Henri Willis Bendel, a milliner by trade, was the first retailer to bring the designs of Coco Chanel over to the United States from Paris. The company he founded maintained this tradition of introducing influential socialites to what's new and next in fashion by launching designers including Alyce Hamm, Anna Sui, Stephen Burrows, Rick Owens and Diane von Furstenberg. Bendel's also fosters the work of upcoming designers through its semi-annual "Open-See" events, at which vendors can present merchandise to corporate buyers on a "first come, first seen" basis, with the chance that their pieces will be selected for a trunk show or even for sale in the Fifth Avenue store.
The brand is well known for its brown-and-white striped shopping bags, its signature hatboxes, and an extensive matching line of cosmetics bags.
In April 2009, when it was decided that apparel would no longer be carried (instead shifting focus on fashion accessories, cosmetics, and gift items) the company announced six smaller shops would open across the country. These first locations after the New York Flagship were at Somerset Collection, NorthPark Center, The Mall at Short Hills, King of Prussia Mall, Beverly Center, and South Coast Plaza.
Since these initial six expansion locations the brand has grown to 29 locations total, with most major markets having a location, with the notable exceptions of San Francisco and Boston. Locations include Columbus, Ohio, Miami, San Diego, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Minneapolis. The brand also has multiple locations throughout Metropolitan Chicago, Las Vegas, and suburban Washington, D.C..