Yves Saint Laurent

Jean Rosenberg, Retail Pioneer and Ideal American Size Six, Dies at 97

Jean Rosenberg, Retail Pioneer and Ideal American Size Six, Dies at 97

Jean Rosenberg, whose eagle-eyed merchandising and designer discoveries helped define the Fifth Avenue specialty store Henri Bendel, died June 15 at the age of 97.A memorial service is not being planned.
She died, just two weeks shy of her 98th birthday, in the Central Park South apartment in Manhattan where she had lived for 50-plus years, according to her nephew Robert Kravitz. “Basically, she wanted to live there because Bendel’s was on 57th Street. It was literally right outside her back door,” he said
In her lifetime, Rosenberg practically took up a professional residency at Henri Bendel, where she worked for more than 30 years, all under the tutelage of former president Geraldine Stutz. Stutz was known to call her second-in-command “Henri Bendel’s fashion conscious” and together they were troubadours in bringing female professionals to leadership roles in retail. The bulk of Rosenberg’s tenure involved serving as vice president and merchandising director for the jewel box of a store.

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Located in a 10-floor town house at 10 West 57th Street, it was steps away from Tiffany & Co., Bergdorf Goodman and other prized Midtown specialty stores. Known simply as “Bendel’s,” the store became a must for many well-heeled women and young stylish urbanites who were attracted to its ravish decor, finely edited mix and Fifth Avenue window displays.
Steered by Stutz, Rosenberg was instrumental in creating the “Street of Shops” in 1959. Architect H. McKim Glazebrook created 12 small shops with a main street running through and connecting alleyways through the shops. Designer concept shops were added in 1965. Their efforts essentially were the precursor to designer and big-name concept shops that dominate today’s retail scene. The layout was such that shoppers had to wind around a pathway that took them through various designer concept shops. Without a direct route from any point A to point B, they were exposed to much more merchandise.
Rosenberg told The New York Times in 2006, Henri Bendel’s “was for a particular kind of New York woman, where she could find a uniformity of taste and a certain amount of comfort in a smallish environment, where everything in one store was to her liking.”
As the retailer’s lead buyer, she was integral to the store’s fashion leadership position at that time. Along the way, Rosenberg brought to light such designers as Krizia, Sonia Rykiel, Jean Muir, Chloë and Emmanuelle Khanh. Henri Bendel was also the launching pad for Stephen Burrows, who designed the Bendel’s Studio line, an in-house label, from 1971 to 1973, and then again in 1977. After being discovered by Stutz, the late designer Carlos Falchi focused on leather handbags. Through Henri Bendel’s support, Falchi developed a multimillion-dollar brand. Another designer, Bruce Oldfield, got his start at Henri Bendel, designing for its private label for a year or two in the early ’70s. Oldfield returned to the U.K. to establish his own label, which is still in operation.
Other fashion talents orbited through Henri Bendel early on in their careers during the Stutz-Rosenberg years, including Joan Kaner, who joined the buying office in 1967; a teenage Robert Rufino in 1971, who had an 11-year run as visual merchandising years, and Marion Greenberg, who embarked on a nine-year post in the store’s buying office in 1971.

Rufino said of Rosenberg, “She brought in and discovered so many brilliant designers to this country, from Jean Charles de Castelbajac to Stephen Sprouse — on and on and on. She was so spot-on…Bendel’s was the leader. Of course, we were one small store at that time. When Saks or Bergdorf Goodman would give designers a double order, we did lose major designers.”
Bendel’s was “such a mixture of wonderful treasures that women often shopped three or four times a week,” Rufino said. “There was no other store like Bendel’s. People used to flock to Bendel’s. It was the place to be. You walked into the first floor and heard beautiful music. The setting was like being in somebody’s home. There was boutique after boutique on every floor. You had your salesperson helping you. People cared about you. It was the golden age of retail. I don’t think there will ever be a store like that again. Jeannie was involved with merchandising things, setting up shops, what was the right mix.”
Kaner recalled Saturday how Rosenberg made a practice “of trying on every piece of merchandise that we received to make sure that the fit was right and that the proportions were good. She just had an eye [for fashion]. But she also followed through to make sure that the product would mean to the business what she thought it would. She was an incredible person.”
Kaner, whose career pinnacled as senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus, said of Rosenberg, “She was my first boss in the retail industry. I really learned so much from her.”
In the ’70s, change was underway in fashion with pants gaining popularity and eclipsing skirts. “You had to have an open mind about fashion and what it should be or shouldn’t be. Jean and I were in sync about what it should be and that you should try all these things,” Kaner said.

