"Five years after the death of Harry Bendayan, the new Marc Laurent is that lovely kind of remembrance that comes in the form of a renaissance.
A beautiful space stocked with beautiful clothes and staffed with people trained not to let anything – not the phone, not even a call from nature – interfere with taking care of the customer, the Marc Laurent that just opened in Hazelton Lanes pays fitting tribute to Bendayan, who died of leukemia at 48.
Marc Laurent is imaginary. It's a moniker that Bendayan came up with for the shop he opened on Bloor St. in 1980. It carried fashion for both men and women, all of it chosen in accordance with Bendayan's impeccable taste, which was very real.
After Bendayan's death, his wife Mila had no doubt that Marc Laurent would live on. Not that she had always been committed to retail. She had studied chemistry at York University, married and stayed home to look after the kids, a daughter Ilana, now 26 and finishing her MBA, and a son David, 25, on the buying team at Marc Laurent. In 1994, Mila got into the business.
By then she had realized, "If I ever wanted to see my husband, I had to go to the store."
For the past few years, retail life on Bloor, on that upmarket stretch that swans eastward from Avenue Rd., has been characterized by flux and skyrocketing rents. An escape from all that, the relocation of Marc Laurent to Hazelton Lanes also represents a new partnership between Mila Bendayan and Arie and Patrick Assaraf. Since 1991 the brothers have become an explosive fashion force with their family of stores, Blu, Man, Woman, Kids, Galerie, all with the first name TNT. At the same time, the Assarafs respect the quiet, understated, meticulous standard set by Harry Bendayan, whom they had known for years.
A significant keeper of that standard is Greg Madesker. Known as general manager, he has been with Marc Laurent since 1988. Madesker is Harry-trained which counts as a considerable credential; before that, he worked for Alan Gooch of Brick Shirt House fame, which means he knows the value of a sense of humour.
Remembering Bendayan, Madesker speaks of "my best friend," and says, "They don't make people like that anymore." He is also expert on the make of a suit, can tell from the dimples at the shoulder whether handwork went into it, which also qualifies him as chief menswear buyer.
Almost twice as big as the Bloor Street store, Marc Laurent now occupies 7,500 square feet.
To be ready in five months, a third of that will be a separate space, with its own entrance, devoted to women's collections. Label-wise, some of the homeboys and girls are Jil Sander, Neil Barrett, Calvin Klein, Martin Margiela, Robert Comstock, Isaia, Etro, Malo, Bottega Veneta, Akris, a distinctive mix of the progressive and the time-honoured. Neil Barrett and Jil Sander are the kind of edgy, minimal thing favoured by Bruce Kuwabara, the accomplished architect that has long been connected to Marc Laurent.
In 1986, even before they became partners in KPMB, one of Canada's most recognized firms, Kuwabara and Tom Payne worked on Marc Laurent's first Bloor Street location. When that store moved west, KPMB designed it. And for this latest incarnation in Hazelton Lanes, Bruce Kuwabara headed a team that included project architect Matthew Krivosudsky.
What they have achieved – even with finishing touches still in progress – must rank as one of the most attractive stores in the land.
There's never been a store in Hazelton Lanes to know such light and air, and few anywhere to match the spareness of its lines, the finesse of its surfaces, some of them being high-gloss lacquer; glass painted white and not just any glass, but especially clear starfire glass to avoid any hint of green; transparent glass, as in two extraordinary walk-in vitrines, stunning glass boxes in which mannequins look the way performance artists might appear in a gallery."