Inside Henri Bendel's Magical Workshop

Don't call it a department store — Henri Bendel is definitely its own beast. Started by Henri Willis Bendel in 1895, the brand was responsible for introducing America to some of the world's biggest names in fashion, including Chanel, Diane von Furstenberg, and Rick Owens. Nowadays, walking into a Henri Bendel is like walking into an adult's version of a candy shop — with rows and rows of sweets sweet bangles, bags, candles, and more, it's a specialty shop that now boasts an impressive collection of designed-in-house bags, accessories, and jewelry.
But don't think that it's your typical hit list of well known brands — Henri Bendel's has championed indie designers for decades. Sold alongside big names, these lesser known designers also get prominently featured, many of whom were discovered through Bendel's well-attended "Open-Sees," which gives new vendors a chance to be carried at its flagship store in NYC.
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With a team of people that has an eye for spotting what's best (not to mention, an eye for creating the best, too!), Henri Bendel HQ is a treat for the senses. With covetable merchandise, jaw-dropping window displays, and stylish employees — all wrapped in that signature brown-and-white stripe — Henri Bendel is a wonderland worth visiting. Click through to meet some of the players working under its roof.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
Pina Ferlisi, creative director

How did you end up at Henri Bendel?
"Henri Bendel has always been my favorite New York store. I fell in love with it when I was a fashion student hunting out the new and the next. So, when I was approached to head up design and creative direction for the brand, I was immediately interested. I know I can make a difference...I understand the customer and I love who she is."

Pina wears a J.Brand dress, Céline shoes, and a Henri Bendel bag.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
What's your favorite in-office tradition?
"We celebrate all the birthdays in each month on the last Thursday of the month."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring boss ladies?

"My only advice is: 'Be the boss that you have always wanted!'"
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
What's your MO when it comes to dressing for work?
"Keep it simple and chic, and style it up with great accessories and heels!"

Those Wonder Woman cuffs and necklace are Henri Bendel's.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
Describe the Henri Bendel aesthetic in five words.
"Chic, fun, quirky, glamorous, and desirable."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
How'd you like this greeting you for work each morning?
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
The main rotunda opens up into the café.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
Henri Bendel illustrator Izak Zenou's work splashed across the walls.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
Corie Rosenberg, associate PR manager

How did you end up at Henri Bendel?
"I actually started my career in PR for magazines — at Elle. I’ve always been obsessed with magazines and fashion, so it was a natural progression for me to head to retail."

Corie wears a Zara jacket and dress and J.Crew shoes.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
What's the funniest/craziest thing that's happened at work?
"We’ve been known to throw a crazy party or two at our Fifth Avenue flagship. One of the most notable was last year’s FNO…we had Cirque du Soleil perform in our atrium (they wanted to have a performer suspended from our ceiling — that idea got scrapped) and food trucks on the 3rd floor. It was just madness — you couldn’t walk or move." 

Jewelry from Henri Bendel.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
What one HB item are you pre-ordering?
"For spring 2014, Pina and her team came up with this genius kaleidoscope floral print…it didn’t come in a clutch originally, but I had mentioned that the silhouette would be insane with that treatment, and the design team agreed. It was put into production that day. I think I have to order five now."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
What's your favorite in-office tradition?
"My favorite in-office tradition is when we gather as a company and review a new collection before the merchants have made their buys for the season. It’s a time for us to get excited about what’s coming down the pipeline and place our mental pre-orders."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
What's your strategy when it comes to dressing for work?
"Oftentimes, my day doesn’t end until much, much after the actual workday — I’m either running a red carpet or out to dinner with an editor, so my work outfits need to be versatile yet comfortable. I usually stick to a muted color palette and tons of jackets and blazers layered over skirts or skinny pants — pockets are key in this industry."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
A look at its current window displays.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
Joseph Guevara, associate merchant — jewelry, hair accessories

How did you end up at Henri Bendel?
"I started as a 3rd party buyer intern for the brand. A week before graduating, an opportunity arose to work for the buying side of the Henri Bendel brand in jewelry. Coming from a suburb in Michigan, I quickly packed my bags, headed to New York City, and never looked back. Best decision ever."

