Exclusive: In conversation with Alice & Olivia's Stacey Bendet
"Here I am, I am the designer"
S he's a mother of three, fashion designer and CFDA board advisor and now, Stacey Bendet, the Creative Director of Alice & Olivia, is celebrating her continuous climb in the Middle Eastern market. As part of her expansion plans within the region, the New York-based designer made her debut appearance in Dubai and spoke to Buro 24/7 Middle East's Editor in Chief, Shannon Wylie about her new design direction, why doing yoga at 4am in the morning works and how to differentiate yourself in an ever-expanding economy...
Welcome to Dubai!
Thanks. It's such a quick trip for me but so far, we've had a really good time.
What's on your hit list while you're here?
We did an amazing photo shoot in the desert yesterday, so that was really fun. There were camels, falcons and it was really crazy. We also did some shopping at the local souk and bought some embroidered shawls.
Talking about shopping, how do you see your position here within the market?
Alice & Olivia is more of a designer-driven contemporary brand because it's not just a brand with a label on it. I'm working on every collection, on every piece of clothing. Our clothes are really about things that women are going to wear everyday and gowns they can buy without mortgaging their house but it's also fashion and it's beautifully made, intricate and detailed.
Here I am, I am the designer.
You're expanding in Doha as well. Tell us about that.
We've been so happy with how business has been with the stores we have opened here so far. So, our plan now is to keep opening.
You named Alice & Olivia after your mum. If you were to go back in time, would you change that?
I don't think so. Every mother is her daughter's first fashion influence. My mum had a pretty rockin' style so I think it was nice to do that.
Do you think your kids would say that about you?
I hope so! (Laughs). I have three kids: 7, 5 and a 6-month-old. Sometimes their friends will say: "your mummy is so fancy" or "I wish my mummy was fancy". I think that because it's so every day to them, it's not so novel to them.
Do you tend to make clothes for them?
I do make clothes for them but I also feel that it's really important to let children dress themselves, because it's their first form of creative expression.
Pants are a big part of your repertoire. Do you feel that they are quite gender driven or is it more about a style or a silhouette?
It's more about a style. The brand itself always has a little bit of a '70s influence to it. Wide-length pants for example, usually come through no matter what the trends are. It's something I have in every collection but I also think there's something really powerful about a woman being in a pant.
You've spoken out quite a bit about work-life balance and being a working mum. Why is it so important to you?
I love my work and I love my children. I think part of being a great mum is feeling great about myself and work makes me feel good about myself. I love creating, designing and I love all of the women I work with. Part of fulfilling or creating a wonderful world for your children is making sure that your world is fulfilled too.
Going back to contemporary design and your role on the board of the CFDA, what's your opinion on the new shift towards consumer-driven fashion weeks?
We always do a presentation during fashion week versus a runway show because we feel as a contemporary brand, it's important for us to tell a visual story. In April, we're doing our first buy-now wear-now show in Los Angeles. The whole show is shoppable and we've added exclusive items that are limited to 25-50 pieces that will only be available on our site right after the show. We think this is the sort of motto people are going to start to move into.
In the Middle East will we be able to log on and purchase at the same time as the shows?
Yes! But we won't be live streaming the presentation but it will be on Periscope.
There's a lot going on in the industry at the moment. What's one thing you would personally like to see change or develop?
The shift towards emphasising shoppable shows is something that I'm really into. I think having smaller and intimate presentations that are geared towards the buyers is a really good trend for the industry. It's almost going to split to become a consumer fashion week and an industry fashion week.
You put so much of yourself into your brand. What's one thing people don't know about you?
I have this secret yoga world. I do ashtanga at 4am with Eddie Stern. I practice almost every day.
Keeping up the practice must contribute a lot to your work ethic and the way that you function throughout the day. I've heard that your husband jokes about you being an A+...
The funniest thing is he would call me the A+ and after we had our first baby and they were doing blood tests, they asked what my blood type was and I said A+ and my husband said: "Yeah, obviously". But I'm just a really hard worker and I'm a perfectionist, probably to a fault at times.
What's next for Alice & Olivia besides the show?
We have our Grateful Dead capsule collaboration coming out in a couple of weeks, which is really exciting. My husband was actually producing a documentary on the band and I was so inspired, I said that I wanted to do a little collection. Then at the end of the year, we are also launching eyewear.
What kind of styles can we expect to see?
Big ones (laughs)! A little bit more like a retro '60s style.
Alice & Olivia is located at The Dubai Mall, Dubai.