Ben de Lisi

Elizabeth Tregenza

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA222

Ben de Lisi was born in 1955 in Long Island, New York. Prior to becoming a fashion designer, he studied sculpture and painting at the Pratt Institute of Fine Arts, Brooklyn, between 1973 and 1977. Fashion ran in his family, with both his aunt and grandmother working in the field. His grandmother taught him how to sew after he found a pair of trousers that he wanted but could not afford. She showed him how to redraft a pattern so that he could make a pair himself. De Lisi, with the help of his grandmother, created his first fashion collection, a menswear line, in 1979. However, it was in the 1980s, with a move to London, that de Lisi became a successful women’s wear designer.

During de Lisi’s first years in London, he produced clothes in his partner’s restaurant after it had closed. These initial garments saw de Lisi gain a small following and soon his pieces were stocked in Liberty, a London department store. De Lisi made his debut at London Fashion Week in 1994, and in the same year was awarded the Most Glamorous Designer trophy at the British Fashion Awards, an award he received again in 1995.

Glamour is at the center of de Lisi’s design style. He is best known for his sleek, eminently wearable evening wear; often, these garments are bias-cut, taking inspiration from de Lisi’s background as a sculptor. He gained an international reputation after the actress Kate Winslet wore one of his dresses to the Oscars in 2002. The dress, in red silk with an asymmetric strap covered in a single rose ensured that Winslet was regarded as one of the best-dressed actresses at that year’s awards. In 2009 de Lisi closed his women’s wear label, but continued to have couture clients, producing dresses for weddings and special occasions.

Since 1997 de Lisi has designed a diffusion line, BDL, for the British department store Debenhams. This line began as an occasion-wear range, but by 2009 had extended to include home wares. In 2010 Debenhams purchased the British high-street retailer Principles, which was relaunched the same year, designed by de Lisi, as Principles by Ben de Lisi. This saw de Lisi turn more toward creating daywear rather than solely evening wear.

In the early 2000s de Lisi increasingly varied his design repertoire, redesigning the hospital gown for the UK Department of Health in 2010. De Lisi also used his fashion knowledge to appear as a mentor on the television program Project Catwalk on British TV between 2006 and 2008.

Ben de Lisi, Fall/Winter 1997. Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

References and Further Reading

Find in Library Barbieri Annalisa. ““When a Man Loves a Woman”.” Independent on Sunday , 17 December 1995: 8–9 .

Find in Library Tucker Andrew. The London Fashion Book . London : Thames and Hudson, 1998.

Walker Ruth. “Interview: Ben de Lisi, Celebrity Fashion Designer.” The Scotsman, 24 March 2013. .