The CEO/creative director of Alice + Olivia dishes on her rise in the fashion world on the eve of her Boca appearance at the Junior League’s signature event.
As the story goes, Alice + Olivia founder Stacey Bendet spent her share of time making dresses for her Barbie dolls as a child. She even crafted her own bat mitzvah dress. All of which stands to reason, given that her father was in the textile business. But from there, the story of one of the fashion industry’s most buzz-worthy designers follows a less-than-conventional arc.
She studied international relations and French at the University of Pennsylvania. She made money after college by building websites. And then she designed pants. Striped. Flared. Colorful. At the debut of her then-20-item collection in 2002, topless models walked around New York City’s Russian Tea Room in those pants.
An unconventional star was born, not that the thirty-something Bendet would have it any other way. A little more than a decade later, Alice + Olivia encompasses everything from shoes and handbags to tops, blazers, dresses and much more. The brand can be found in more than 800 stores around the world, including Saks Fifth Avenue at Town Center at Boca Raton—which invited the designer to participate in the Junior League’s annual Woman Volunteer of the Year luncheon on Nov. 7 at Boca West.
Boca Raton caught up with the woman who recently made Vanity Fair’s International Best-Dressed List’s Hall of Fame.
What about your background best prepared you for this career?
I spent the first four years of Alice + Olivia learning everything there was to learn about fashion, production, pattern making and, most importantly, fabric and fit. It was not the traditional course, but I have never been one for the traditional.
You started Alice + Olivia with a friend shortly after college. The line was named after your mom, Olivia, and your friend’s mom. Can you talk about the kind of relationship you had with your mother and how that influenced your line?
Every little girl’s first fashion influence is her mother. My mom had the most amazing style. When I first started the line, our original Olivia pants were inspired by gorgeous photos of her in sexy 1970s bell-bottoms.