Stacey Bendet is at her peak.
At this moment, the summer sun is beating down on a churchyard in West Chelsea, giant beach balls are being thrown around by nearly 700 guests at Alice and Olivia’s anniversary party, a brand Bendet dreamed up 20 years ago. The beach balls tonight are imprinted with a big, round-sunglasses-wearing, red-lipped, cartoon face on everything from cookies to the video confessional wall. The figure is called Staceface and is a trademarked version of Bendet’s avatar.
She’s pulling out all the stops for the extravaganza, teaming up with multimedia-slash-hybrid, cool-kid artist Kid Super, complete with pom-poms, glittering booths for photo ops. In the midst of it all, holding center court (dosed on LSD in a re-creation of a high school locker room) stands a column-esque Bendet. She is dressed in a sheer dress with tiers of colorful geometric sequined panels. In turn, she gracefully greets friends with bold names like Boozy Phillips, Lea Michele, Gracie Abrams and Dylan Lauren.
As she does today and every day, Bendet represents herself as a master of excellence. After all, what is Stesface but physical evidence of the strength of Bendet’s identity? She is the founder of one of the biggest womenswear brands of our time. She is a devoted wife and mother of three children, one of whom, Eloise, is an accomplished competitive equestrian athlete. Her amazing – and this word is not chosen loosely – Ashtanga yoga skills are amazing. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania at the age of 21 and today serves on the advisory board of the Baker Retail Center, alma mater at the Wharton School of Business. Her team is so strong that even Taylor Swift’s team can take notes. Stacey Bendet is a true 2000’s renaissance woman and her inability to tell where she starts and ends makes her feel, well…infinite.
Although, as we discussed during an interview, Bendet set the record straight: Limitless, she’s not. She is a hard worker.
“No company becomes successful overnight, and fashion is not an industry for the lazy.” Bendet makes it very clear. I’ve been working out every day for 20 years, because when I put my mind to something, I’m into everything. But I’m home 6 nights a week spending time with my kids and the rest of the time I’m working on my business.
While she received her formal education at the Ivy League, her fashion business studies came from the Andrew Rosen School. Rosen was the godfather of American fashion in the late nineties and early years and played a major role in shaping contemporary American fashion. He was the architect behind the theory, the major labels of the day that describe everyday intelligence (Rosen co-founded Theory with Elie Tahari).
With Theory Success Lessons, he hedges his bets on the space of fashion brands that, like himself, define American style in the same modern way: wearable, accessible, relatable, cool. Rosen invested in Rag & Bone, Proenza Schouler, and eventually took on Bendet and her Alice and Olivia.
“I did my first fashion show in a Russian tea room,” recalls Bendet Rosen, describing how she got into it. “We were young, cool kids and it was a party of the week and I showed my crazy pants. At that time I only made these pants, I didn’t even make tops, so the fashion show was held upstairs, and Andrew was there. We met that day and from then on We were partners. Over the course of their decade-long partnership, they became many things—mentors and advisors, trusted confidants, and even close friends.
While her most meaningful professional relationship may have been with a man, Bendet has always been a woman’s woman, even a woman’s. If the beauty of her feminine-clad line isn’t obvious, getting to know her—even just a little—is to know she’s truly walking a girl-power journey. “Empower women, empower women,” she said during the interview, quoting the popular mantra of female sisterhood. Even in my encounters with her in my own industry, she consistently exudes respect, accessibility and support.
In the words of a close friend of Hillary Clinton’s former deputy chief of staff, Huma Abedin, “Stacey is an extremely successful entrepreneur and businessperson, but she never forgets who she is, where she came from, and what she wants to do. to the world. Abedin continues, “She’s a collaborator, always looking for a new project or foundation to support, and as a friend, she’s always there. First call when you need help, or advice, or a sympathetic ear. Or just laugh.
Bendet’s femme fatale attitude has played a major role in defining modern femininity both at home and in the fashion industry, so it’s no surprise when asked what her 20 years in the business mean to her. More women have come into the industry.
“When I started my company, there were very few female CEOs of fashion brands,” she continues. “They were great designers but they didn’t own and run their companies, and the truth is that while most brands are men designing for women, it’s women designing for women.”
