The Bonwit Teller name is readying a comeback after an eight-year hiatus.
A flagship will likely bow in New York by the end of next year and be followed quickly by a door in Los Angeles. Ultimately, the chain could expand to about 20 stores in the U.S., said Andrei Najjar, interim chief executive officer of Avenue Brands, who was recently hired to relaunch the brand and perhaps add others to build a portfolio.
The grand reentrance is taking the form of a luxury retail chain that will start with more than 100 years of history and focus on customer service and highly edited assortments. But Bonwit's return will come as the retail sector undergoes yet more consolidation, with many other famous nameplates — such as Marshall Field's — disappearing and malls focusing on core players with rollout potential.
"The new Bonwit will continue the brand's legacy of the unique juxtaposition of timelessness and artistic progression," said Najjar.
Avenue Brands is a subsidiary of Chicago-based River West Brands, which bought the rights to the Bonwit Teller name in 2005.
"We hope to return a much more authentically human element to the retail shopping experience," said Najjar, who cofounded Social Atelier Brands and also held posts at Abercrombie & Fitch Co., Target Corp. and Gap Inc.
A real estate strategy is being developed with information about site selection expected in the coming months.
"Our signature points of differentiation will be extremely attentive and personalized service; innovative, exclusive and highly edited product assortments; artistic features, and a very elegant and opulent in-store experience," said Najjar.
Founded in 1895, Bonwit Teller built its reputation by serving generations of high-end customers with looks from new designers, such as Calvin Klein, and featured the work of Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali and Richard Avedon.
Despite its star power, Bonwit Teller was impacted by market turbulence and retail consolidation in the Eighties and had four owners in less than 10 years: Allied Stores, Campeau Corp., Hooker Corp. and Pyramid Cos., which ultimately shuttered the last store in 2000.
"Bonwit Teller was an experience," said Paul Earle, president and founder of River West Brands. "It's a deep emotional reservoir. It's about mothers and daughters. It's about purple violets."The original chain's shopping bags featured a logo incorporating violets that became its calling card.
"We see Bonwit Teller right now as a blank canvas with an exquisitely beautiful frame," said Earle.
River West owns trademark rights to Salon Selectives and Underalls, among others.
"We're highly opportunistic and look for these great cast-off brands, the Rembrandt in the attic," said Earle.
@pantone announced their Color of the Year 2018: Ultra Violet. Nearly 20 months after the musician Prince’s death, fashion is having a purple moment. Varying shades of purple appeared on spring or fall runways, from @christopherkane to @calvinklein. @gucci’s Alessandro Michele bathed his fall runway in ultra violet-colored light at one point. Pantone 18-3838 is meant to “push the boundaries of what inspires us to look upward and outward to the future.” #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@badgalriri’s @fentybeauty launch in September was a massive success on social media, powering $72.9 million of earned media value, according to Tribe Dynamics. The brand’s foundation offering sparked conversations about diversity in beauty, launching the growth of emerging influencers and propelling the brand’s support on social media. Today, #fentybeauty won Launch of the Year at the WWD #BeautyIncAwards. (📷: Chema Moya/EPE-EFE)
@marianna_hewitt has become one of the most influential content creators in the beauty space, with almost 800,000 Instagram followers and a newly launched skin care line called @SummerFridays. Today, she was awarded Influencer of the Year at the WWD #BeautyIncAwards. (📸: @sophiachabbott )
As shopping behaviors evolve, the retail experience must follow. Head over to retail experts @colliersinternational’s Knowledge Leader series to read more about the shift in our shopping era. #colliersretail #lovecolliers
@prada opened a pop-up club, called Prada Double Club, in collaboration with German artist Cartsen Höller at @artbasel Miami. Last night, guests – including @youngparis, @ritaora and even Miuccia Prada herself – gathered in a former ice factory where the pop-up is housed for a performance from @wyclefjean. Go to WWD.com for full coverage on all the exhibits, parties and more at #ArtBaselMiami. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)
@louboutinworld and @disney are making magic once again, creating a set of shoe designs for the release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Louboutin designed a pair of shoes for each of the film’s four female leads: Rey (@daisyridrey), Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (@lauradern), Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) and Rose Tico (@kellymarietran). The shoes will debut on Saturday at the L.A. premiere of the latest episode. #wwdfashion
Today at the #BeautyIncAwards 2017, WWD will be joined by beauty leaders from around the world as we honor this year's most innovative people, products, brands and places. Follow along here and on Twitter for live coverage from the exclusive event. #wwdsummits (📷: @elizaflorendo)
Exclusive: Beauty superinfluencer @marianna_hewitt is launching her first-ever skin care brand with her business partner @laurengores. Their new line Summer Fridays, which will be sold exclusively at summerfridays.com starting in January, is launching with just one product – a hydrating cream Jet Lag Mask. “We wanted to focus on one product that was amazing,” said Hewitt. Read the full interview on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdbeauty #wwdnews
Michelin star-rated chef PJ Calapa marks his first solo endeavor with today’s opening of @scampinyc –– the new Southern Italian restaurant located in Manhattans’ Flatiron District. The upscale yet welcoming environment matches the menu, which includes two types of scampi: traditional Italian langoustines in butter and the Americanized version with shrimp over pasta 🍤 - pictured here. #wwdeye (📷: George Chinsee)