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Henri Bendel's Casting Call Beckons L.A. Talent

August 11, 2000|CANDACE A. WEDLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Designer Anna Sui once stood in the line. So did Todd Oldham. Both were plucked from obscurity in the annual casting call for New York designers sponsored by Henri Bendel. For the first time, the upscale Manhattan retailer will hold its "Open See" casting call in Los Angeles for local designers later this month.

"It's long overdue. There's been a fashion presence in L.A," said Ed Burstell, vice president and general manager of Henri Bendel, in a telephone interview. He attributes L.A. fashion influence to the combination of TV, Hollywood and music.

"We have a lot of tourist traffic--and a lot of that business is media driven--and they want to see what's coming out of L.A."

Henri Bendel has held its Open See since the 1960s in New York City. Designers show up either wearing or toting (sometimes in trunks) their original designs, which Bendel buyers review. If they like a designer's work, it will be offered at the Fifth Avenue store.

No L.A. designer has ever been selected from the New York casting calls. The trend-setting store does carry L.A. designers, such as John Eshaya, Trina Turk, William B and Cynthia Vincent for St. Vincent.

On Aug. 25, Bendel buyers will review pieces by West Coast designers from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the W Los Angeles hotel in Westwood.

Burstell advises designers to do some homework to learn about Bendel's signature look. "We are a combination of 'Sex and the City' and 'Friends.' Our store is very feminine, full of whimsy and very trend-driven. We look for one-of-a-kinds that you can't find anywhere else. And our customer base is age 20 to 45."

The most recent Open See in New York was in June. Out of about 300 designers, Bendel picked about 20 new lines for fall. They included sportswear, hand-knit wool hats with flower details and gold or plaid flower pins.

"Flowers are a big detail for this fall," Burstell said. So is gold jewelry--Bendel selected designs of solid gold and mesh.

"If L.A. is nearly as competitive as New York, there will be a lot of talent, which has not had a venue, to see."

L.A. competitive? Please. L.A. designed casting calls.

For more information, call Henri Bendel at (212) 373-6347.

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Candace Wedlan can be reached at candace.wedlan@latimes.com

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