up last night crunching numbers so I could find a number that would help us all to feel better. And that that allowed her to receive the information but like the Detroiter in me bristled at that.


Jonathan Joseph  09:55

This is a vital creative skill we're really talking about you know as a podcast focused on really like actionable things for our listeners, I think teaching children and finding ways to show them how to navigate creatively, because fashion is such an inherently collaborative field period at any point in its existence, the cultivation of the skill of being able to do exactly what you did in Texas, where you said, Okay, I feel this way. But also we're in this environment and I have to do this this way to get to the end result, which is the goal, even if the steps there, as we've said many times before, Rachel, you know, isn't linear, and it doesn't, and that's a an inner know, example of that.


Benson Roberts  10:35

I tell students at university, that the most important thing that they will have, in their arsenal, the most important fiscal tool, they will have the most important currency is not money. It is relationships. And the nature of a relationship is that two people or three people, or 10, people, or, or 3 billion people have to be able to and willing to relate to each other. I think that all of us believe that our experience of reality is the experience of reality. And I have come to realize that even in my closest friendships and my marriage, each of those two people in those relationships is actually having an entirely different experience. And it doesn't mean that either one of those experiences is not valid and worthwhile. But they are two different relationships happening. And when you're really lucky, and in sync, you get to these areas where there's things that are common and similar, actually overlap. So you're having the same relationship, differently shaded, but you're on the same page for a while. But then they rotate out and, and divorced and then breaking up and friends, having fights. All of that is about people not being able to relate in those moments, where the synchronicity is off you know, black folks say I wish that all of the beige folks would listen to that and take that seriously. You do you, boo, you do you that's permission, you go ahead and be you right now I'm not getting you. I'm not agreeing with you. And in fact, you're making me angry. But I'm going to allow for you to be you right now. And I'm gonna go do me. And we'll get back together later.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  12:09

When I was in fashion design school, I had for my draping and my pattern design teacher was both the same woman and she had been a pattern designer for Issey Miyake. And so she was the exacting in a way that I had never experienced. Both of my parents are college professors, I've always gotten along with my teachers, but this particular woman, lovely human being was hated by the department because she did not give A's, it did not happen, you could not get an A in her class, I got a B plus, because I showed up to every single class. And I kind of like your story about meeting in the middle in Texas, I had respect for her. And so I did it her way. And I will always be able to drink because of this right? Like I will always be able to, you know, I know my own body well enough, my dress form matches my body, like I can create something because that's because I was willing to compromise like you are willing to compromise. And that's something I don't see enough in our industry.


Benson Roberts  13:11

You know, we need to all meet an intersection and have have have a white, a white wine together or some chocolate milk get and sit down and really get to know each other and find out what we have in common. And then celebrate what we don't have in common. It's okay that you do things very differently. How interesting how textured that makes the world but you happen to hit on Rachel, one of my heaps about academia. I despise teachers who are known and who are who pride themselves in never giving the A, they are terrorists of creativity. I tell my students on day one, look, I will never be obsessed with your grades and your letters and your numbers. I'm going to give you a choice today. I hope that you pick the one that is most beneficial to you. Do you want me to teach you like we're all sponges that are expected to absorb everything I say and then vomited back out and the way that I formatted for you? Or did you actually want to learn and of course, all of the kids are very happy to learn. So I tell them all if you have an A right now, every single one of you has an A, your job this semester is not to jump through hoops to please me its to do the work and show up enough to keep the A and a University told me that. I don't know. I don't know if you can do that. Because I mean, that triangle and the height and the blah, blah, say that a certain amount will pay off at a certain size. And I said okay, I'm gonna stop you. You all hired me in here because of my experience in the fashion world. I have 30 years experience. You've decided that while I do not have a degree from any institution that my 30 years the fact that I've developed textiles, the fact that I've written published papers, the fact that I've done every potential job that makes me better than a doctor. I have 30 years real experience 40 actually so what I'm going to tell you is is that if you worked for me, and my factory as a trainer, and you came to me told me that 10% of my people are going to fail, 10% of the people that you're teaching, are going to be able to sew squares, if I'm lucky, maybe they should be less to cut things out, 20% of the people will be able toem h a tablecloth, and only 5% of the people will be able to do the job that I need them to do, I would fire you, your job is to teach, no one is a failure to us. No one should be tormented into trauma, to get the B+, that should have been. Putting that kind of tension on a student makes them perform better. But this is not physics. This is not engineering. This is a creative process. Even quantifying a creative process to give it a degree in the first place is bizarre to me. Under that kind of stress, it does not help them. They get ulcers, they quit the program, they leave the program, they don't learn, they become so obsessed with trying to raise their number and raise their letter that they stop learning. Although your case your secret, you'd never have forgotten.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  16:15