Joe wears a Sandro shirt and blazer, J.Crew pants, American Apparel tie, and Barneys shoes.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
What's the craziest thing that's happened at work?
"Our art director asked me if I could hand model a few rings and bracelets for a mock-up layout for one of our catalogs. I thought about it for a moment and then said yes. I kept the layout and had it framed!"

Joe's watch is from Henri Bendel.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
What's your MO when it comes to dressing for work?
"I pick looks that suit my modern-luxury personality. I love shirts that I can button all the way up to the collar. My signature is a cuffed jean or pant."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
What's your favorite in-office tradition?
"Birthdays. Our merchant comes up with the most lavish birthday parties. To get back at her, I threw her a surprise underwater-themed party, mermaids and bubble machine included. She still has them in her office."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
What one HB item are you pre-ordering for yourself?
"Hair accessories. Not just one but a lot. Of course, it won't be for myself but for my friends and family. We are relaunching our hair accessories line in October, and the hair pieces are exceptional this coming holiday."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
Stacy Fisher, assistant merchant — handbags, small leather goods

How did you end up at Henri Bendel?
"Before coming to HB, I was working for a large department-store chain. It was a great experience, but I was interested in seeing what a smaller and accessories-driven brand had to offer." Stacy is wearing head-to-toe Zara.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
What's your MO when it comes to dressing for work?
"We are fortunate to have a pretty lax office dress code, which allows people to get creative and mix up their day-to-day style. One day, I might wear jeans and a T-shirt, and the next I’ll be in a dress and heels. My job can be pretty hands-on at times, so comfort is key."

Check out that great jewelry and neon Henri Bendel clutch!
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
What's your favorite in-office tradition?
"The annual holiday window unveiling at our flagship store on Fifth Avenue is such an amazing time for us. The windows are gorgeous, the product is festive, and there’s a ton of excitement surrounding what’s to come. When the curtain drops…it’s just magic!"
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
Tell us why you love Henri Bendel bags.
"Henri Bendel handbags are perfect for any occasion! Not only do we pride ourselves on the quality of our materials and manufacturing, but we also have fabulous in-house designers that design our bags to not only look amazing but also have tons of functionality as well. Most of our bags can be easily converted to switch up the end use — whether it’s the removal of a strap or the shortening of one."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
What's the biggest lesson you've learned working at Bendel?
"The great thing about fashion everywhere is that everyone has their own individual tastes and styles. It is very subjective, and there is no 'wrong' or 'right.'"

What one HB item are you ordering for yourself?
"Studs are everywhere for holiday! Personally, I can’t wait to wear the Carlyle Studded Barrel and matching studded Henri Slim Continental Wallet!"
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
The view from above.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
Sarah Kyriakos, visual manager

What's the funniest/craziest thing that's happened at work?
"When a bag of old wigs from the flagship store was delivered to the office... The wigs went on, the music blasted, and we had an impromptu dance party. We totally WIGGED OUT!"

Sarah wears an Urban Zen top, Helmut Lang pants, and Henri Bendel's jewelry.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
What's your favorite in-office tradition?
"I tried to start a new tradition — the 'bagel off.' NYC is known for its bagels. So,when the president told me H&H Bagels was his favorite, I put him up to the challenge! I'm a Pick-A-Bagel fan!"
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
Working with the shop windows and the displays must be so, so fun. What do you love most about your job?
"I love working with such talented and creative people. My boss and I have a creative connection that is very inspiring. He can scribble a concept on a bar napkin, and I can bring that to life in our mall store windows. I always keep his scribbles in my project folders, because I love to see how we take these ideas from paper to reality."
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
What's your MO when it comes to dressing for work?
"I dress depending on my mood, but I always have our five 'Bendel Girl' personalities in mind: chic, sporty, fashionista, glamorous and quirky. Some days, I am distinctly one, but other days, I have multiple personalities."

Sarah's shoes are from Balenciaga.
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Photographed by Alice Gao.
What's one idea you've had that was too big for reality?
"No idea is too big for reality! The HB visual team can always make it happen! The sky is the limit!"
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