Ben Bell has been in the clothing game for a while now. With his brand Paris in Cuffs, he is now in a prime position to make a real imprint on the industry. His flagship store in Dartford is now in its second year and has become a small hub for skaters and hip hop heads alike to kick back. I decided to pick his brain a little bit, here's how it went...
Please can you briefly introduce yourself...
My names Ben Bell, I'm 27 and the owner of Paris In Cuffs.
In the world of Ben Bell, what does a normal day consist of?
Well, this has changed so much for me over the space of the four years I've been running the brand. 3 years ago a normal day would of been working as a data analyst 9-5, then packing orders, making shirts and running the brand until all hours in the morning. 2 years ago would of been working from home full time on the brand, only having the lovely ladies at the post office and my cat to keep me sane... But for the past year and a half now I've been working 7 day weeks in the brands Dartford flagship store that I opened back in 2014. I run everything from the store, it's where I get to interact with customers, design, edit, sew, everything! With everything that's changed, it makes me think what will a normal day consist of in another year's time...
Ok, so it sounds like things have changed for the better then! Now that you are able to enjoy the fruits of your labour a little more, what would you say are your top three interests?
Producing "wavey garms"... Nah, it's up there though, I love what I do, anyone who knows me personally will tell you I don't shut up about it. But it's a great thing to love what you do for a living. But besides the brand, everything that interests me is in a way connected to Paris In Cuffs, maybe that's why it works? But I'd have to say; creating things from scratch, styling and imagery.
You clearly have a great passion and love for what you do. When was it that you started PiC and what was your motivation behind it?
I started the brand back in November 2011, so over 4 years ago now. I've always been into fashion/making things, and before the brand I was in a band. I used to make merch for the band and also take control of single covers etc etc. I started to design ranges of shirts for the band and played about with the idea of, "If I made some shirts I designed that weren't for the band, would people buy them?". That's how the idea all started, then when I got on to social media, it all snow balled from there really.
Wow, so four years. It seems like you have managed to get a lot done in that time. But considering you’re a fairly new brand, what would you say has been the hardest part about it? And also the best part?
I'd have to say getting timing right is always the hardest thing. Things come up all the time and can take priority over others, that could mean delays. No one likes waiting around on new releases. The best would have to be the amount of people I've met along the way, through shows, festivals trading etc, you meet some great people. I've met some of the closest people to me all through the brand, and I think our paths might not have crossed if it wasn't for Paris In Cuffs.
I imagine that within this industry, the customer is always waiting for what's next. Not because they're bored of what they have but because they're excited for what is around the corner. So, where do you draw inspiration from for new collections?
I tend to steer clear of trends, sometimes they are unavoidable, but I draw inspiration from lifestyle more then anything. I'd always rather create something I am fully 100% behind, rather then something that is "in" for the next 15 mins... It's easier to sell something you are passionate and happy about, it will come across and people will see that and want to support it if they are also into it.
What has been your favourite piece you have released?
The tartan capsule collection was one of my favourites. So much work went into the designing of them. The tartan designs were built from scratch, I didn't just google tartan and put it on a shirt. They were the first all over cut and sewn fully bespoke t-shirts I had produced. I was so happy with the turn out of them and they were some of the best selling items I've done to date.
It sounds like you enjoy the designing process that goes into producing a new garment. Out of the many, many established brands and designers out there who would you most like to work with in the future?
Burberry, aim high. There are no real similarities between the two brands, but I love the simplicity of it and the iconic print. That would be the dream to work with a company of their level. I feel like you need to aim high too otherwise you will get complacent and stay on the same level, when there is so much potential and opportunity to grow you need to have high goals.
Agreed. Every successful person seems to have that moment in which kicks off the changes they made to get to where they are. Along your journey, what has been the best piece of advice you've been given, and what is the best piece you can give?
Something that has always stuck with me from when I first started the brand; I was on lunch at my old job showing some colleagues some of the designs I was thinking of doing. Their reactions were mixed, but honest, and I got the classic "you should do this" and "do it like this instead" which is always frustrating to hear. But it made me actually second guess what I was planning on releasing, even though I liked them. After, one colleague Rob said to me, you shouldn't ask peoples opinions on designs, if you like them, there will be other people out there who like them too. I've taken that advice on board since and run with it. You need to accept that not everyone is going to like every single item you release, and that's okay, as long as you do you will be true to your brand ethics. There will be people out there that like most of it, half of it, some of it or none of it. But that is just how it is, don't take any of it personally, it's life, people have different tastes, we're not all clones...
Now, the interview is coming to an end, but before the fun questions start where do you hope to be in 12 months time?
I'll still be here.
More importantly, what can we hope to see in the future?
With opening the flagship Dartford store, the past year or so I have been mainly focused on the store and making sure everything here is running smoothly. Since all is going well here I plan on venturing back into wholesale and getting my clothing stocked in more high street stores. Making it more accessible to a wider audience and hopefully continuing to grow onward and upwards.
Sounds good! We're almost done but before we finish up we have five 'would you rather....' questions for you. So with that said, would you rather....
...be hairy all over or completely bald? That's easy for me... I've never been the strongest of swimmers, so I guess completely bald could change that? Maybe make me more streamline?
...never use the internet again or never watch TV again? I don't watch much TV, I've almost completed Netflix... Netflix doesn't count as TV. So I'd keep the internet, that way I can still run the business and keep up to date with cute cat videos.
...have a missing finger or have an extra toe? Extra toe every time... You can keep that shit hidden. Plus if you've ever had your toe sucked you'll know why you'd want another one.....
...be 3 feet tall or 8 feet tall? Jheez! I'd like to be a little taller, but 8 foot...
And lastly, would you rather lick an old mans stinky armpit or chew a rotten yellow toenail?
Where are you getting this from? Who you working for? You been watching what I get up to in my spare time...?
Text Kiefer Horlock
Images Liam Streeting
Model Scott Cruft & Blvck Gypsy