Well, I think, like I said masochism, no and my parents are I grew up in academic background. And I have I was supposed to have a PhD by the time I was 25. I've never, ever, ever, ever I am very anti academia. I don't know I just kind of identify what you're saying. One of the things that I think is really important is that there does not have to be a loser and a winner that in this industry in any place anytime and Jonathan and I come back to this point like all the time, that if by working together me and brand A both do well. And then because me and brand A are working together brands C, B and D get business and then the whole community can be uplifted. Who loses Why does there have to be a loser? I don't understand that.


Benson Roberts  17:03

That thing odd. And what is the patriarchal society? And the basis the patriarchy is competition. Folks often ask me why I consider myself feminine? Do I think women are better? I said no, actually, feminist is for everybody. But the feminine principle is cooperation. And when you have a cooperative society or operative culture, nobody loses. Because everyone is given a hand when they need it. Everyone works equally hard. Everyone is equally valued. And you don't have the adrenaline driving you to be the winner. Because when there's a winner, that means that there are a lot of people who are not the winner. And that's unfortunate. It's unfortunate. Yeah.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  17:44

I hate that, it seems unnecessary.


Benson Roberts  17:48

To restore matriarchy or fraternity where we all get to be equal and seen as equal and we're cooperation is the standby not the exception.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  17:58

We always want to know Benson Do you have like a first fashion memory like the first time you remember putting something on like as a kid or young person or?


Jonathan Joseph  18:07

Or like I receptacle we'll talk about the first brooch. She haggled for, you know what I mean? Like that early fashion moments, that thing that kind of catalyzed it for you even in a way you maybe didn't have that time.


Benson Roberts  18:19

I probably have I remember my grandmother, that color and the Dion free Leisure Suit she was wearing when they brought me home from the hospital. So I was always aware of the tutorial big. My first actual fashion moment was probably when I was three, and I began creating dresses for my sisters Barbie out of Kleenex. So this is something that I've always done. It's always been that I graduated to cutting up dad's used socks and his good socks then his ties. When I was in third grade. I cut up his Pierre Cardin silk Sharkskin and this by the way, it's as following the cutting back of the brocade couch. And I thought, well, it's in the back of the couch. The back of the couch is against the wall, they will never notice. It being a child. It didn't occur to me that when the Barbie showed up wearing the couch Maverick my birthday sent me a package that included the last of this where I cut out of that fabric, Im just amazed that she kept it all these years for me. So I cut up no food. And I spent the summer between third grade and fourth grade or was between fourth and fifth. It doesn't matter. It's all a long time ago grounded, grounded. Now I we lived on an acre and a half. We had a lot of kids came to our house, but not being able to run through the woods, not being able to go through the parkland seemed horrible. Now in retrospect, it wasn't a bad summer when school started my parents sat me down and they said we would like to explain something to you son I thought well if they're gonna just kill me and throw me in a hole now because they probably figured out that I have cut up a few more things this summer. And they said, we did not ground you for what you made. We did not ground you for the beautiful clothes you made for your sister's Barbies. We grounded you for your lack of respect of your fathers belongings. And we have come to realize that we are as much to blame. You were obviously hungry to have things to create with. So going forward every Saturday, we're going to give you a $5 allowance and take you to any free fabric stores of your choice. And in the 70s a $5 allowance, like having $100 in a fabric store. You could get a wonderful broad cloth for 12 cents a yard. So they were very supportive. And I did once I had my own stash. I was no longer interested in cutting up whatever looks like it could be made into a gorgeous Barbie dress or I was sewing my own clothes by the time I was in 6th grade.


Jonathan Joseph  20:55

Do you remember the first thing you sewed that you wore.


Benson Roberts  21:00

Pants, I wanted corduroy pants. And I want that. I wanted you to wide wale corduroy pants. And I wanted bigger bell bottoms then I could fine. So I made a pair of Cordray pants. They were great and I hand sewed them.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  21:14

Oh my goodness!


Jonathan Joseph  21:15

I love it. What color were they, I have to ask.


