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Mean Girls / VetementsIllustration Benjamin Seidler

Meet the man behind that viral Mean Girls/Vetements collage

Brilliantly clashing runway fashion with your favourite films, illustrator @benjaminseidler is @dazedfashion’s Instagram of the week

When a collage of the Mean Girls’ Plastics wearing Vetements hit Instagram after fashion month, it racked up likes faster than a Kardashian selfie. The image, capturing 2004’s infamous clique strutting through the mall in 2016’s most talked about brand, ignited regram mayhem across the accounts of fashion editors and fans alike. The man behind it was Benjamin Seidler – a trained architect and recognised accessories designer who also finds time to work as a fashion illustrator. Thankfully for us, that Mean Girls mash-up was just the beginning – he’s been dishing out more genius movie/fashion marriages over on his Instagram, @dazedfashion’s pick of the week. Think Elle Woods in Comme Des Garçons, Romy and Michele in Saint Laurent, and the cast of Clueless in Louis Vuitton...

What prompted the idea of combining fashion and film?

Benjamin Seidler: Alongside my job designing accessories for major luxury houses, I have been an illustrator for ten years. This mainly involved traditional fashion illustration in my ink and coloured pencil style…I was looking for something more immediate, but also something that was funny and pop. Collage is a quick medium and I felt like putting the fashion in a film context gave it a story, or was another way to talk about it. The one that kicked it off was my Mean Girls-Vetements collage, which translated fashion’s hysteria for Vetements into a high school setting.

How did you get into fashion?

Benjamin Seidler: My degree is actually in architecture. I always knew I wanted a career in fashion, but I also wanted a more academic training than a fashion college could afford. So I trained in architecture – because sadly it’s the only design course that you get at Oxbridge or the Ivy League, and I had my heart set on going to one of these schools. But that meant there wasn’t a straightforward way for me to get a job in fashion design when I graduated, despite interning for houses like Anna Sui and Bottega Veneta since I was 16. When I got a job at Prada, which I always have loved, I worked mainly on architecture design.

Where did illustration come in?

Benjamin Seidler: I was an editor of Varsity, the Cambridge University student newspaper. Suzy Menkes had been the first woman editor of that newspaper back in the 1960s. Because of that link (and because she’s just the most generous person you’re likely to meet), she agreed to be interviewed for the newspaper. That interview won me a prize in the Vogue Talent Contest, which led to an internship at Vogue and then at other magazines. Eventually, Suzy offered me a job and I got to write about fashion at the International Herald Tribune and to illustrate as well.

That illustration caught the eye of Jonny Johansson at Acne, and he had me design a scarf and some prints. That’s how illustration helped me finally get jobs in design, and I’ve been pushing it ever since in different directions. I’ve worked for so many houses and it’s been really fun, and I’ve taken editorial and design roles along the way – some that were right for me and some that are not so right – to get to where I am now, designing accessories in New York for houses I love and illustrating for magazines. I think maybe a dozen people can make a full-time living out of being an illustrator, it’s always been something I’ve done on the side and it’s a rougher way for me to think about fashion when I’m not designing.

“Collage is a quick medium and I felt like putting the fashion in a film context gave it a Mean Girls-Vetements collage translated fashion’s hysteria for Vetements into a high school setting” – Benjamin Seidler

You recently said that you think it’s important to have sentiment in your work – why is that?

Benjamin Seidler: I think the work of artists and designers like Petra Collins, Alessandro Michele and Meadham Kirchhoff before them, amongst others, means we have moved away from the idea that something is weaker because it has sentiment. Ten years ago it was hard to have fashion without irony, and irony can be depressing. Why can’t we actually just like something? It was as if you couldn’t wear traditionally feminine things (as a man or a woman) just because you liked them, but because you were making fun of them in some way. I may be making parodies in my work of both fashion and films but they’re positive parodies that celebrate both the movie and the designers. I love it all and I’m just trying to connect with it on some creative level that will then inform something I design or draw from scratch.

Is it a light bulb moment when you visualise the fashion and film pairings?

Benjamin Seidler:  It’s always a light bulb moment, but it usually starts with me seeing the movie and then reimagining it in fashion.

Your mash-ups have created a frenzy on Instagram, can you see these collages becoming a large part of your work? 

Benjamin Seidler:  Over the last ten years I’ve seen ups and downs in commissions for my illustrations, I’m sure this is just part of that. But as long as people find it amusing, I’ll keep doing it – I do find it fun. I’ll always value my drawings more though, because they’re less about re-appropriation, which is a conversation you have with culture, and more about saying something personal.