Starting next month, the retailer is rolling out three new boutiques of both nascent and seasoned designers, including Stephen Burrows, Patricia Field and Ana Abdul of Language. The boutiques are part of a drive by the New York specialty store to cultivate a string of such areas in its four-story Fifth Avenue building.
“The legacy of Bendel’s is that they had the first string of shops on the first floor of the old store. Now that we’re in a much bigger location, we’ve taken that same concept and expanded on it so we’ll become, in essence, a shop of shops,” said Ed Burstell, vice president and general manager of Henri Bendel. Existing boutiques in the store include D&G, Catherine Malandrino and Diane Von Furstenberg.
During the first week of February, Bendel’s will unveil a 250-square-foot shop devoted to the clothing of Seventies designer Stephen Burrows, who had a shop in Bendel’s during that time. In an archive search last year, Burstell came across a handful of material on designers who got their American start at Bendel’s: Ralph Lauren, Sonia Rykiel, Jean Muir and Burrows, to name a few. “We came into this flood of research on Stephen. When he hit, he hit so big, and then he didn’t. That piqued our interest. Ultimately, it came down to whether the clothes were viable for today. When we saw the sketches and the collection he was designing, we knew they absolutely were,” said Burstell.
The third-floor shop will have pearlized off-white walls and a cement floor in order to offset the vivid colors of the collection. The clothes, which will be sold exclusively at Bendel’s, are an array of fluid jersey, chiffon and suede pieces, with the designer’s romantic, yet modern signature and exquisite tailoring. Because Burrows will be on hand to custom-fit some of his pieces, Burstell carved out an atelier at the store for him. Retail prices range from $318 to $498 for skirts, $278 to $398 for tops and $598 to $928 for dresses. Sales for Burrows’s line are expected to hit $500,000 annually, according to industry sources.
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Bendel’s will also be throwing a fete on Feb. 11, during New York’s fashion week, to be hosted by Burrows’s friend Andre Leon Talley, editor at large of American Vogue. Former model and Burrows muse Pat Cleveland is flying in from Italy for the event.
In the second half of February, Patricia Field’s boutique, House of Field, will open. The line is currently designed by Field’s longtime partner David Dalrymple; Field, however, remains the owner and major visionary force. Bendel’s was the first store to give Field a retail account over a decade ago. Last fall, as Field’s own profile reached near-celebrity levels for her work on “Sex and the City,” she and Dalrymple relaunched the line and held their first runway show since 1996.
“Pat is a New York institution. We’d been interested in her line for a while. Her last show was just terrific, it’s not just about vinyl for daytime. There were very salable groups, like logo denims, men’s shirting fabric, bustiers and corsets. We were bowled over, so we decided to give them a shop,” said Burstell.
“I’m quite excited about having a retail presence uptown. For so long, House of Field has been a downtown darling,” said Field. “It’s great that Bendel’s is vibing on what David is doing with the line. They have such a great fashion savvy customer who wants clothing that’s fun, sexy and optimistic, which is what House of Field is all about.”
The decor of the 150-square-foot nook is an extension of Field’s showroom, with mirrored-mosaic walls, a leopard footstool and area rug offset by a ruby red carpet. Average retail prices for the line are $98 for printed T-shirts, $168 for skirts, $198 for tops and $348 for dresses. Sources estimate the space will produce $300,000 in total retail sales a year.
In March, Ana Abdul, the owner of the Language boutique in NoLIta, will debut her clothing line in a Bendel’s shop of her own. Although details about the decor of the 275 square feet are still being hashed out, Burstell sees the line as something “very big and very important.”
“Ana’s sensibility is very trend-driven, but also very refined. The product is right on, right now. But it’s also soft, there’s a twist to it and her signature is in the detail and in the finish,” said Burstell.
Retail prices range from $145 to $445 for skirts, $95 to $295 for tops and $265 to $995 for dresses. Sources expect the line to produce annual retail sales of $400,000 for Bendel’s.
Homing in on the buzz-worthy cachet of these designers, while an added benefit, is hardly Burstell’s aim. “It’s retail heaven when something comes to the table with some buzz about it,” he said. “But ultimately, if the product isn’t there to back it up and there isn’t the prospect of a long-range business that we can grow, then why bother?”