How These Two Designer Friends Find Local Inspiration
As is the case with many creatives living in Los Angeles, Courtney Bensik and Susan Kim are their own bosses. The designers of — consecutively — an eponymous jewelry line and casual womenswear label, Corinne, these two are hard-pressed to find time off, considering they're practically always on duty hunting for materials, handcrafting each piece in studio, shipping orders, and plenty of other not-so-glamourous errands that go with the territory when you're designing, managing, and operating your own fashion brand. That said, these two try to squeeze in moments to fuel their creativity whenever possible. Which got us thinking: how would they spend a day totally devoted to finding inspiration locally? We asked the two real life friends to choose their own adventure for an afternoon and see how their discoveries might influence their work.
While Courtney and Susan's designs suit each other quite well, their individual interests and approaches can be very different. At this small public garden in Pasadena, Bensik was most inspired by textures, like that of a fuzzy, silvery sage leaf, tiny bundles of pink peppercorns hanging from trees, or a massive wall of white, papery bougainvillea. Kim, who describes herself as being "obsessed with symmetry" was drawn to geometric elements, like a paved spiral path. "We went to the same place, but I bet looked at it totally differently," Courtney said of their sometimes contrasting aesthetic, hers being more wild and organic, and Susan opting for clean lines and shapes.
Norton Simon Museum
Courtney and Susan chose this smallish museum in Pasadena for its current exhibition of "Mid-Century Macabre" but each ended up being much more drawn to pieces in the permanent collection. A room filled with paintings of women by Matisse and Modigliani was surprisingly inspiring to Bensik, who told us she normally favors European art from the 16th and 17th century, and Kim beelined to a modern marble sculpture by Barbara Hepworth and a red tonal painting by Josef Albers. In fact, she was so enamored of the orange-y persimmon shade that you might see it popping up in a future collection of her cozy, terry basics.
American Tea Room
"It felt like we were transported to another garden space. I love being in nature, feeling it around me constantly," Courtney explained of what most attracted her to the relatively new Arts District tea spot, adding that she's also been on the hunt for the perfect matcha latte. Susan similarly loves the earthy sweet beverage, and seeing as though she's been considering taking a class in the detail oriented, ceremonial process, watching the barista craft her orange and lime spiked Green Tea Tereré proved particularly gratifying.
Sipping and relaxing in the architecturally beautiful space gave the two a chance to both reflect on their day and also share what about each other is most inspiring. "I highly respect her work," Kim says of her friend, "the fact that she pours her soul into each piece. I think we're lacking that; people just want to put out stuff, whereas Courtney wants to make things that really resonate with people." And Bensik agrees that her circle of friends, including Kim, help drive her creatively. "Susan helps me so much," she elaborates, "I'm so impressed with the technicality of her work. It's so methodical and while her shapes are so meticulous, the fabrics are where she spends her time and she thinks about how clothes fit a woman's body and how they will feel. It's like she's giving you a hug in every piece!"