Benson Roberts  21:19

Interestingly enough, it's the color that finally made its way back into my purview and interest. They were a gold, a golden curry. It was 1974/5 that was fad and burnt orange and avocado were all colors that were very popular for us. And then I used the remnants of that in the 10th grade, I still had it. And in the 10th grade, I wanted to take sewing courses sewing one. And they told me that that was a girls course. This is 1979. And they were of the opinion that I wanted to take snowing, so I could be in a class with all girls so that I could flirt with them.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  21:59

I think that's a plot in a movie. Oh my god.


Benson Roberts  22:00

Now of course, you know and and 10th grade, I wasn't an openly queer person, but I assured them that was not the case. And so they told me that I had a week to make a project. And if the project was good enough, they would let me take sewing 1. So I went home and cut up the rest of the corduroy fabric and made myself a three piece John Travolta disco suit. I mean, it was it was very Suzi quatro, punk rock disco, which is sort of where I was at the time. I was tailoring and they skipped me all the way to the advanced. And she became a mentor her her wife, of course, they weren't open about it. Beth was in the Air Force. And she became she was my English teacher, and gave me the best piece of advice that anyone has ever given me. She said to me, she said, you know, you're very creative. And I know that you're not happy with who you are. You know, she was basically telling me, I know that you're in the closet. She said, what I want you to do is imagine the type of person that you want to become and begin acting as if you are that person. And I woke up, I woke up when I was 21 and realize that I was the interesting person that I wanted to be. And in fact, my life was perhaps more interesting than I ever could have imagined. So some educators are brilliant now Miss Miss Bystolic was wonderful. I went on to advanced tailoring which was taught by a tailor, Mr. Wesolowski and he was from the south a Polish man from the south very, very odd dichotomy there. But he would always tell the students clip your threads, please clip your threads and I thought this old man just needs to just get out of my face. Because I will clip my threads when I'm done. I don't have time to stop and clip my threads. I'm on a roll until the day that my friend got caught up in the bobbin hook and ruin a perfectly placed invisible zipper. And now to this day. He said "I told you that one day you would ruin the day that you didn't clip your threads and that say is upon you." And I will tell you, Mr. Wesolowski voice still resonates every time Im in a sewing machine. And I always clip my threads and in fact my employees are probably quite tired of me saying in a very deep southern voice please Clip your threads you will one day ruin the day that you did not clip those threads.


Jonathan Joseph  24:02

That was the best story I we've had yet on the podcast for me personally only. Well, not only because but because the way you said that was the same way one of my favorite mentors in English literature, who's unfortunately no longer with us Dr. Robert P. Seltzer Jr. would always say shield your eyes when he would turn on the lights after watching a Shakespear movie. It was the same energy that same exact energy just shot through the through the computer at me and I said "oh god bless."


Benson Roberts  24:56

you know my mom got born in Alabama Birmingham. She grew up in Tennessee and Kentucky. So I, I am a Southern belle or a Southern gentleman on my mom's side I was I was raised well, so I really, I really did bask in the warmth of living in New Orleans and in the warmth of the Texas kindness. But the critical thinking was missing. And that eventually became crazy making. I did what I set out to do. We got the incubator built, that became a checkpoint on my resume. And it was time to bring all those skills home and try to do that here. And of course, I landed here just in time for COVID.


Jonathan Joseph  25:31

We started Little Red Fashion during COVID. I yeah, sometimes the universe throws a pivot at you.


