Henri Bendel and the Worlds He Fashioned
Henri Bendel and the Worlds He Fashioned
Henri Bendel and the Worlds He Fashioned
Henri Bendel and the Worlds He Fashioned
Henri Bendel and the Worlds He Fashioned
Henri Bendel and the Worlds He Fashioned
Henri Bendel and the Worlds He Fashioned

Henri Bendel and the Worlds He Fashioned

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Henri Bendel and the Worlds He Fashioned

by Tim Allis

Coming September 24, 2024

 

Henri Bendel. A store of legend. A man of mystery. And the first-ever book to explore and celebrate both in a style worthy of its fashionable subjects.

A name known to many, a man known to few. Henri Willis Bendel was celebrated in his lifetime as a tastemaker and merchant but is now a nearly lost figure. His journey from a humble upbringing in late-nineteenth-century Louisiana to the pinnacle of high society was remarkable: Starting with a small hat shop in Greenwich Village in 1896, he eventually redrew the map of fashion retail, turning then-strictly residential Fifty-Seventh Street into “the Rue de la Paix of New York.” He introduced his discerning clients to such influential designers as Schiaparelli, Molyneaux, and Chanel. He outfitted Astors, Vanderbilts, and stars of stage and screen from the sunset of the Gilded Age past the dawn of the Jazz Age. But he also brought a democratization to fashion with accessible offerings and clearance sales. In syndicated newspaper columns he dispensed pithy and impassioned fashion advice to women across the nation who might never set foot in his store.

Henri Bendel and the Worlds He Fashioned traces his life from his upbringing in a large, tight-knit Jewish family headed by his immigrant stepfather and mother—herself an enterprising merchant—to his early dry goods business, then to the romance that led him to New York and the tragedy that would set in motion his rapid ascent. Bendel was treated as a kindred soul in the Paris salons of haute couture and throughout Europe, where he amassed rare antiques, then built dramatic showplaces back home in which to place them. All the while he stayed loyal to his kin down south and to his chosen family up East, which consisted of blood relatives and two beloved companions whose true place in Henri’s heart required discretion, owing to the constrictions of the time.

The book also recounts the history of Mr. Bendel’s storied store, from its bustles-and-corsets years through the days of furs and flappers, then the tailored chic of the 1930s and ’40s. In more modern times, the legendary president Geraldine Stutz made Bendel’s a cornucopia of cutting-edge designers and innovative merchandising, a lure for the most famous and fashionable women in America. In its long, final era, Leslie Wexner of the Limited expanded the store’s reach and solicited younger clients, emphasizing jewelry, accessories, and dazzle. Those various and sometimes-at-odds incarnations define Bendel’s extraordinary 123-year run under the iconic brown and white stripes first sketched by Henri, who himself said, “A designer, to be successful, must feel the trend of the times.”

 

Praise for Henri Bendel and the Worlds He Fashioned

"Chills! Tim Allis' intoxicating foray into the majestic life of fashion impresario Henri Bendel drips with glamorous escapism. I inhaled it."—Simon Doonan, former creative director of Barney’s and author of The CAMP 100: Glorious Flamboyance, from Louis XIV to Lil Nas

"The unlikely, lively epic of how a gay, Jewish, small-town Southerner became Manhattan's reigning taste arbiter, Henri Bendel and the Worlds He Fashioned is a tour de force of scholarship. Allis offers up a treasury of fascinating new material that challenges received ideas about luxury consumption in America, then and now.”—Amy Fine Collins, fashion historian, editor-at-large of Air Mail, and an owner of the International Best-Dressed List

"I’m so happy to have this book. In this time when history is being forgotten or worse, rewritten, it’s great to have a testament to the brilliance and quality that was Henri Bendel."—Isaac Mizrahi, fashion designer and entertainer
 
“This stylish and engrossing volume illuminates the life of Henri Bendel, one of the greatest retailers of the twentieth century. Allis has unearthed every last fascinating fact about this Louisiana-born aesthete who conquered New York in order to create a world of style for himself and his fortunate clients. Lavishly illustrated and designed, this book fills an enormous gap in twentieth-century American and French fashion history.”—Caroline Rennolds Milbank, author of Fashion: A Timeline in Photographs, 1850 to Today, and Couture: The Great Designers
 
“A splendid biography of this son of Lafayette, Louisiana. Beautifully written, gorgeously illustrated, an absolute delight!”—John Magill, New Orleans historian and author of The Incomparable Magazine Street
 
“A sumptuous pleasure worthy of the tastemaker it memorializes.”—Ruth Laney, author of Cherie Quarters: The Place and the People That Inspired Ernest J. Gaines

"Henri Bendel and the Worlds He Fashioned is a revealing biography of an elusive retail pioneer who changed how Americans shop."—Erika Harlitz Kern, Foreword Reviews

 

 

About the Author

Tim Allis was a senior editor at InStyle for twelve years. Prior to that he was a staff writer at D magazine (Dallas) and People. He has contributed articles to Out, Men’s Health, Time Out New York, Saveur, CNN.com, and Playbill.com, among others. A dedicated theater-goer, he periodically dabbles in playwriting. As Henri Bendel did, he calls both Lafayette, Louisiana, and New York City home.

 

©2024 University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press

Hardcover with dust jacket | 264 Pages | 7" x 10" | ISBN: 9781959569053