At the ripe age of one hundred and twenty-three, Henri Bendel passed away silently in its slumber of low sales numbers and falling profits throughout parent company L Brands. Well, not quite yet: the brand’s 23 stores and website are set to close completely this January. So, as we mourn the imminent death of our favorite store where nobody shops/the retailer with probably the most references in the Gossip Girl franchise, we also ask: who was Henri Bendel?
Brown-striped boxes and kitschy totes aside, Henri Willis Bendel was a Louisiana-born socialite who started an eponymous millinery in Greenwich Village in 1895 and quickly began dressing Manhattan’s social set. The couturier-cum-philanthropist eventually moved the store uptown and is credited with bringing the likes of Coco Chanel to the United States, according to its website. The store now gets to go the way of its owner, who also died 82 years ago.
These days, the store is known for its impractical hat boxes and its Fifth Avenue Flagship, the latter of which has an uncertain fate due to its Historical Landmark Status (achieved with the help of none other than Jackie Kennedy Onassis). Regardless, Bendel is survived by the remaining 3 of the 4 original B’s of New York City’s retail set: Bergdorf Goodman, Barney’s New York, and Bloomingdale’s; none of whom will be able to make obnoxious in-house accessories and surprisingly fabulous candles into a 120-year-old brand the way Bendel did.