Benson Roberts  25:38

My whole, my whole business has collapsed, dealing with food instability, and how I made me and millions of other people, I don't feel badly for myself about it. It's just, I told myself when it all started to fall apart, Benson, don't go crazy. Keep your stuff together. And know that your only job until this is actually done is to survive. If you survive, you have all the tools you need to thrive again. And I'm in the place I've had multiple clients reach out this week, and I have things on my table again. So I have survived. It looks like I'm in the early process of thriving. And while I talk sometimes about moving back to New York, moving back to Los Angeles, where there's an apparel culture that is thriving, I know in the long term, neither one of them will continue to thrive because of the cost of doing business. And both of those places. And I came here to be instrumental in turning Detroit into the apparel manufacturing hub. And I was working with Jeffrey Aronson on that project for a moment. He's a wonderful and he's from Detroit. So we were working on this multi multi multi million dollar initiative. And I guess he got politiced out. And then that collapsed. Because I'm in the process of putting together a proposal to take to the city and say, Look, you're either gonna play it, or you're gonna let me go. I will tell you I have trade partners in LA that would leave tomorrow, if we could get certain things enabled here. Like in factory piecework, which is always better for the seller, if they're skilled. And if we could help with tax abatements to get them to move because New York is, you know, is hemorrhaging money. New York, the state of New York, the city of New York grants, so much money to keep the apparel industry alive, that it's actually a little bit scary. And Los Angeles is bleeding but beginning to hemorrhage. And Detroit has we've depopulated by 1.3 million people. We have all the space in the world. Real estate is relatively inexpensive. I've been in a 1300 square foot apartment and a 1300 square foot retail space. combined. They were costing me only $1,600 a month, which would which I have. So So I want to write that because I want to create jobs here in my hometown. And when I left, that's literally what I told people at a Bob Evans when they said, Why are you really leaving? I said, Well, besides the whole divorce, Broken Heart thing, I have spent my entire life 25 I had spent my entire life trying to get fashion to be a viable path to success in Detroit. And they've done nothing but but a and b and betray me. I'm so dramatic. And I'm leaving to get the skills that I need to one day bring home to create that apparel culture. So that's what I'm here for.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  28:29

Awesome. So before we wrap up, you have to ask, Oh my God, He loves fashion.


Benson Roberts  28:33

the first book I want to talk to you about is kids can do it Series. I love children. I love teaching children, kids can do it. It's a book called Simply Sewing by Judy Ann Sadler. It is a wonderfully comprehensive book with patterns that children can hand sew. And with projects that they can also learn to do basic machine stitching with light light reading for me, that is apparel manufacturing, stone product analysis.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  29:02

No, I mean, there's some textbooks. I find


Benson Roberts  29:06

I really, you know, this is my this is my light reading in the loo or before bed or when I'm waiting to see a doctor and I read this type of book, not only to edify my knowledge base, but because I actually enjoy reading and understanding and expanding my mind about the thing that I'm passionate about. Yeah, I was between the chute book and the hat book and I decided that the hat book was the one I would pull off the shelf.


Jonathan Joseph  29:33

Gena Conti is gonna be so happy!


Benson Roberts  29:35

Traditions by Madeline Ginsburg, foreword by Hardy Eames and it is it is a brilliant book about hats. Yeah, like, goes all the way back. It's got hands all the way back to the Middle Ages. It's a beautiful paperback and we're talking about fun books. This is from the show that was at the Metropolitan back gala shows the Met Gala show super heroes. Yeah It's a fun, amazing book with superheroes in it. And fashion that is superhero inspired. And I think you can buy this much less expensively than I paid for because I had to have an original think kids would love that book then I have, from the Taschen collection. This is the this is a it's not a bridge. It's got everything that the double collecting had. It's just printed, smaller volume. Pretty much everything in the Kyoto Museum, Costume Institute, and it's got fashion. Yeah, I have the large version too, Yes. So this is this is the what I like to call the mobile version. This is the one that I can take with. I go through this all the time. Because it just it eases my mind. It thrills my creativity.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  30:50

Its a meditation and makes you feel like the world.


Jonathan Joseph  30:54

oh, I'll I feel compelled to get my my current obsession.


Benson Roberts  30:58

I have to show this Madison, shoulder measure best system.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  31:07

I sent me a screenshot and like a photo, please.


Benson Roberts  31:10

At one time, they were asking $7,745 for this book, they marked it all the way down to where I buy, I actually didn't buy it for 35. I bought it for 85. And it was a steal. This was published in 1906. And it has best from that era, with point to point looking for one of the with point to point instructions to get a perfect fit every time.


Jonathan Joseph  31:39



Rachel Elspeth Gross  31:39

I need that. I wonder if anyone has scanned it. There's libraries in the public domain especially.


Benson Roberts  31:44

They may not have their hands on it. I actually have a lead on the Madison direct shoulder measure jacket. I may go into poverty If if they they will let it go. So these are the books that I want to talk to you all about.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  32:02

Thank you. That is such a pleasure. I mean, I mean, I mean, that's yeah, my whole. I don't know what I would do with that book. So that's one of the things that Jonathan, I think bonded on really early is that.


Jonathan Joseph  32:13

I'm currently obsessing on this one. Yeah, Auguste Racinet, The Complete Costume History.


Benson Roberts  32:17

I have three copies of that. It's a brilliant book.


