Having already designed limited edition pieces for her clients in Qatar and Kuwait, Stacey Bendet, the CEO and creative director of Alice + Olivia, is now turning her attentions to the UAE. “I like creating special items for the region to make our customers really feel a part of our brand,” the American designer explains. What that means for March is the launch of a limited edition abaya to tie in with Stacey’s visit to the emirate this week. “We wanted to do a piece that referenced Alice + Olivia but also had a unique twist,” Stacey explains, culminating in a beautiful white lace abaya embroidered with red appliquéd silk poppies. Believing the piece will resonate with her customers in the Gulf “because of its sensibility and play on tradition,” for Stacey, at the heart of her design, is “dressing women all over the world in things that will make them feel beautiful.”
Being allowed to think outside the box of the American women she usually designs for was an exciting prospect for Stacey. “We aren’t trying to design the abaya verbatim,” she explains, “It’s a more Western revisionist version. I think [Middle Eastern] women will wear it over a gown or jeans. They have a real joy of dressing up and a regal elegance, and that’s something I really appreciate.” With her designs inspired by the women she meets on her many travels around the world, Stacey will be ingratiating herself with Middle Eastern culture during her visit by collaborating with HH Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi and her NAMA Women Advancement Establishment initiative. A private auction will take place on March 29 to sell 30 pieces of the abaya, with all proceeds donated to NAMA. With a directive that focuses on women’s empowerment, it’s a partnership close to Stacey’s heart.
“I run a company with 400 amazing women and Alice + Olivia is all about the progression of women. One of the messages I want to spread is about female liberation. I don’t think it’s a movement, as such; women can do anything men can do, so how do you help create and promote that? It’s about actually doing it. Women need to be taught to believe in themselves, and the first step is to show them examples of women who have achieved success, running businesses and in executive roles.”
As a successful mother, wife and businesswoman, Stacey believes that part of winning this battle is staying in the work force. “The modern world allows women to be a present mother and run a business. Yes, sometimes there are certain jobs that are better for either men or women, but we need to move away from the stigma that we have to be home and take care of the children. Women need to know that they can do anything. Having the opportunity to work with NAMA and encourage this globally is something I’m really excited about.” Stacey cites numerous influential role models in her life, “Oprah [Winfrey] is this amazing, powerful female example in business and the way she helps people; seeing Hillary Clinton running for president; My friend Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jessica Alba for being actresses, mothers and businesswomen starting million-dollar companies. These are all incredibly inspiring to me.”
Stacey first visited the region 10 years ago, and having heard Queen Rania of Jordan speak (“She was amazing”), Stacey is looking forward to her return “to experience the culture, to meet some incredible working women, who I very much hope to learn from, and to find some Middle Eastern artists to collaborate with for another charity project.”
Ahead of her trip, what advice does she have for empowering women? “The best piece of advice I’ve been given was actually from my father,” she recalls. “He said ‘Do what you love and success will follow’. You have to step up and give it your all, but women really can achieve anything.” - Emily Baxter
Haya's hair and make-up: Carrie Horowitz. This article appears in the March issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia.