Industry Insiders: Stacey “StaceyPants” Bendet

Stacey Bendet Eisner is a woman of her own design. Deciding to forgo the Wall Street path early on, she entered the fashion world, becoming her own CEO, and after blazing the way for super original multi-colored jeans, earned her “StaceyPants” nickname. A mother to Eloise, wife to producer Eric Eisner, and often times a convivial hostess, the pint-sized powerhouse designer behind Alice + Olivia makes her work part of her life, and her life part of her work. Here she talks about her new ventures, her bi-coastal tendencies, and her love of Big Macs.

What are you doing in LA right now? Well, I’m out here the last week of each month. We have two shops here. We just opened a store out in Malibu but right now I’m actually on my way over to my store on Robertson.

You seem to juggle your public life with your family life. How are you able to multitask? Well, I think that my work is part of my life and my life is part of my work. It all goes together. Definitely having a husband and a baby you have to make some effort to balance things, but we do the last week of each month and then in New York for three weeks. Just kind of makes it work.

Does the whole family travel together? My husband actually produces and finances films so he likes to be out here more.

Alice + Olivia has been expanding. What’s in store for the future? We just opened a Malibu store. We have one of the biggest programs expanding for the next fall with 9T, our T-shirt collection. It includes all kinds of cool T-shirts at a little bit of a lower price point than some of our other stuff. Given the economy right now, it seems to be working really well. They are embellished, really detailed with lace or crystals or embroidery design. Some of them have necklaces attached. It’s more of a T-shirt you’d wear at night, not a shirt you’d throw on at the gym. We are also doing jewelry collaboration with Erickson Beamon, which will come out probably in November. We are discussing doing a possible makeup line that is not totally solidified yet but it’s something we are discussing.

What is the Alice + Olivia face? What would be the makeup aesthetic? It would be kind of signature Alice + Olivia, lots of blacks and whites. Black eyeliners, white sparkling eye shadows, and then pops of color like neon nail polish.

Aside from putting a face on the Alice + Olivia girl, what kind of girl wears the clothes? I think the Alice + Olivia girl is kind of that cool girl anywhere from 18-40 that likes to mix and match her outfits. And it could be anyone from the girl hanging out on the Lower East Side in one of our crazy dresses over a pair of jeans, to the more uptown girl who is going for lunch. Diversity is one of the things I focus on when designing a line. I like my pieces to be able to be worn by a wide range of people.

What are some of your favorite pieces? Right now I like all our new pants. We did all the genie pants and cargo pants for Spring that I really like.

What are some of your biggest goals for your brand in the next year? I think for the next year it’s just to keep the business clean, efficient, and leaner, because of everything that’s going on in the economy.

How do you feel the economy is affecting your own company? It’s been a wake up call. We were a little bit more lax about things, and now we are very much about being lean and efficient. We re-staffed and restructured in a way that is a little bit more reserved.

Is this affecting the materials you use or what you design? We’ve made an effort to have products that are at a low price point. I won’t compromise the quality of my fabrics or the garment for anything. I’ve tried to take a lower margin on some things so we can have a better price.

Many are mourning the death of their closets thanks to this recession. Can you give some advice on how to look great on a budget? I think it’s about keeping your wardrobe based around basics, and allowing yourself to buy statement pieces, like a great colorful bag or one awesome dress. Try to focus on things you can wear different ways. That’s why I love our t-shirts, because you can dress them up or down.

What inspires you? I think you’re inspired everyday of your life, and if you’re not you shouldn’t be a designer.

How would you describe your lifestyle right now if you were in work mode? I practice yoga everyday. My life is a little bit crazy and a little bit random. I’m kind of impulsive.

What about the way you design-what’s the creative process like? A little bit random too. We have certain things that we have to finish at certain times. Alive + Olivia is very much a collection of items, rather than putting out seasonal collections. We are making hundreds of things each month. The creative process builds off itself each day.

What are some of your favorite places to shop? Random vintage stores. The Way We Wore, Decades, Resurrection, Frock, Opening Ceremony, and Iris.

Where do you go out to these days? In LA we usually are pretty mellow. We love Il Sole, or Hamasaku for sushi. We have drinks with friends at the Chateau Marmont In New York we usually go to Rose Bar for drinks and we have dinners at Nobu, Waverly, Monkey Bar. I am always up for drunken bingo at Tortilla Flats.

What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in New York? I love Blossom for vegetarian and vegan food, I love Sushi Sen-Nin on 33rd street. Best meal? McDonalds. Nothing really beats a Big Mac and a strawberry milk shake. Definitely McDonalds.

Industry Insiders: Andy Hewitt, Music & Menu Magnate

Andy Hewitt combined his talents (and his contacts) to produce two of the hottest restaurants in West Hollywood — Il Sole and Luau. With rock ‘n roll manager Arnold Stiefel (who still manages Rod Stewart), Hewitt transformed Il Sole into an atypical, low-key Hollywood slip-in and provided a reincarnation for Luau — the legendary tiki outpost — with famed chef Makoto Tanaka (Mako, Robata-Ya). Along with his long-term partner Bill Silva, Hewitt has the exclusive contract on contemporary music for the Hollywood Bowl. Since 1991, he’s booked acts from the Rolling Stones to Luciano Pavarotti. Hewitt gave us some tutelage in merging rock ‘n roll with hospitality.

