Alice & Olivia Takes the Next Step

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Published September 17, 2010

COURTESY ALICE & OLIVIA

Stacey Bendet, dressed sharply in a sequined bolero and a tiered cocktail dress, is almost pixie-like as she darts around the room, adjusting hair, tucking in frocks, arranging models on the stage. “Are you wearing yourself tonight?” a reporter trying to follow the designer asks. “Of course,” Bendet replies. “I only wear my brand.” That says a lot about Bendet and her brainchild, Alice& Olivia, since she was recently on Vanity Fair’s Best Dressed list for 2010, alongside the Lauren children and Georgina Chapman. Unlike the Laurens and Chapman, however, Bendet’s style (and thus, the style of Alice & Olivia) is quirky and girlish, with an abundance of layers and textures, cap sleeves, mini-skirts, and towering boots. “One of the things that drives me as a designer are the things I’m really obsessed with or want to wear. It’s a challenge. I design for myself, as well, because I love my crazy clothes.” Bendet, in fact, looks like a miniature version of her models. Her hair is done in two messy buns like the girls on the stage, and her style is the vintage, time-warped femininity of her current line. And, thanks to the towering shoes debuting this evening, Bendet is a Tinkerbell to the collection’s Wendys.

Last year, Bendet took her alternative party-girl style and translated it into a collection for Payless, creating a line that was, by the shoe giant’s standards, rather wearable. “A few months ago I got a call from some singer’s stylist–I can’t remember who–called and said, ‘We have got to have those red booties you did.’ I was like, ‘That was over a year ago! How will I ever be able to find them?’ Who was it for?'” Bendet mused, pausing her rapid fire speech. “Anyway, I called the CEO of Payless and, luckily, they had a sample size left. Oh, I remember–Katy Perry!” The success of the Payless collaboration inspired the designer to finally launch her own brand of footwear, with a fully realized collection of 25 pairs. “If I was going to do it, I was going to do it all the way. A lot of people do shoes as a license, but I’m too much of a shoe fanatic to hand it over, so I had to do it in-house.”

Not made for the minimalist, Bendet’s footwear reflects the time-traveling theme of her Spring/Summer show. A pair of platforms have a metal heel, while animal-printed Mary Janes cater to the line’s retro leanings. Ruched and scrunched white booties have a summery open-toe, but still maintain the line’s urban-girl thesis. Almost every pair is altitudinous, and none are subtle. “They are printed, they are polka-dotted, they are colored,” she says. “Which makes every one really quintessential Alice & Olivia.”