Dressing out of the box

Ben Tobar finds the sweet spot between timeless and adventurous style.
Ben Tobar photographed at A.K. Rikk's women's salon. Here he is wearing a jacket by Zegna, shirt by Theory, pants by PT and sneakers by Zegna. Photo by Teri Gonovese

Personal stylist at A.K. Rikk’s and host of the local luxury retailer’s “Where to Wear” video series Ben Tobar presents a confident, clean style with a twist, pulling subtle bold details into his outfits to instill some pep into the monotony of everyday dressing.

Tobar said he’s seen a burst of energy in the fashion scene in Grand Rapids and is “amazed at how willing and hungry people here are for new designers and for taking risks in their day-to-day wardrobes.”

We talked with him about style and local fashion:

Grand Rapids Magazine: Tell us about yourself.

Ben Tobar: I started styling for A.K. Rikk’s as a way to pay for college and loved it so much that I have been doing it ever since. I always loved clothes and how they could be used as a tool to communicate any idea the wearer has about themselves to the world around them. It has been an honor to (ensure) the clientele and friends that I have styled have looked their best for the most important parts of their lives.

GRM: What do you find most inspiring and exciting about fashion and clothing?

BT: That it never stops evolving. It is an endless source for someone to be creative. It’s a way to transport oneself somewhere or be super present in their day-to-day life. I appreciate people who have the same passion and wear it on their sleeves (pun intended). Dress up! Wear the heels! Bright orange for winter? Why not! Let’s find a way to make it work.

GRM: How would you describe your style?

BT: Timeless with a dash of quirky. I like mixing elements of a traditional wardrobe but substituting one or two pieces for something a little “off.” For instance, if I need to wear a suit for an occasion, I like putting a tee and sneakers with it instead of a traditional dress shirt and brogues.

GRM: Where are your favorite spots to shop in Grand Rapids?

BT: I’m a little (biased), but A.K. Rikk’s has my heart! I do enjoy checking out Premier for fun sneakers and Cascade Optical for new frames.

GRM: In honor of your video series “Where to Wear,” what’s your dream occasion to style someone for and what are you dressing them in?

BT: I would love an opportunity to style Zendaya and Jeff Goldblum if they were starring in a Wes Anderson movie based in Positano in the ’80s!

GRM: Best style advice?

BT: Trust your instincts, but don’t put yourself in a box. Be willing to try new things. Also, if clothes make you happy, don’t be afraid of investing in them.

This story can be found in the May/June 2022 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox, subscribe here

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