Launched in New York City by Herbert Bienen and Edwin Davis in 1931, Bienen-Davis quickly became the preferred arm candy of celebs, socialites, and well-heeled women who previously had to look to Europe for high-quality designer bags. Though the line shut down in the ‘70s, its legacy of glamour lived on and has now been reintroduced by Bienen’s great-nephew Richard Bienen. Its new incarnation is a collection of modern, limited-edition updates to classic styles designed with the customer—and good times—in mind.
Bienen is fourth generation in the handbag industry and grew up learning all about patterns, costs, and factories. “My dad introduced me to the business. He was running a bag company, which he sold in the mid-’70s, and then he launched Halston handbags,” explains Bienen. “Meanwhile, my mom was Halston’s design assistant, as well as a runway model and a nightclub promoter at the Red Parrot on West 57th Street.” Taking after his parents, Bienen also works in the industry and is credited with relaunching Mark Cross bags a few years ago.
It wasn’t until he met Meredith German, formerly from Marc Jacobs, and Ross German—now the brand’s creative director and vice president, respectively—that the idea to bring back Bienen-Davis was formalized. “When you meet people in the industry who you gel with, you try to collaborate with those people,” explains Meredith. “It was that way with us and Richard. We discussed a few different ideas, but it was when he showed us some old Bienen-Davis bags that everything came together. We were blown away!”
The process of relaunching was as much about bringing back iconic styles as infusing the brand with the original spirit of the company. “My mom knew how to have a really good time. So did my dad. They loved to go out, eat well, and travel. They lived life to their fullest,” says Bienen. “The more stories that came out about Richard’s life and his parents and the incredible legacy, we became so excited to bring a heritage brand to market with true heritage,” adds Meredith.
The collection includes signature styles like the Régine Minaudière, which features a removable hand-embossed, brass-hinged minaudière and a built-in mirror, or the Kit wristlet that has a removable black-suede chain pouch and can be carried on its own or worn in other bags for multiple styling options. From how they hang from the wrist to the thoughtful touches like removable pouches and mirrors, each bag has an attention to detail that’s entirely consumer focused in a nuanced and playful way. “The bags could have easily been interpreted in a more classic way, but we wanted to bring a mischievous aspect to it. We want people to go out and have a good time—and bring these bags with them when they do.”