You’re balancing full plate these days. How’d you get here? I couldn’t have been anything else. My childhood friend in Coldwater Canyon was [film producer] Bill Gerber. We met on the school bus, and his father was an agent in the music business. We started going to concerts at young age, so I was touched by the music business early. Billy went to work for David Geffen and introduced me to enough agents to get me going. I was naive enough to think that that there were all kinds of promoters who were well-established and thought I’d be able to book shows in LA, and even Billy told me I’d never be successful in LA. Maybe in Tucson or Fresno. But I didn’t know any better, and I succeeded. Years ago, I met [music promoter] Ian Copeland at my nightclub in Redondo Beach and started buying shows from his agency. I got my start in that side of the business from Ian, his brother Miles, and Gary Kurfirst — who managed the B52s, Talking Heads, the Ramones. I still see Linda, Johnny’s widow, at Il Sole. I went out on my own in 1991, formed a partnership, and sublet the Hollywood Bowl. Peter Morton gave me the contract to book the joint. The Rolling Stones said Peter and I brought rock ‘n roll to Las Vegas. We were the first to bring all ages shows there for punk acts like Nine Inch Nails and Depche Mode, all because Peter allowed it to happen.

Where do you go out? I like Harry’s Bar in Venice because I love how the restaurant keeps with the city. It all ties together somehow. There’s nothing like taking a little boat over from the Cipriani Hotel, or walking next door from the Danieli. When I asked a friend where I should go on my first trip to Italy, he said I had to go to Harry’s Bar for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In New York, I like Masa. He may be the greatest chef in the world, and I miss him no longer being in LA. In LA, my favorite is Cut because it’s so perfectly simple and delicious, and I’ve always felt comfortable surrounded by Richard Meier’s extraordinary, contemporary décor. And when you watch Wolfgang Puck work the room, there’s nothing like it. He treats those visiting for the first time the same way he treats Mick Jagger. He and chef Lee Hefter have done an amazing job with a rather uncomplicated menu.

Who do you look up to? James Nederlander, my greatest mentor, had great faith in me and allowed me to blossom to whatever I am today. My great, late friend Ian Copeland showed me how you can do a great job in your business. He loved the artists that he represented and the people he worked with, and he made it all work.

What’s going on in your industry these days? We’re all paying that much more attention to our guests having a positive experience and getting great value. If we buy the highest quality of sole for Il Sole we try to do the same with Luau. I think the quality of food in almost every city in this country is at a much higher level than in the past, and you can go to cities that aren’t known for great cuisine and really get a good cappuccino or espresso and a good bowl of pasta. That didn’t happen 10 years ago. You couldn’t find good food or a decent hotel in Malibu 15 years ago. So much has happened since then.

Anything negative? I discovered tiramisu in my early 20s, and now my friend’s four-year-old orders it for dinner.

What is something that people might not know about you? How much I care about what I do on a personal level; my work with George Malouf and his family at The Palms or Peter Morton and the Hard Rock. It’s what I want to do. Getting to book the Hollywood Bowl and putting the Stones and the Police on is an honor.

What are you obsessed with? My favorite sport is Formula One, and my favorite track is Monza. My favorite cars are Ferraris and Porsches. My game is Monopoly. I’m a secret collector of many types of antiques. I live in a Spanish revival home and love to collect post-Impressionist paintings and Tiffany lamps. And yes, I love my garden, but I like to supervise gardening even more.

Any non-industry projects in the works? I don’t talk about philanthropy. I just do it.

What are you doing tonight? I’m going to have a massage and watch the stack of Netflix I’ve been trying to get to for a week and a half. I’ll probably order in from my favorite Indian restaurant, Flavor of India.

Los Angeles: Mid-Range Dining Is the New Upscale

imageTons of Los Angeles bars and restaurants are running various deals that make light of the economic downturn, and we can get behind that. The cheeky discounts get pretty complicated, too, with algorithms and whatnot utilized in the name of savings: Luau and Il Sole now price their drinks according to daily changes in the Dow. It’s mathy. But a good number of chefs who traditionally do upscale are opening mid-range restaurants, changing their existing restaurants, or joining up with less expensive venues. That is to say, they’re making some permanent changes pretty much independent of the economy. Mid-range is hip, y’all.

All’Angelo, upscale since day one, has transformed from ristorante to trattoria. That just means cheaper food and no tablecloths. Could be worse. Wunderkind Andre Guerrero has turned his classic, fusiontastic Max into a bistro with beer. In this he’s much like Govind Armstrong, who has done fine dining in the past, but with 8 oz. is venturing into burgers and beers — with fancy ingredients, of course. Guerrero’s also signed on with the upcoming Boho, the new pizza/sandwich place soon to be appearing next to the Arclight theaters. And best of all, Walter Manzke, formerly of Bastide, is now head chef at Church & State, turning out the same quality food for about $100 less per plate. And he’s still gonna blow your culinary mind. The man makes tasty food. That’s the combo more restaurants are adopting: fine-dining chefs cooking good-quality nosh for the masses. It’s almost as if — gasp! — they want people to eat their food.