It's not at all surprising that Stacey Bendet named her firstborn daughter Eloise. Bendet is, after all, the petite whirlwind behind the fanciful, uber-girlie label Alice + Olivia, and it's pretty easy to imagine her—and her mini-me 2-year-old—sashaying around The Plaza getting into all sorts of mischief, much like the beloved heroine of Kay Thompson's classic children's book.
These days, however, Bendet is more likely to be found behind a desk in her Midtown office, overseeing Alice + Olivia's next collection—in addition to the main line, which originally launched in 2002 as a collection of great-fitting pants, she also designs separate career and yoga-inspired collections and a shoe collection for Payless—or plotting the next leg of the Alice + Olivia road trip, in which A+O stylists drive cross country in an Airstream to bring fashion and sparkle to the style-starved masses from coast to coast. (The company is named for Bendet's mom, Olivia, and for her ex-business partner's mom, Alice.) In 2004, she added Anthony + Mo, a line of colorful cashmere sweaters for men, and A + O children's wear debuted in 2008.
The New York native recently co-hosted a benefit for the local yoga non-profit Bent on Learning honoring Gwyneth Paltrow and Russell Simmons (and wore an A + O skirt for the occasion comprised of thousands of hand-sewn sequins, beads and crystals). In addition to her good works, Bendet is currently expanding her signature footwear collection and gearing up to collaborate with textile guru Gene Meyer, reprinting and reinterpreting his vintage prints for dresses and scarves for spring 2012. Alice + Olivia is also slated to open its seventh stand-alone store later this year (the collection is also carried in more than 700 stores worldwide).
Given all this, it's a wonder that the designer still finds time to trawl the Interweb for 4 a.m. Finds, her weekly email blast full of the fun and fabulous fashion, gadgets and objets Bendet has discovered while haunting cyberspace in the wee, wee hours.
The Fashion Informer's Lauren David Peden recently sat down with the bicoastal mother of two (daughter Scarlet was born in April) to talk Pop Tarts, pop art and pink champagne.
What's your favorite dessert?
Frozen yogurt. Stonyfield Cookies n' Cream.
Best movie you've seen in the past month?
Bridesmaids. I haven’t laughed that hard in ages.
Beverage of choice?
These days? Breast milk? Normally, pink champagne or a Patron Silver margarita.
Do you believe in love at first sight?
What would you like to be doing if you weren't a designer?
I think this is my dream job. Maybe I would teach yoga—although I don’t like touching sweaty people.
What's the one beauty/grooming product you cannot live without?
Homeoplasmine is my skin savior. I also love red lipstick from MAC.
What magazines/websites do you read regularly?
French Vogue, British Vogue, Vanity Fair, Purple, Nylon, Living. I also like My Style and Marie Claire Maison. I have stacks and stacks of fashion and interior magazines.
What makes for a perfect 4AM Find?
Something that is unique and fun—and a little bit random.
What one piece of advice would you give a young designer just starting out?
Have a focus and be clear on what your message is. Alice + Olivia started as just pants—it made a mark. Every designer needs to be clear about what their message is to start.
What's the most you've ever spent on a purchase, other than a house or a car?
I buy one special piece of art each year—a Nicolas Pol painting, a Dustin Yellin sculpture, a Rene Ricard poem painting.
What's your favorite method of communication?
When was the last time you lost your temper?
I had food poisoning this morning and Eric didn’t want to wake up to get Eloise a Pop Tart and she was screaming for a Pop Tart and he was snoring and I was on the verge of vomiting and I totally screamed at him to get up and get the Pop Tart. Then he gave her the Pop Tart in our bed and I was on the verge of vomiting in sticky strawberry crumbs.
Tell me about Bent on Learning—how did it originate and what's the goal of the program?
The goal is to create yoga classes in NYC public schools. It’s pretty amazing. It started 10 years ago and I joined the board three years ago.
What makes you nervous?
Not much. Although I really hate driving.
When are you happiest?
At home with my husband and my girls or at the office playing with fabrics and color swatches!
photos of Alice + Olivia Resort 2012 collection courtesy of Alice + Olivia