Sunday, May 10, 2009

Blitz at Bendel's

Revamping, firing, and downsizing: coming to a world-famous shopping destination near you! Perhaps if you, like myself, have the Times style section online set as your home page, you might know what I'm talking about, and this post would therefore be several days overdue. And even if you don't, you probably heard through the proverbial grapevine that Henri Bendel the corporation is eliminating all clothing from its inventory, and that Henri Bendel the flagship store and New York institution is deleting a floor and laying off over 8% of employees. Now, being that I live a half-hour train ride from New York City, I've spent a fair amount of time at Bendel's, though the most I've ever gotten from the store is a box of toffee, a set of earrings, a jar of fig body butter (since discontinued), a shower cap in the signature brown and white stripes, and momentary impressions of how I might look donning those accoutrements that are far beyond my clothing budget: jeweled hairbands (I happen to have discovered a certain jeweled ribbon hairband way before Blair Waldorf debuted it for a primetime audience of millions), cashmere berets, and fabulous - real (duh!) - Ray-Bans.
But Hannah Serena, you say, none of those things are going! Bendel's accessories and beauty products will be sticking around indefinitely. It's only the clothes that are going.
Only?! What the Hell else do you go window shopping for? I mean, I guess I forgot to mention those extraordinary, life-changing holiday windows? What are they going to put the mannequins in now? Or are they just going to pull a Cartier and ditch window displays entirely?
You see, regardless of the amount of zeroes in your disposable income, shopping in Bendel's clothing department is one of those things that should be pretty high on the bucket list. It's a truly magical experience, especially given that no one expects you to buy anything unless you're clearly loaded with cash; all the clothes are just so beautiful. I have spent many a day wandering through the petite, wallpapered clothing rooms, filling my head with the names of colorful new boutique designers to watch. I am like a fashionable cow, grazing on the pasture that is the Bendel's clothing floor. And I'm guessing this is the floor that's going to be dropped - because it's pretty unlikely that Bendel's will drop the basement sale room.
Of course, if Bendel's had enacted such a policy even thirty years ago, our world would be absent of Todd Oldham and Anna Sui, those rising stars who got their starts in that famous Bendel's go-see. Who knows what amazing designers-to-come will miss their big breaks and spend the rest of their lives wallowing in society's oblivion? It's just a huge slap in the face to those for whom Bendel's is a fashiony playground that some of its happiest parts are to be removed, all in the name of strengthening the Bendel's brand.
I don't want the impersonality of "brand." I want creativity, authenticity, and class. I want Bendel's to remember who loves it the most, and why, and rethink this whole strategy accordingly. And I know I'm not the only one who feels that way.

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