Alice + Olivia Collection
It’s often alluded that the main difference between male designers and female designers is that the former adds a bit too much exuberance while the latter focuses too much on practicality. While both are equally needed, having one factor more dominant than the other wouldn’t necessarily guarantee both critical and commercial success.
For example, while the extravagant collections of John Galliano or Alexander McQueen received much praise from the fashion press, not a lot of women bought them and wore them on the streets. At the same time, while women flocked to the easy and practical designs of Victoria Beckham, there wasn’t much excitement when it came to her designs. It’s difficult to achieve a good balance of both, but Alice + Olivia might have done just that.
The Success of Alice + Olivia
Currently sold in over 800 stores around the world, including Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, and Saks Fifth Avenue, Alice + Olivia’s products have a signature quirk to them. They’re both ladylike and rebellious, but at the same time wearable and comfortable. Founder and designer Stacey Bendet is not afraid to play with prints and textiles, often mixing and matching them to pairings one wouldn’t necessarily deem as fit. She has also played with various silhouettes, from short and playful, lean and long, to the classic A-line styles that have clients clamoring for more.
Bendet started designing clothes when she was still studying at the University of Pennsylvania. She would often tailor her pants herself according to her specific silhouette, style, and the fit she wanted. She founded the label in 2002, alongside her then-business partner, Rebecca Matchett. They famously presented their first collection in New York City’s iconic Russian Tea Room, an array of low-rise, slim-cut pants called “Staceypants”. From the get-go, the brand’s pieces were in bright pops of color and in various patterns, establishing what would be the label’s signature style. The show received critical acclaim, and the fashion press was abuzz about the new, female-driven label in town. The “Staceypants” also became one of the hottest items of that season.
In 2003, Matchett parted ways with the company and Andrew Rosen, the founder of contemporary brand Theory, became the company’s chief financial officer. When prominent retailers such as Bergdorf Goodman and Barney’s started ordering Alice + Olivia pieces, Rosen convinced Bendet to branch out into ready-to-wear. From then on, the brand started offering tops, skirts, suits, and other garments that would complete a modern woman’s wardrobe.
The following year, in 2004, the company branched out into menswear, offering their same quirky style for men. In 2005, the began making season clothing, releasing then at the same time as the other luxury brands released their spring or fall collections. However, even back then, their style did not conform to any season. For example, their signature use of florals was present even with their autumns offerings. Meanwhile, their use of leather and more rigid materials, which are more suitable for fall, would often be seen among their spring collections as well. The brand has a certain fearlessness, and since it’s an independent company, they don’t have pressure coming from big corporations.
With a lucrative business, the label had expanded tenfold by 2006, opening stores outside New York, such as in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas, and Chicago. It has also set up free-standing stores in various other countries, most of which are in Asia. In 2014, the company has had stores in the fashion districts of Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore, as well as in malls in Dubai and Kuwait. When e-commerce began dominating the fashion industry, Alice + Olivia jumped on the bandwagon, selling their clothes through prominent online retailers such as Net-A-Porter and Shopbop.
Alice + Olivia & Celebrities
Like any successful fashion brand, the label has developed a faithful following from many celebs as well. A-list actresses such as Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Drew Barrymore have all been spotted wearing Bendett’s designs. Popstars Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez were even spotted wearing the same silver and white empire waist dress on different occasions. On the red carpet, pop culture personalities like Kourtney Kardashian and Lauren Conrad have worn the label. With such celebrity endorsements, as well as the affordable price points, the brand has continued to grow exponentially.
To this day, Alice + Olivia is still a huge part of the New York fashion scene. While many American brands are venturing into sportswear and athleisure, the label has stuck to their guns in releasing their own quirky and funky stylized pieces. They also closed down their menswear, which is a risky move considering that menswear has become a lucrative category. Now that new designers are popping up each season, the company remains to be a lucrative business to this day. With very few female-driven brands in the industry, especially those that encourage individual style, Alice + Olivia stands out as one of the few that hasn’t changed. Bendet continues to give her customers what they want, which are: easy yet exciting and quirky yet comfortable style.