Jean Rosenberg
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Through the Seventies, the flagship store was “the” place to shop and “clients” included style arbiters Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Babe Paley, as well as Cher on occasion, Greenberg said. “The atmosphere at Henri Bendel kept staffers striving. Everyone always wanted to do what was best for the store. They really loved the store. Their interests weren’t in themselves or their careers. It was really for the benefit of the good of the store. We adored Jean and Geraldine and we wanted to do our best for our clients and our customers.”

In the Fifties and Sixties, designer sportswear was a new concept and Rosenberg frequently jetted off to buying trips to Europe. American buyers would travel with their own measuring tapes to ensure that the European sizing was just right. Prior to Henri Bendel, she started her fashion career at Gunther Jaeckal and then moved on to Bonwit Teller, another prestige specialty store.
With Stutz, Rosenberg developed the European ready-to-wear business for the store and defined the Bendel look. Many of her finds were displayed in the “Cachet” department on the third floor. They also put out the welcome mat to unproven designers, hosting weekly Friday go-sees to give aspiring talent the chance to show their collections. Hundreds routinely lined up each week, unruffled by the hours-long wait on the sidewalk.
With its assortment, the retailer catered to trim sophisticates, who sought some exclusivity. However discriminatory this might sound by today’s standards, Stutz reportedly seldom ordered clothing above a size 10. Jacqui Wenzel, Rosenberg’s longtime assistant, recalled how Rosenberg once told her that Yves Saint Laurent had used her body measurements to create the size six for his American ready-to-wear collection. “A size six, back in the day, was the smallest,” Wenzel said Saturday.
Despite a 35-year friendship, Wenzel said her former boss remained “Ms. Rosenberg.” While going through some of Rosenberg’s things recently, Wenzel read a speech that Rosenberg had delivered to LIM students in the late Sixties, predicting that the couture market was changing and ready-to-wear would be the modern woman’s choice. “It sounded like she was already ahead of the curve concerning the high-end market,” Wenzel said. “Jean did consider herself a modern woman of the times. She never married, by choice.”
In an obituary for Stutz, who died in 2006, Rosenberg explained that she had a vision of the kind of store that she wanted to create. Rosenberg had joined Henri Bendel’s six months before Stutz’ arrival in 1957 and the duo jointly departed in 1986, after the store was sold to The Limited, the retail conglomerate founded by Leslie Wexner.

Six years prior Stutz had rounded up a group of investors and led the acquisition of the store from Genesco, which had bought the store in 1957. Genesco’s chairman Maxey Jarman took the bold move of installing Stutz as president at a time when leadership at the executive level was scarce. Her lead role in the 1980 acquisition made Stutz the first American woman to own a major New York store. The Stutz-Rosenberg exit marked the end of one of the longest power partnerships in American retailing.
After retiring, Rosenberg enjoyed speaking about fashion merchandising at events for industry professionals and fashion and design undergraduates, her nephew said. As for any outside interests from work, Kravitz said, “Work was her interest. She was proud that she set out to and had a career in fashion. In her day, I don’t think a lot of women graduated from college. She wanted a career in the fashion business and she went to school to get a degree to make sure that that wouldn’t hold her back.”
Her hometown of Cambridge, Ohio – 74 miles southeast of Columbus – might not have screamed fashion. But her father owned a boutique there called the Style Center and her mother had a hands-on approach to the business too. As a girl, she tagged along on his buying trips to Manhattan and overseas. After graduating from Ohio State University, Rosenberg started her career by working for her father.
Predeceased by her sister Nancy, Rosenberg is survived by her nephew and her niece  Nancy Kravitz.

