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Friday, March 6, 2009


Henri Bendel: A Store of Fashion Innovation

One of Manhattan’s chicest shopping environments, Henri Bendel is where the world’s most stylish shoppers go to find the new and the next in fashion, accessories, cosmetics and gifts. Bendel’s sought-after signature brown & white striped shopping bags swing from the arms of trend-setting women around the world. Whom You Know loves Henri Bendel!

Mr. Henri Bendel began his career as a milliner and eventually changed the shape of American fashion with his keen eye, unerring sense of style and innovative point of view. His legacy—the store, Henri Bendel.

Born in 1868 in Lafayette, Louisiana, Henri Bendel opened his first shop on East Ninth Street in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village in 1895, offering exquisitely detailed hats, custom furs and gowns both of his own creation and from European designers. In 1907, the designer moved his retail operation uptown to Fifth Avenue and then again to West 57th in 1912, just prior to World War I. He was the first retailer to open shop on 57th Street.

From the beginning, the Bendel sensibility combined elegance and classicism with cutting edge chic. At the turn of the century, pretty and practical clothing emerged as an option for women accustomed to restrictive and purely decorative wardrobes. Mr. Bendel interpreted the trends of the finest European designers for his American customers, which included legions of famous performers and society women. He also set the tone for his admiring followers through his monthly fashion magazine columns, advising women to assert their personalities through their fashion choices.

Bendel’s smart brown and white striped awnings and striking window displays—all created by Henri Bendel himself–-attracted a specific type of customer. In turn, the Bendel’s shopper was discerning and stylish, independent and mannered, creative and well-educated. Women flocked to Bendel’s because they knew they would always find newness, sophistication and chic.

During the post-war years, Bendel’s evolved with the times, all the while maintaining the signature philosophies of its founder. In the 60’s, Geraldine Stutz, a visionary merchant in her own right, became Owner and President of Henri Bendel. She created the “Street of Shops” concept, a unique layout of mini-ateliers. This first shop-in-shop motif allowed clients to understand the distinct vision each designer represented in the store. Continuing its search for the cutting edge, Bendel’s embraced and launched such stunning new talents as Stephen Burrows, Zoran, Zandra Rhodes and Mary McFadden in the 60’s and 70’s.

In 1985, Bendel’s unique character caught the eye of retail extraordinaire, Les Wexner, and Limited Brands acquired the store. In 1991, the flagship Henri Bendel Manhattan location moved around the corner from its 10 West 57th Street location to 712 Fifth Avenue between 55th and 56th Streets, quadrupling the size of the original shop. This daring move created a dramatic yet intimate new shopping space out of three townhouses, including the landmark Coty and Rizzoli buildings. Fronted by gorgeous original Lalique carved artglass windows, (discovered only after Bendel’s began renovating the building), the Fifth Avenue shop is an fanciful and luxurious space, with each floor connected by sweeping, curved staircases.

Today, the store serves as a testament to of the original Henri Bendel vision. Offering a blend of European and American talents, Henri Bendel has launched many of this generation’s most innovative young designers, including Peter Som, Nieves Lavi, Trelise Cooper and Jonathan Saunders. Bendel’s renowned Designer Collections feature such lines as Michael Kors, Blumarine, Missoni, Andrew GN and Collette Dinnigan. The beauty area carries cosmetic lines like Laura Mercier, Trish McEvoy, Kevyn Aucoin, Mally Beauty and Model Co. Bendel’s made headlines in 1989 as the first American retailer to introduce M.A.C Cometics to the United States. Henri Bendel is known for fabulous charity parties and shopping events, frequent celebrity sightings, and dramatic window displays.

Bendel’s honors the legacy of its founder, continually evolving tradition with an innovative perspective that stretches the boundaries of creativity and style.

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