712 Fifth Avenue, less than four blocks from Manhattan’s Central Park, will soon have a vacancy. Henri Bendel will close its doors in January after more than a century in the luxury fashion accessories and handbag business. Parent Company L Brands announced the closure of the brand nationwide in September and plans to focus on its portfolio of stores such as Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works.
Henri Bendel was a Louisiana milliner who started his eponymous line in Greenwich Village in 1895. A visionary, he was among the first retailers to brand himself with his own fragrance and stage his own fashion show. In fact, Bendel trademarked his legendary chocolate brown-and-white-striped pattern 123 years ago. He was also responsible for bringing Coco Chanel to the United States! Quite the visionary, Bendel was the first to offer in-store makeovers to his high-end clientele.
The brand’s website touts Bendel as discovering Andy Warhol, who was hired as an illustrator in the 1960s. It was also the first to offer the “store within a store” concept, which is still a trend to this day. Also fascinatingly, forgotten Lalique windows were discovered on the side of the landmark store in the 1980s; Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis supported the store’s landmark status.
Fast-forward to 2018, when more and more retail stores are shuttered with less-than-stellar sales numbers and the burgeoning presence of online shopping. Bendel’s flagship, which formerly took up four retail floors, is now down to two. Real estate trends in New York seem to be favoring long-term leases for the likes of Starbucks and Citibank, while former staples are quietly leaving Madison and Fifth Avenues.
Word erupted—during this year’s Fall Fashion Week, no less—that Henri Bendel will enjoy one last swan song before shuttering its flagship and 23 stores across the country. Nostalgia rages, and fashionistas and tourists alike are flocking to Henri Bendel for one last chance to purchase the ubiquitous chocolate- and-white-striped everything. Perhaps this is reason enough for celebrating the holidays in style in New York.