Cover Story: Celebrating Enduring Couture That Continues to Thrive in an Era Rocked By a Pandemic

Cover Story: Celebrating Enduring Couture That Continues to Thrive in an Era Rocked By a Pandemic

Just like a century ago, when haute couture persisted through world wars, it continues to thrive today in an era rocked by a pandemic – albeit forever changed.
Malika El Maslouhi wears dress, shoes, Iris Van Herpen; headpiece, Iris Van Herpen X Casey Curran; nail artwork, Iris Van Herpen X Eichi Matsunaga. Photographed by Thibault-Theodore for Vogue Arabia
If haute couture had a patron goddess, she would have to be Demeter’s daughter Persephone, who cyclically died only to be reborn. As long ago as 1965, when what Diana Vreeland termed the “youthquake” was rattling the planet, the New York Times noted that “every 10 years the doctors assemble at the bedside of French haute couture and announce that death is imminent.” Around the same time, French actor Brigitte Bardot rejected Coco Chanel’s offer to dress her because haute couture – the bombshell complained – “was for grannies.”

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Bardot’s snub was understandable. Haute couture had been predicated on “older, outdated ideas,” Schiaparelli’s creative director Daniel Roseberry says. Chanel was a hoary 82 and haute couture itself – a government-controlled appellation – was more than a hundred years old. Though the antecedents of the haute couturier go back to Louis XIV in the 17th century, the French profession’s true founding father was Charles Frederick Worth, who in the 1800s introduced such novelties as the designer label and seasonal live presentations.
Malika El Maslouhi wears dress, Alexandre Vauthier. Photographed by Thibault-Theodore for Vogue Arabia
Though, like a fairytale enchantment, the maison Worth lasted one century, it was the venerable master’s spawn – the fantasist Paul Poiret, the functionalist Chanel, the purist Madeleine Vionnet – who ushered haute couture into the modern age. Persevering through the first world war, the Spanish flu, and the Great Depression, the French couturiers not only dressed “tout-Paris,” but also exported hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of their coveted handsewn confections. “History teaches us,” Dior creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri observes, “that couture is extremely resilient and, above all, adaptable.” The second world war and the Nazi occupation of Paris, however, posed a nearly terminal threat to the industry. Vionnet’s vast operations closed permanently in 1939. Chanel shuttered her doors. Her rival, the avant garde Elsa Schiaparelli, escaped to the US. But the enterprising Lucien Lelong stayed open, defiantly thwarting Hitler’s grandiose scheme to transplant all of Paris fashion to Berlin or Vienna. So miraculous was the Lelong-orchestrated wartime survival of haute couture that in 1945, Diana Vreeland exhorted an assistant to return from Paris with a single fabric rose as evidence of the rarefied institution’s continued existence.
Malika El Maslouhi wears dress, Fendi Haute Couture. Photographed by Thibault-Theodore for Vogue Arabia
More than Vreeland’s handmade rose (probably from the fournisseur Guillet), what bloomed from the ashes of the second world war was a fecund garden of “women- flowers,” wrote Christian Dior, who founded his maison in 1946, all wearing sumptuous “skirts like petals.” Before long, the Dior empire accounted for three-fifths of all haute couture sales. The remainder came from the other fabled houses of haute couture’s post-war golden age – Fath, Dessès, Heim, Balmain, Griffe, Rochas, Balenciaga – whose workrooms were as intricately structured as their lavish dresses, and whose formidable directrices were as lofty as a ballgown’s price.
Malika El Maslouhi wears dress, Ashi Couture. Photographed by Thibault-Theodore for Vogue Arabia
Haughty personnel and intimidating invoices were just two elements of the old-school haute couture culture that drove legions of women in the 60s and 70s out of the storied salons and into brand- new, funky boutiques selling ready-to-wear. Yves Saint Laurent had initiated the pret-a-porter movement in 1966 with the opening of the first Rive Gauche store, on Rue de Tournon. Trendsetting shops, some as far afield as London and New York, soon usurped haute couture’s function as (in Viktor & Rolf’s words) “a laboratory of ideas and experimentation.” Predictably, by 1973, the doomsayers of Time magazine were reporting that the enterprise of haute couture was “breathing very hard.”
Malika El Maslouhi wears dress, Guo Pei Couture. Photographed by Thibault-Theodore for Vogue Arabia
As before, the rumors of haute couture’s extinction were greatly exaggerated. During the bullish decade of the 80s, Karl Lagerfeld revived the ailing Chanel empire with his cheeky reinterpretations of the house’s hallowed codes. And with a heady eleven francs to the dollar, nouveau riche Americans flocked to Paris on the Concorde, frenetically buying up whole collections and fervently embracing newcomer Christian Lacroix. Haute couture reclaimed its magical ability to serve – to invoke Roseberry’s metaphor – as a “love language” spoken between designer and client.
Malika El Maslouhi wears dress, Viktor & Rolf Haute Couture; earrings, Hugo Kreit. Photographed by Thibault-Theodore for Vogue Arabia
