News & Runway

Jet Set Style: Closed Set with Julie Bensman

One of the best parts of traveling is surveying the fashion situation in any given city. In recent trips, I’ve learned that Utah cowboys really do wear old-school Wrangler jeans; Miami ladies can’t get enough of body-hugging Herve Leger; and Boston boys are rocking the East Coast prep look including knit ties and newsboy caps. Perhaps, then, no occupation is better to read a city’s style barometer than the hotel publicist. Think about it: thousands of people passing through its halls; constant events, receptions, and parties; a bustling bar scene and usually home to a restaurant with reservations booked weeks in advance. A main job requirement of the media gatekeeper is to stay up on what’s hot, what’s not, and what could be potential competition. 

Two of my good friends hold such enviable positions: 

1) Rachel Harrison, Director of Communications for Andaz Hotels, and Manhattan’s greatest untapped resource re: all things cocktails and cab routes (below, left).

2) J. Lynne Bredfeldt, Director of Public Relations for Chicago's Park Hyatt, and guilty of taking spontaneous trips across the world that make yours truly feel like a country bumpkin (below, right).

I caught up with the duo last week to get a first-hand account of what’s trending in two of the hottest spaces (and cities) in the country.

Julie Bensman: What are you seeing in your hotels right now?

Rachel Harrison: Leggings are everywhere: leather, liquid, jeggings, and just plain black. There's also the adorable combination of Mad Men and Lady Gaga: the silhouette and feel of a bygone era with a strange twist, like an asymmetric detail or an over-the-top color. I'm also loving tights with shorts, pre-prohibition styles and skirts that look like they have boning molding them in weird shapes.

Lynne Bredfeldt: The Park Hyatt brand speaks to the genre of understated elegance so I’m seeing a lot of structured blazers and fur accents.  For both men and women, thick black-rimmed glasses are everywhere. They have this great edge and can add a sophisticated, studious look to any outfit.

JB: How can you tell a tourist apart from a local?

LB: Logos. Period.

RH: Running shoes will give you away every time. Converse and Vans, not so much, but throw on a pair of Reeboks combined with jeans and there’s no way you're a local. 

JB: How does Chicago fashion differ from New York’s?

RH: I wear a LOT of black in New York…for some reason, my Chicago friends have so many beautiful clothes in neutral colors. The browns in my closet never leave the closet.

LB: New York fashion is much more experimental; Chicago is more casual and down-to-earth. Since the winters are so cold, there's a lot of layering and people are less likely to dress up. I, on the other hand, will wear a sequin mini or feathers any day of the week.

JB: Who are some of your favorite local designers in your respective cities?

RH: Richard Chai, Chris Benz, Alexander Wang, Prabal Guring, and Yigal Azrouel — because I have to look put-together, approachable and fashionable, these designers seem to fit the bill both for work looks and events. 

LB: Creatures of the Wind — they were recently awarded runner-up for CFDA’s Vogue Fashion Fund. They have an incredible eye, incorporating flirty and feminine accents into their pieces. I’m also obsessed with jewelry designer Dana Levy of Dana Rebecca Designs. She creates these amazing handcrafted rings, earrings and necklaces that make a statement and yet, are still classic and timeless. And for casual to formal couture, Sam Kori George. Sparkle, anyone? 

Here's a toast to safe travels and dangerous dressing, wherever you might find yourself…