My soul's journey from Henri Bendel to Barneys

Jennifer Boonlorn

Posted on June 07 2013

Four years ago I was pounding the pavement in Manhattan looking for ribbon, zippers, beads and buttons. The Henri Bendel "Open See" was coming up and I had decided to show the buyers the very "Gossip Girl/Blair Waldorf" collection of headbands I had created. I got in line at 4am for a 2 minute chance to wow the buyers. My sister created a preppy-argyle logo for me and I had stickers made that I put on silver paint buckets I had stuffed with pink shredded paper. The headbands hung off off the sides as I quickly presented to a bunch of buyers in the basement of the buying office on Fifth Ave. The buyers loved my collection and asked me to come back the following week for them to place an official order. I was elated! Henri Bendel is part of the tri-fecta of fashion in NYC: Henri Bendel, Bergdorf Goodman & Barneys, and then throw in Sak's for good measure. The mere thought of being carried at Bendel's had me on a fashion high.

The buyers placed a huge order and asked if I could have it to them in two weeks! Let me back up and say the headbands were mere prototypes, I had not formed a LLC and I did not even have enough supplies to provide the kind of numbers Bendels wanted. But it was freaking Henri Bendel and I was NOT going to turn down this kind of opportunity. I said "Yes" and then I scrambled, I scrambled HARD. I was running down to the court house in Wall Street to file papers to form my LLC, which by the way is the most dysfunctional, unorganized, unfriendly place and then catching the subway back up to the garment district to find supplies. It was a frantic rush. Paint, ribbon, hot glue guns covered my bed as I crazily put together over 200 headbands. My roommates thought I was manic as I drank 10 coffees a day to stay up to the wee hours of the morning painting pieces of leather, scrunching up tulle and constantly thinking "Is this piece Blair Waldorf worthy enough!?" She was my muse and inspiration. I dropped off all the headbands and then caught a plane to Phoenix to throw Jaime, Blake's baby shower. And that is when my heart fell out from under me.

The buyers said they loved my designs but the quality was not up to par. I reorganized and when I went back to NYC I found a lady deep into the heart of Brooklyn (very last stop on the F train) with a production facility and hired her to help me make the next round. Bendels brought me back and I was featured in their big hair and accessories show. My friend Katie Falowski flew out to be my intern. She was amazing as I dragged her to Brooklyn and on random errands to prep for the show. We saw, experienced, and laughed our hearts out as we witnessed the New York City crazies in full force. We talk about writing a book from our adventures just that summer.

I remember walking past Henri Bendel's Fifth Ave window and seeing my "Jennifer Paige Designs, Headware + Accessories For The Posh Prepster" headbands on a mannequin. At the moment, I knew my time in NYC had come full circle and my yearning to be a Phoenician again would come to fruition. I had graduated from Parsons, interned for Oscar de la Renta, Conde Nast, and worked for American Eagle's design department, as well as meeting Marc Jacobs, Kate Spade and Diane von Furstenberg a long the way -- my New York City fashion cravings had mostly been satisfied.

I flew back to Arizona to meet my newborn niece and that was it - I reclaimed my Arizona residency, and I only returned to NYC to clean out my apartment and pack up my stuff. It was heart breaking saying goodbye to Brian and Michael and all my awesome NYC friends, but Arizona was home, and I was ready to be home.

That summer Cathy Jahnke asked me and Katie Lund to help recruit artists for an event at Scottsdale Fashion Square called the "Mannequin Is Our Muse" to celebrate the grand opening of Barneys. I helped Cathy recruit over 120 artists, vendors and Phoenicians to turn mannequins into art. I called up Bob Wilkinson, my super creative, architect friend from college, and asked if he wanted to collaborate on a mannequin with me. And what we created was the inspiration behind "Soul Carrier", as well as kick-starting many other collaborations including remodeling an entire mid-century modern Al Beadle condo.

It has been quite the adventure, and it is far from over. In fact, in many ways I feel like I am just starting out. So from Henri Bendel to Barneys --It really has been a soul work out. So many people, so many experiences, so many adventures, so many highs and lows -- I can't wait to see what comes creativity and never stopping from going forward...

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