In the 90s, after a market crash, recession, and Gulf war had yet again incapacitated the industry, LVMH chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault played Prince Charming to haute couture’s Sleeping Beauty. Arnault’s ingenuity lay in transforming haute couture from an entity that served not just private customers, but a brand. A demographic even larger than Arnault might have calculated began participating in haute couture’s previously esoteric rites – viewing collections, judging them, sharing them, and buying spin-off, logo-emblazoned status items, via the proliferating digital platforms that propelled fashion into the 21st century.
Malika El Maslouhi wears dress, Viktor & Rolf Haute Couture; earrings, Hugo Kreit. Photographed by Thibault-Theodore for Vogue Arabia
Responding to the rapidly changing environment, the antiquated trade organization Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture morphed into the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode and safeguarded its future by modernizing its rules of admission, essentially unchanged since the time of Lucien Lelong. As a result, its roster of haute couturiers expanded from about 15 members in the early 2000s to 100 today. This updating of the bylaws has allowed many esteemed out-of-towners, such as Iris van Herpen, Elie Saab, Fendi (under Kim Jones’s direction), and Victor & Rolf to become “correspondent members,” and Guo Pei, with her new studio in Paris, and Christophe de Vilmorin, fresh out of design school, to become “guest members.” Rallying in the face of the pandemic and lockdowns this past January, 28 of the Fédération’s houses resourcefully presented collections during the three-day SS21 haute couture showings (albeit virtually).
Malika El Maslouhi wears Lion Vénitien Necklace, earrings in 18ct white gold set with diamonds, Chanel High jewelry. Photographed by Thibault-Theodore for Vogue Arabia
Paradoxically, rather than hamper designers, the limitations imposed by Covid-19 freed them to explore new formats and engage with artists in other media. “Covid forced us to break through traditional barriers and explore new ways of presenting our conceptual ideas,” say Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren from Viktor & Rolf, whose creations addressed sustainability as well as the need for a “lighthearted escape into fantasy.” And, just as Elsa Schiaparelli, in the 1930s, enriched her own work by collaborating with Leonor Fini, Jean Cocteau, and Christian Bérard, so the present-day couturiers overcame Covid-induced constraints by merging their imaginations with the aesthetic worlds of filmmakers Anton Corbijn (Chanel), Nick Knight (Valentino), Matteo Garrone (Dior), and Christophe Tiphaine (Schiaparelli). “Fashion has always been the realm of the imagination,” Chiuri explains, “So it is natural for me to turn to a film format to express my project through visual stories.” For Roseberry, whose sensual collection was cleverly compressed into an Instagram-friendly three minute, 52 second video, the goal was “to create a format and a way of showing the collection that really lets the viewer experience it.”
Malika El Maslouhi wears dress, headband, earrings, rings, Dior Haute Couture. Photographed by Thibault-Theodore for Vogue Arabia
The pandemic may have simply accelerated an inevitable evolution. Viktor & Rolf plans to “become more digitally focused, creating content that caters to each platform.” Elie Saab foresees a “mix between smaller, less hectic, live fashion shows and digital content.” Twenty-four-year-old Vilmorin, who gave birth to his brand during lockdown, doesn’t even see a need for “all that mise-en-scène and spectacle” of a runway event. Says Roseberry, “It’s a total reset.”
Malika El Maslouhi wears dress, shoes, Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture. Photographed by Thibault-Theodore for Vogue Arabia
No longer a resource-draining marketing exercise, haute couture – the ultimate “slow fashion” – now has the capacity to turn a substantial profit, as robust economies around the globe generate new clients, whose fittings might even take place through Zoom. “Covid has made people rush less and appreciate more the value of things,” Saab reflects. Among the freshly minted devotees of the most extravagant finery on earth are the very young, and – in a development that the sybaritic Sun King himself would surely appreciate – men. Fendi, Valentino, and Vilmorin all showcased their offerings on male and female models. As Ralph Toledano, president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, stated, “It seems that there are no longer any boundaries to couture.”
Read Next: Editor’s Letter: Why Our May Issue is Dedicated to the Highest Artistries and Haute Couture
Originally published in the May 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia
DOP and video editing Cheyne Tillier-DalyPhotographer Thibault-ThéodoreStyle Lisa JarvisFashion director Katie TrotterHair Charlie Le MinduMakeup Annabelle Petit at Wise & TalentedNails Lora de Sousa Creative producer Laura PriorProduction Weird Fishes StudioProducer Réda Ait Retouching Curro VerdugoAnalog operator Maëlle JoignePainter Damien CacciaStudio assistant Tom KleinbergStyle assistant Francesca Riccardi Set assistants Antoine Dugrand Castaignede, Amin Bidar, Thomas JardinProduction assistant Adélina Bichet ElzeyModel Malika El Maslouhi at Viva Model