She is proud to say that she has a 96% female employee retention rate at Alice & Olivia because of the flexibility around family life built into her workplace. This flexibility is something that always seems easy to do on paper, to create that balance for the working mom. Although working women are a fairly recent phenomenon, entering the workforce in large numbers in the early to mid-1900s, how career-oriented women function in society is an ever-evolving phenomenon.
As more is learned about women in the workforce, research shows that invisible labor burdens still loom over women when they enter the workforce. Invisible labor is the term of sociologist Arlene Daniels that describes the work that goes unnoticed and unpaid, which becomes a mental burden for those responsible. According to the United Nations, most of the invisible labor falls on women. In short, women are not the only ones who work, they simply work more.
Bendet gets this.
“I love being a mom, but let’s be honest, the baby and toddler years are tough, especially when you’re working. I encourage women to take that maternity leave and figure out how to accomplish whatever they want, which usually means sharing household responsibilities with their spouses. So if a woman is looking for a job, we encourage her to create an environment for success at home, and we do our part to accommodate this lifestyle so our employees can have both.
“It’s really about flexibility,” she says. “We don’t expect people to work at crazy hours or events. We know that mothers have to drop the kids off before going to work, or that they have to prioritize school conferences, or that they have to work from home if a child is sick. We have meetings between 9 and 5 so we provide an environment where children can have their time. We encourage parents to support other parents in the company with open forums for questions and advice. It’s not complicated, it’s just thinking.”
Caring, along with her drive and clarity, are part and parcel of why her team runs so deep.
“I always tell Stacey that she’s like a superwoman. There’s nothing she can’t do,” Bendet’s best friend Nikki Hilton Rothschild said when asked to describe her friend. “On top of that, she’s always my first e-mail or text around 4:30 a.m. I never know when she goes to bed.”
Today, Bendet is gearing up for New York Fashion Week, which is less than 24 hours away. As opposed to the runway shows that fashion week is known for, she was one of the first brands to fully embrace the presentation format because she knew from the start that her brand was about creating a buzz, generating energy and telling a story. While fashion shows with their set-up and seating policies quietly express what people value in the industry, the presentation allows people to engage with the brand, founder and other attendees. It is a format that supports Bendet’s values of inclusion.
“I never want a woman to walk out of my stores or events scared,” she says. “Clothes are meant to lift and inspire and make you feel like the best version of yourself, and that’s what I want. I want women to feel like the best versions of themselves wearing my clothes.
What started as a pants-only brand now includes ready-to-wear shoes, cashmere, evening wear, jeans and accessories. She launched Alice & Olivia as a general brand which now spans over 800 retailers worldwide. In the year It was in 2005 that she opened her first brick and mortar store, which has now grown to include 20 more around the world. She also sees a healthy e-commerce business. While Alice and Olivia are made for the everyday woman, the brand is popular with celebrities like Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, Gwyneth Paltrow, Gigi Hadid, Meghan Markle and more.
Bendet didn’t just use her influence to grow her business. To create such projects, she activated huge social networks, both real and digital (Alice and Olivia have almost 2 million followers on Instagram). Mic shareShe co-founded with respected C-suite executive Bozoma St. John to share the stories of black women by taking high-profile white women on Instagram while highlighting the stories of black women. An extension of this project, Bendet announces that it will soon start All women stand up It encourages women to share their social media platforms to come together to amplify the voices of the underprivileged globally.
In the future, Bendet will continue to democratize fashion through her business and her initiatives. She regularly engages with students and advises them on how to create and sustain brands. In her work with Wharton, she advises on what classes and concepts should be included in the curriculum, including how to build brands and build families. Bendet founded Creatively to democratize the way people find work in the fashion industry. It is open to creators of all disciplines and thus productive to hunt for work while simultaneously interacting with a constant stream of information.
To think, this fashion empire started from a high-class and not high-quality fashion show in a Russian tea room. In a way, Alice and Olivia didn’t stray too far from the core ethos of female strength seen on the runway at the 57th Street establishment that night.
“At this point in my career, it’s great to meet and get to know people, whether it’s an up and coming artist or someone whose voice needs to be heard,” Bendet said. “What we’ve always done at Alice & Olivia is the spirit of our brand – strength, empowerment and encouragement.”
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