Byline: Janet Ozzard

NEW YORK – They may be relatively new to the scene, but Alexandre Morgado and Matthieu Bureau, the designers behind the French label Alexandre Matthieu, were strategizing like seasoned pros during Henri Bendel’s new designer event held Thursday night.
While working their way through a plate of foie gras and cornichons at the ultra-hip Meatpacking District tapas bar, Apartment, Morgado and Bureau nailed down an itinerary for their next few days in New York: walk some stores uptown, then head downtown – to walk some more stores.
The business-like attitude bodes well for the future of Bendel’s New Creative department, which expands the designer department by 30 percent, according to vice president and general manager Ed Burstell. As reported, Bendel’s has expanded its offerings of young designers over the past few years, adding such names as Luella Bartley, Emma Cook, Rick Owens, Imitation of Christ, Bernard Wilhelm and Alessandro Dell’Acqua.
The latest labels to join the gang are Alexandre Matthieu, London-based Sophia Kokosalaki and Brazilian designer Alexandre Herchcovitch. After a cocktail party at the store Thursday evening, the designers and various editors headed down to Apartment to kick back a bit.
“This always was the identity of Bendel’s,” said Burstell at Thursday’s soiree, as he surveyed the crowd. “We’ve had a great reaction to the designers that we’ve brought in already. We’ve gone from 12 names two years ago to 20 last year to 40 this year.”
Burstell said Bendel’s has quite a bit to offer young designers, and considering New York’s high density of hotly competitive retailers, every little bit counts.
“We can help them source, we can give them advice, we give them Fifth Avenue exposure,” said Burstell. “We can put together a complete package, introduce them to press, give them an advertising vehicle. There are very few places that these designers can go that will take a chance on them.”
It’s also got a not-too-big, not-too-small feeling, concurred Morgado and Bureau.
“Bendel’s is nice because it’s a big shop, but it’s also intimate,” said Morgado. “It’s great to see the kind of store where the saleswoman isn’t anonymous, where she knows her clients.”
While they’ve gotten some wide exposure from the designs they’ve created for celebrities like Bjork, Morgado and Bureau have only just begun to expand overseas. And as such, they say they’re staying out of any retail free-for-alls.
But at the same time, they’re not doing the exclusivity thing.
“We’re not getting into that,” said Bureau. “We’re so new that we decided to sell to anyone who came to us the first season and see how the different customers react.” Herchcovitch, who is already a well-established name in Brazil with two signature stores and about seven years’ worth of collections under his belt, was nursing some jet lag Thursday after flying in that morning. But he was still able to make the rounds at the party. And he said he was excited to be selling in Bendel’s.
“I’ve admired Bendel’s since I first came to New York in 1993,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of stores come to look at my line, but I went with them because they have respect for the designer.”

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