Pina Ferlisi oversees the creative direction of all Henri Bendel product design as well as the artistic direction of brand marketing and visual merchandising. Since arriving in July 2012, she has been charged with overseeing a new direction for the iconic brand as it shifts from former NYC boutique into a nationally recognized accessories company. Ferlisi is an alumna of Marc by Marc Jacobs, McQ Alexander McQueen, Coach, and Perry Ellis.
You took the helm as creative director two years ago – What were you doing before this?
Before being named creative director in July 2012, I was creative director at McQ for Alexander McQueen, and prior to that I was executive vice president of design at Coach and before that creative director for Marc by Marc Jacobs.
How familiar were you with Henri Bendel before taking over? What was your favorite part of the store/brand?
I discovered Henri Bendel when I first moved to New York. It has always been one of my favorite stores. I love the heritage and the whimsy that the New York store has. The residential feel of the visual merchandising creates a distinct personality that has been translated into our 29 stores nationwide.
Henri Bendel is an iconic New York brand – what are you doing to maintain that image?
Henri Bendel has such a beautiful history, next year we will celebrate our 120th anniversary. I feel very fortunate to be able to combine my unique point of view with a brand that has such a strong legacy.
How has the Henri Bendel woman evolved in the last 20 years?
Our woman is constantly evolving but fundamentally she has always remained the same. We know she loves the new and the next and we know she trusts us to be her fashion compass.
How would you describe the customer now?
Our customer loves our brand. She loves the brown and white stripes, the iconic New York references, and the attention to detail. She is curious and she is always looking out for what is new….she visits our store often and she clicks through our website daily. When I think of the Bendel girl I think of 5 personalities. I use these brand personalities as my design filter. The chic girl, the glamorous girl, the fashionista, the sporty girl, and the quirky girl. As a customer you can find yourself in one of these personalities or in many of them. The Bendel girl can choose to be a different girl everyday of the week.
What are your thoughts on the decision not to bring in outside designers?
I think it is the right thing to do for our customer. It gives us the ability to focus and continue building on the success of our iconic brand. Our New York flagship and website will now exclusively offer Henri Bendel-branded handbags, jewelry, fashion accessories and home fragrance, this is reflective of what our other 28 stores have been doing to date. It’s a very exciting time for the brand.
What do you think are the private label’s strongest categories from a design standpoint?
Henri Bendel has always been about modern luxury. Our handbags are crafted from beautiful materials, every piece of hardware is designed by us and they are designed to last the test of time. Our jewelry designers are trained as fine jewelers, the attention to detail and the stones we select are second to none. We think about our customers lifestyle and offer a choice for every occasion. Our specialty gifts and home fragrances are distinctive and unique to us…they are easy choices for our customer and when gifted in our iconic brown and white bags they excite any recipient. We are very proud of what we do every day to excite our customer.
Which actually sell the best?
Our handbags are doing very well. Our quality, attention to design detail, branding and the versatility of every bag has given her a reason to shop.
Can you tell us a bit about the Fall 2014 collection?
The Fall 2014 collection celebrates New York and the busy lives we lead. Function and design become very important when we have less time to think about a total look. We asked ourselves, “How do we make our girl look and feel amazing with little effort and thought?” So we did all the thinking for her and offered it to her in a stylish Henri Bendel way.
Where do you see Henri Bendel in 5 years? 10 years?
I see Henri Bendel becoming a distinctly recognizable accessory brand. I hope to open more stores and continue to be relevant to a fashionable woman who wants to stand apart from the masses. My hope is to grow HenrI Bendel to be your favorite accessory brand!