By Mimi O'Connor Posted September 14, 2007, 12:40 PM EDT
On Tuesday night, upscale retailer Henri Bendel threw a big birthday bash. Complimentary cocktails flowed, a band played, and designers such as Alice & Olivia and Anna Sui created one-of-a-kind dresses as part of the celebration. But the guest of honor had no comment regarding all of the fuss. Forgivable behavior, considering the feted party was, um, a stripe motif.
You see, 2007 marks the 100th year of Bendel’s signature brown-and-white stripes, and 300 guests, including editors, designers, employees of Hachette Filipacchi Media (a cosponsor), store vendors, and friends of the retailer gathered at the Highline Ballroom to mark the occasion.
The evening included noshing on mini brown-and-white cupcakes and petit fours, a performance by the Brooklyn-based band Bishop Allen, and an auction of more than a dozen dresses inspired by the stripes from a crop of top designers. Proceeds from the auction will benefit Keep a Child Alive, an organization dedicated to providing treatment and care to AIDS-affected children in Africa.
Working with Henri Bendel event manager Rebecca Edell, the store's visual director, Gilberto Santana, oversaw the decor scheme, which put the stripe front and center. A display of the dresses up for auction anchored the space, and a mannequin holding both a bunch of brown and white balloons and multiple Bendel bags graced the stage. Brown-and-white banners emblazoned with “100” hung from the ballroom's balcony.
“We wanted an element of fun and whimsy, but also wanted to respect the heritage [of the stripe]. We wanted to find that middle level,” Santana said. “The most important thing is to have people have the same joy and pride over our heritage.”
One of the key factors in selecting the Highline Ballroom was the support of the High Line Project that came along with it. (A portion of the fee paid to the venue benefits the urban renewal project.) Santana reported that some members of the committee charged with selecting a venue voiced concerns that the space was too harsh or industrial. “I was always confident I could turn that around,” he said. “We worked with light a lot to create the ambience we needed.”