While she was getting her MBA at Florida A&M, in a time before side hustles became careers, designer Bettina Benson owned an online boutique where she honed her fashion sense and business skills. She also began dreaming up her own fashion line. She eventually put that dream on hold for a successful career in medical sales. However, after becoming a mother to daughter Chloe, in 2013, Bettina felt compelled to rethink her career. She found herself longing to get back to where it all began: fashion.
Today, she helms Chloe Kristyn, a made-in-the-USA clothing company. While Bettina designs for all women, she is especially passionate about size and diversity inclusivity. This is evident in the brand’s imagery and sizing, which runs through XXL. Bettina also ensures women are taken care of beyond their closets — and that means supporting them through all of life’s obstacles. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Chloe Kristyn has partnered with Young Gentry, a luxury candle line, for a unique fundraiser benefitting the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation (AVLF). They’ve collaborated to offer a lounge set with signature purple gingham pajamas (the official color of domestic violence awareness) paired with a hand-poured candle. Twenty percent of the proceeds of the set will go to AVLF, and for every four sets purchased, full legal representation for a domestic violence survivor is covered.
We can’t wait to introduce you to our latest FACE of the South, Bettina Benson!
What is your retail/design background?
I am a self-taught designer. I like to say I am a businesswoman first and a designer second. What I have learned in business and life is that you are only as strong as your weakest link. Therefore, I went into this understanding that it was important to find industry professionals who understood and believed in my vision to help me develop the line. I have learned so much from my team — more than I could have learned in a classroom. Even in business school, having graduated Summa Cum Laude, and analyzing more case studies than I care to remember, I realized the real learning comes from experience and failure.
What would people be surprised to learn about working in the fashion industry?
The process is not at all glamorous. Starting and developing my own line is the hardest thing that I have ever done. There are so many important and intricate steps and processes from conceptualization to finished product. Most of my time is spent on strategy, operations and execution. I wish I could design all day, every day, but that is not the case. I think people may also be surprised to learn just how much opportunity there is for diversity and inclusivity in this industry. The use of models of color and of various sizes in campaigns and on the runway is significant, but I always like to bring awareness to the fact that there is very little representation of designers of color within major retailers and independently owned boutiques, especially in the South. I am so grateful for the retailers that partner with us because they are not only supporting a woman-owned business that supports other women, but they are championing diversity and inclusion as well.
One of the things you are passionate about is supporting organizations that aid victims of abuse. Why do you feel so strongly about this cause in particular?
In order for anyone to aspire to their purpose and make a change in this world, they must recognize and understand the magnitude of their power. I want every woman to stand in her power. The women who are survivors of domestic violence have had this opportunity robbed from them. The Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation offers pro-bono legal services, up to the issuing of full protective orders, which is often the second step after deciding to walk away, to get that power back.
How, if any, has the South inspired your line?
I definitely think my Southern roots have inspired my love of dresses, which are core to the line, as well as my love of color; jewel tones are my favorite! I can never resist a floral brocade fabric, which I collect and use for special made-to-order pieces. And a stripe or gingham is my favorite go-to for our cotton shirting dresses and tops. While the aesthetic is not “in your face” Southern, there is definitely an underlying Southern-inspired elegance about my designs.
What trends can we expect to see as we head towards winter?
Lots of animal print, jewel tones and tailored looks
Tell me about Curated, your latest venture.
We created Curated, which is both a service and a capsule collection, to cater to that busy professional woman. She can work with one of our consultants to shop in person; we can meet her at her office or her home, or she can come to us.
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What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever been given?
Always identify your intention for doing whatever you are doing; know the way behind the why, and use that as your guide. This helps you set proper boundaries and guard your time. If it doesn’t tie back to your intention, it may not be worth the time or effort; if it does, then go for it. Most importantly, always trust your intuition.
Excluding faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
- Music. It’s my conduit for creativity.
- My Bianca dresses. I feel like I can close any deal when I am wearing that dress. If I had to select a garment that made me feel most feminine yet most powerful, it would be Bianca!
- My Peloton bike … well, more so the coaches. It’s like you get a motivational speech, a therapy session and workout all at the same time.
Thank you, Bettina, for sharing your story with us. And a special thank you to CatMax Photography for these amazing photos of Bettina.
For more inspiring FACES of the South, click here!