EXCLUSIVE: Inside Chanel’s Renovated Haute Couture Salon on Rue Cambon

EXCLUSIVE: Inside Chanel’s Renovated Haute Couture Salon on Rue Cambon

PARIS — After a 50-year career of decorating the homes of the great and the good, not to mention designing some of the world’s most prestigious hotels, Jacques Grange has at last secured his first commission for Chanel.
The interior designer, a member of Yves Saint Laurent’s inner circle who designed all of the late couturier’s homes, was a longtime friend of Chanel’s former artistic director Karl Lagerfeld, but after an infamous falling out between the Saint Laurent and Lagerfeld camps in the 1970s, working together was off the table.
Following the death of Saint Laurent’s partner Pierre Bergé in 2017, Lagerfeld put out feelers via a mutual friend. He wanted Grange to redecorate Chanel’s historic haute couture salon, located at 31 Rue Cambon in a building that also houses the apartment of founder Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel.

“We found the theme in 20 minutes, and Karl said ‘yes,’” said Grange, sitting in an armchair upholstered in topstitched white canvas in the salon, located on the first floor of the building, where Chanel set up shop in 1918.
Part of a broader renovation of Chanel’s headquarters that has transformed an entire section of Rue Cambon into a construction site, the project took 24 months to complete. Lagerfeld passed away in 2019, meaning he did not see the plan come to fruition, but his successor Virginie Viard was closely involved from the start.

