Create & Cultivate 100: Fashion: Stacey Bendet

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“Dress like you are going to meet your worst enemy today.”

While Coco Chanel never got the chance to acquaint herself with alice + olivia, it’s likely that she would have worn the brand for any showdown with her enemies. The pieces make a statement.

Stacey Bendet founded alice + olivia in 2002 with her college roommate with one mission: to make trousers sexy. Sixteen years later, after taking the reins of the business at 23, Stacey has expanded that mission beyond that first pair of perfect pants into a full lifestyle collection sold in major retailers and brick and mortar stores across the world. She functions as the brand’s CEO and creative director and has become a staple of the industry, known for her whimsical Fashion Week presentations, vivid colors, and eye-catching prints. She is a champion of women, as evidenced by how she’s scaled her empire: The brand is designed by women and run by a team of 400+ women. alice + olivia was profitable in its first year, and Stacey still owns the majority of the company—valued at a cool $200 million—proving that her keen eye for fashion is rivaled by her business acumen.

In a post-Trump era, Stacey has become even more vocal about social issues, specifically equal pay. By using the brand as a vehicle for public discourse, she’s simultaneously been able to support women in the arts and prompt necessary discussions in a largely male-dominated industry.

How did the idea for alice + olivia come about?

In the beginning, I wanted to create the perfect pair of pants! Everything was either jeans or slacks, so in 2002 I made my own pants and it just grew from there!

Who is the alice + olivia girl?

She’s empowered, confident, and supports other women!

How would you describe alice + olivia’s aesthetic?

Whimsical and flirty with a sexy and sophisticated twist!

You’ve embedded activism into a lot of your clothing. Why is it important for you to use your platform this way?

My brand is so much about women. We are women designing for women and inspiring women. I have a global platform that I want to use to spread messages of positivity and awareness whenever I can!

How has the power of social media impacted your business?

It has been amazing! Every brand is now their own marketing vehicle; social media has allowed us to connect with customers and share our creativity in so many new amazing ways! And I believe the next generation of social media is social commerce which will continue to allow for new innovative ways for shoppers and brands to connect!

What do you think people crave when they get dressed in the morning?

When you get dressed in the morning, you are choosing how to express yourself to the world! Sometimes we feel colorful and happy; some days maybe more subdued, but your clothes allow you to share your inner you!

What should every woman have in her wardrobe?

A chic statement jacket that can make any jeans and t-shirt look feel fancy!

What about your job makes you feel the most fulfilled?

How good women feel when they wear the clothes I design!!

What’s been the biggest surprise or highlight of your career to date?

Probably opening my first retail store. It just made my whole business seem more real and it taught me so much about our customers.

Where does your passion/drive come from?

I am not sure! I just love seeing ideas come to life!

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

Do what you love and success will come (Thanks, Dad!).

Every creative person needs a business partner to really succeed.

Whose career really inspires you?

My partner, Andrew Rosen. He is truly the godfather to the American fashion industry.

What has been your biggest opportunity or biggest challenge?

In business, challenge and opportunity come every day—you have to take those challenges and turn them into opportunities.

What are the common challenges you've seen among female fashion designers?

Every creative person needs a business partner to really succeed.

What would you change about the fashion industry if you could?

I have always strived to have my clothes and stores make women feel their best verses feel not good enough. For many years, I think magazines and the industry were about elitism and making women feel like they had to aspire to be a part of something. I want women to feel like they ARE SOMETHING, anything and everything they want to be and clothes can just make you feel a little bit better while you do it!!

When you hit a bump or hurdle in your career, how do you find a new road + switch gears to find success?

When times are tough, I try and focus on what I know and what I can improve no matter what!

What’s next for you? What are you most excited for in 2019?

We have new store openings, some exciting collaborations and lots of excitement happening in Asia!

VIEW THE ENTIRE CREATE & CULTIVATE 100 FASHION CATEGORY HERE!