Over years living on the Point Dume shoreline in Malibu, photographer Lyndie Benson ruined more than one cashmere hoodie on cool morning surf-side strolls. “You lay them down to sit on them on the sand and thrppp …” says Benson, making the sound of salty wet sand rubbed into wool. Benson has a predilection for Hermès sweaters and soft, luxurious Loro Piana wraps, so you see where this is going: She sought a better beach hoodie.
That led to making one last May, starting with a cashmere-like fabric made from beechwood fibers. Last October Benson launched a small label, Bleusalt, whose narrow focus has the potential to go big. Great apparel concepts often come from someone trying to solve a problem. Benson’s quest to design clothing that works for herself and her friends in Malibu resulted in an eminently wearable line of luxury “athleisure” apparel, in a range of sizes she calls 0 through 6 — or roughly from tiny Ariana Grande to the hulking Rock.
Starting with a hoodie that harkens to early James Perse, only far softer, the line began with basics: a tee, slacks, shorts, slip dress, a huge wrap for cozying by the bonfire, and a long duster. The line expanded as Benson’s influential friends requested looks. Model Cindy Crawford wanted pants cut for a tall woman — long loose legs, big pockets. Actor Patrick Dempsey asked to create a deconstructed tailored jacket, a golf shirt and two pants — a jogger and more tailored pair. They will launch as a capsule collection — Bleusalt by Patrick Dempsey — in June, along with a driving cap.
After bumping into each other at a mutual friend’s birthday party, Benson shipped several pieces to Kris Jenner, who recently — unsolicited — posted an unboxing video on her Instagram, which has more than 20 million followers. “It feels like butter, guys, I wish you could feel what I’m feeling — it’s unreal,” Jenner says on the video.
Apparel-industry veteran Serge Azria lent production and brand advice at a key moment, helping Benson to work with production facilities in the Los Angeles area. The beechwood trees are grown in Austria, but the knitting, cutting and sewing are done in two factories in Vernon, a warehouse and factory town near downtown Los Angeles. Packaging and shipping are handled from Glendale.
“It’s entirely made in L.A. — that’s one of the great things about it,” says Benson, who questions why more labels don’t manufacture locally for the control and ease it provides.
A pop-up at the Bon Marché department store in Paris is planned for this fall. Benson had initially planned to sell the line only direct-to-consumer on the website but is currently reviewing offers to wholesale it to stores after receiving several requests. She plans to target the tech industry, which has adopted comfort brands like the wool Allbirds shoes as an informal uniform. “I want to do a pop-up at Facebook,” she says.
This is part of a life shift for Benson, who split several years ago from her husband, the smooth-jazz saxophonist Kenny Gorelick, better known as Kenny G. The couple have two sons, Max Gorelick, an instrumental guitarist with the “progressive metal” band the Mantle, and Noah Gorelick, a music student at the USC. Noah says he gets requests from friends at school for Bleusalt pieces. “I think it’s fitting,” he says of his mother’s new career.
While she builds Bleusalt, Benson has been renovating a home on an acre overlooking Point Dume state park. Her current rental on the Point Dume bluff is headquarters for Bleusalt. Racks in the living room hold samples of the label’s new menswear as well as a full rack of women’s tops, dresses, pants and shorts, and a few samples for an upcoming children’s-wear collection. She is also aiming to make dog items — a bed and a coat.