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Working from old photographs, Grange decided to restore the original volumes of the space, dominated by a mirrored Art Deco staircase so famous that France’s Culture Ministry has declared it a historical monument. This is where Coco Chanel, cigarette in hand, would perch to watch her fashion shows, unseen by the audience.
After giving the modernist staircase a refresh, Grange re-created the room’s original curved ceiling, and added tall mirrors to the columns. In one corner, he placed an oversized Coromandel lacquer screen, reminiscent of the ones in Chanel’s private rooms upstairs, which he is also in charge of renovating.
A gray mottled silk carpet and white lighting fixtures, designed by Patrice Dangel, set off furniture ranging from a copy of a 1930s-era glass-and-metal console rescued from a Chanel boutique, to a white ceramic console table by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Ducrot, alongside resin-and-glass pedestal tables by Greek artist Marina Karella.
Oversized sofas and armchairs upholstered by Decour add a cozy touch to the space, while side tables with gilded bronze legs in the shape of wheatsheaves recall the original made for Coco Chanel by Goossens, one of the dozens of Métiers d’Art houses acquired by the French luxury house in recent years to preserve their know-how. 
“I wanted the whole project to be very much in the spirit of Coco,” said Grange. “The image has to be very precise. That’s what Karl wanted, too. This house has an extraordinary name, an extraordinary DNA, all of which is reflected in this salon.”
There are three spacious private fitting rooms separated by folding screens covered in studded gray damask. In a back room, colorful dresses from Viard’s spring haute couture collection are displayed in glass cabinets with gilded frames that echo the gilded wheatsheaves dotted around the room. In front of a dressing table sits a black Gio Ponti chair.

“It’s haute couture, it’s glamour, it’s elegance, it’s comfort. You feel so good here, you don’t want to leave,” Grange enthused.
Photographer Anton Corbijn recently shot house ambassadors including Penélope Cruz and Marion Cotillard in the space as part of a family album celebrating Viard’s spring couture collection.
Last week, the salon hosted its first cultural event, a talk led by Charlotte Casiraghi, who recently joined Chanel’s stable of brand ambassadors. The first of a series, titled Literary Rendezvous at Rue Cambon, it focused on the German-Russian writer and psychoanalyst Lou Andreas-Salomé, and is available as a video and a podcast.
Grange could write a fascinating memoir himself, if his busy work schedule permitted it. With clients ranging from billionaire François Pinault to Casiraghi’s mother, Princess Caroline of Monaco, he is a walking encyclopedia of design history and Paris society, with a treasure trove of gossipy anecdotes.
He met Coco Chanel just once. “It was at the premiere of ‘Belle de Jour,” which I attended with Marie-Laure de Noailles. Chanel was with Salvador Dalí,” he recalled. But Grange had always gravitated in the Chanel orbit: he decorated the home of her biographer, Edmonde Charles-Roux, and noted that Saint Laurent was strongly influenced by her aesthetic.
“Chanel was an absolute genius,” he pronounced. “She had incredible taste, because she created her own highly personal style, with a mix of baroque and modern.”
Nowhere is that style personified better than at 31 Rue Cambon, which is also home to a Chanel boutique on the ground floor; the design studio on the third floor, and the haute couture ateliers on the upper floors, where seamstresses make made-to-measure outfits for a handful of wealthy women. 
Each outfit takes between two and three months of work, with a minimum of 200 hours for a jacket to thousands for an embroidered wedding dress. Despite all the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, it remains Chanel’s only haute couture address worldwide, acting like a magnet for the house’s VIP clientele. 
Known for his deft blending of contemporary and classical references, in locations including The Mark Hotel in New York City and the Cheval Blanc in St. Barths, Grange said he was happy to delve into the universe of Chanel, especially since she was a lifelong supporter of the arts.
“Respecting the client is an important part of my job. It’s the basis for my work. What I’ve done here, I wouldn’t do for anyone else. It’s really Chanel. I don’t want it to become an ego trip,” he said. “I was just focused on the job at hand, and all the little details. Karl was a perfectionist, and so am I.”
See also: 
Virginie Viard Threw a Wedding Party for Chanel’s Spring Couture Show
Chanel Unveils First Campaign Starring Charlotte Casiraghi
Paris Exhibition Casts Coco Chanel in a New Light

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