Unlearning constructs in fashion
Beni Benyei is fueled by art and activism in their personal style.
Beni Benyei (they/them/theirs) is a self-taught artist based in Rochester with a particular affinity for pencil art, watercolor painting and dried flower terrariums. Beni has shifted through a variety of part-time jobs but seeks to have art serve as a long-term career: "I'm at the beginning of my journey to being a self-made business owner."
Beni identifies as non-binary and is proud to highlight their journey to becoming "authentically themself" while acknowledging how art and fashion have aided them in the process. "Activism is important to me and I hope to use my art to create positive change in the world."
How would you explain your style?
Secondhand fashion that breaks the binary but not the bank.
Contents of your closet in 3-5 words, go.
Thrifted. Bold. Evolving.
How does your work as an artist influence how you dress or present yourself?
Art is vital and has been a constant in my life; fashion is just another medium of art I explore. Art is more than a hobby, it is my life force and safe space. If I could encapsulate my art into one word, it would be colorful. My motto with art is “when in doubt – rainbow.” The same undoubtedly applies to my recent fashion choices. Sometimes it's simple, sometimes chaotic or experimental, masculine or feminine.
How do you embody confidence, either through your style or in general?
My confidence and style are at equilibrium. For me, fashion acts as a tool of expression and self-acceptance. For much of my life, my presentation was dictated by a gender label. It took time, but once I unlearned the construct and relieved myself of the constraints of gender, it allowed me to exhale. I remember feeling bold the first time I wore a pink shirt all those years ago, because society told me I shouldn’t. My confidence comes from loving myself as I am. When I dress in an outfit I choose, I feel emboldened and alive. The more I accept myself as I am, the more my fashion choices expand and thrive; it’s a joyful union.
What about your style is "uniquely you"?
I think my bravery with color and conventions makes my style unique. I love to find clothes pieces that stand out and are rare. I thrift most of my pieces, meaning I never know what I might add to my wardrobe next.
Best clothing purchase ever made?
An uncycled shirt by local artist Jennifer Jesseph. The colorful shirt is covered in her hand-sewn patchwork designs and configured to perfection from the collars to the sleeves. There is something so spectacular about wearing a beautiful piece of clothing or jewelry knowing someone created it by hand using their precious talent and time. Supporting small and local artists is so important, and as a small artist myself, it makes this piece extra meaningful.
Thoughts on the area's style scene?
The influence of the incredible queer community in Rochester has helped foster a positive space for the arts, and created a safe place for everyone to experiment with fashion. My style journey would not be what it has been had the people surrounding me not supported and encouraged me to be my authentic self.
Most surprising thing in your wardrobe?
I feel like I’m personally past the point of being surprised by anything in my closet, but I do still have plenty of pieces I keep hidden until they can get their moment to shine. I have a bunch of neckties I no longer wear and plan to have tailored into a vest or skirt to reclaim.
Fill in the blank: You know you live in Minnesota when ______.
You own corn water tower merch. The corn cob water tower really stands as an iconic piece of local architecture, and us locals have claimed it as a sort of unofficial-official symbol of Rochester.
Fashion is everyone's and it is boundless. Clothes can be so much more than utilitarian, they are a way of self-exploration, expression, and can exist as wearable pieces of art. Exploring my style became an important step in my journey to authenticity. Being non-binary, dropping gender labels has improved my quality of life and arguably my style too. Your style is what you feel best in. I hope my journey can help other actualize their true selves as well.
Do you know someone who has unique style? Send nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Your Style" in the subject line.