NYC native and entrepreneur, Alissa Benishai opens up about creating her upscale clothing line, Phat Buddha, and about her inspiration for fashion-forward brand.
You are a lover of Bikram, do you take other styles of yoga?
I admire my Bikram instructors and I feel cleansed and focused after class. Whatever “stuff” I go into the room with, I don’t leave with and I am able to seriously meditate. Lately, I have been taking a lot Ashtanga classes to get stronger.
My Latest obsession is Barry’s Bootcamp. I feel like I’m getting a hug from my family when I walk in there. I’ve always wanted to become a stronger runner and I feel like I’m learning and getting better.
I follow my specific instructors no matter what class I’m taking. My instructors inspire me and allow me to face challenges and obstacles in different areas.
How do you incorporate Phat Buddha pieces in your outfit outside of the studio?
A lot of times our fashion forward line isn’t worn in a studio because it’s so nice. 99% of the women in NYC are in a pair of legging or crop top mixed with different pieces like a motorcycle jacket or boots.
We create clothing that’s based off of Paris or Lincoln Center fashion week. Our pink clothes are the same pink as Chanel, which feels expensive without having to paying the price. The fabric is also exactly what you saw on the runway.
What is a typical day like at Phat Buddha?
I wake up super early to take a yoga or dance cardio class, grab a coffee, and work on business deals before eyes open. I deal with over seas factories and london-based clients so I’m always on top of my email and calls. It’s important for me to see my fitness community first thing in the morning. I’m very much “in” the community, which is why the clothes are so well received by the community.
After class, I head downtown to my warehouse and office. Everyone has a to-do list and everyone has 5-10 min to review with me. I’m very hands-on whether it be a press pull, to styling a photoshoot or talking to an a-list trainer. I’ve been working with Trisha Donegan who is Lady Gaga’s trainer and other celebrities and press. We are in the middle of our first pop up store and opening office in London, it’s very busy.
I balance work with giving back by speaking at a center for children that are underprivileged. I try to help someone everyday, in both small and large ways. I was always taught that there is no point of doing any type of work without giving back. It’s important that I make time to work, be social and make time to give back.
What styles are you excited to bring to the collection?
We are working on a collection based off of Bansky artwork. Banksy is a UK based street artist. I’m supper excited to introduce the silhouettes in the Banksy collection. We took our metallic leggings and overflowed it into jackets, windbreakers and matte black and played with shiny as well.
How has Phat Buddha evolved over the years?
I used to be a one-woman show would do everything with my vision alone. I am determined to be a household name because of the people who took chances on the brand.
The first year was the easiest because I was flying at the seat of my pants. The second year was super hard because of production, construction of goods and pricing. You really have to listen to the end user because the buyer isn’t the end user. It’s evolved with continuous research and development and working consistently with store, boutiques and celebs.
How do you relax and re-center?
I grew up very fast and in the city. I already had time to party, so concentrating on work is relaxing. No matter what’s going on in my life, I can get calm and get center with work. Working out with a good looking yoga teacher and getting a good sweat in makes me feel elated and invigorated. I love to travel and be with my family and I absolutely love spending time with my nieces.
What inspires your creative process?
Being in NYC, traveling and being in Paris sparks my creativity. When I travel I like to sit at cafes, walk around the city, or open up fashion magazines. I like to see how people put things together; people inspire me. Personally, I like to put things together and make very basic styles super fashion forward. It’s very simple but very trendy at the same time.