Jonathan Joseph  32:22

Yeah, Its just one of those books I have to keep out.


Benson Roberts  32:25

It on of those books that you buy more. Because it's a good book. And I, I always say, stop loading books because I forget who borrowed them. And I probably have more books that I've loaned out, but it'll never come back. So now the books that I love, I always buy multiple if I see a copy that's affordable and in good shape. I buy it because I'm going to loan it out and forget who has it.


Jonathan Joseph  32:47

Yeah, that happens to me. When I take different notes in the margins of different copies. I'm a note taker in margines kind of guy.


Benson Roberts  32:52

you're heading out one of my favorite secret, I read the notes that are in margins and books that I buy, because they are they are very often more informative than the book subject itself. I had another book that was published in 1920. That is a this is a Bible of apparel, textiles, it's like 1500 pages, it weighs 30 pounds. I I just could not find it. But it has textiles and fabrics and techniques that that we no longer use. And that is something that I'm I'm slowly devouring so that when I teach textiles next I have even a deeper knowledge. Like I said, it is a learning that keeps me engaged with fashion. Every few years, I can say I know everything about it. And then somebody comes up with a new machine or somebody comes up with a new textile. And I'm right back to learning all over. And I love that process.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  33:43

Work should be fun. I feel like work is play. I say that on this show all the time.


Benson Roberts  33:47

I will tell you I have pauses from my career sometimes for years, once because I was dying, got over that. But I've taken pauses a year or two because it's something enjoyable. And it's been a rule of thumb for me that I realized I hate a job, I quit a job, the moment I can be in the middle of a shift, I will hand them all of my money as a waiter and let them keep whatever tips are there. Because the minute I realized I'm hating my job, I am no longer a good employee, and I'm not doing a service to the customers, myself or my boss. And that is a rule of thumb. And when I hated my own job, I quit on myself right in the middle of my shift. So I think it's important to be able to have joy in our work, don't you


Jonathan Joseph  34:29

I think it's essential!


Benson Roberts  34:31

I think in a realistic way in an existential way. You're absolutely right, Jonathan, I think it is essential. But sadly, societally it is not essential. We raise children to be workers. Although we for the first time in over 100 years in a market where a worker has has the leverage because of the pandemic so I'm hoping that I love young people refusing to go and do jobs to pay nothing. That mean nothing that are bad for the environment. I It loves it. They're doing that. I've been offered jobs. I'm a little bit desperate for money right now. But I won't do a job that I can't get behind ethically, and I won't do a job, you're offering me really $12 an hour to come and be the quality control and get your cell work whilst Taco Bell is paying 17 for taking orders. So and the reason that I think sewing pays so little Rachael, you'll understand this is because the site is always viewed sewing as a woman's work.


Rachel Elspeth Gross  35:27

Yes. And I have so many things to say about that!


Benson Roberts  35:32

I want to invite both of you to our podcast. We have episodes planned out, but I know Megan, we'll be very excited about it. And you should come to our podcast. And maybe we'll end up doing a little a little series of podcasts. Yeah, you know, it's sort of like sort of like a comic book, stories or 20 bucks to get an enjoyable. You were both brilliant.


Jonathan Joseph  36:02

This was an amazing episode of The Little Red Village podcast here at Little Red Fashion. Benson, thank you so much for joining us. It was such a joy to really have you impart your wisdom and some amazing stories about not only the power of fashion and fashion education, but really how to charter a path forward in the industry in a way that really aligns with all the work that we're doing here at Little Red Fashion to empower the next generation of fashion leaders and creatives. So thank you so much, and listeners, thank you so much. Make sure that you're following us on Instagram at Little Red Fashion Co. If you haven't yet, sign up for our mailing list at Little Red And lastly, if you love this episode, as much as we love making it, you should definitely give us a four star.

Ryan Kendall


Little Red Fashion Co-founder and COO Ryan Kendall is a book lover and outdoor enthusiast. Ryan fell in love with fashion when he became a stylist, merchandiser, and personal shopper while attending university. Since graduating his focus has shifted to technical and sustainble fashion. After moving to Los Angeles, Ryan was appraoched by Jonathan to help write and edit The Little Red Dress. During the editing process Ryan and Jonathan realized kids who love fashion lack the same level of targeted resources from books to tech that their peers who love music or sports have had for ages. Ryan Co-founded Little Red Fashion to inspire and educate kids about the fashion industry.


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