Dressed for Success
Although the Los Angeles fashion industry is often associated with the most recent designer jean craze, pricey T-shirts and swimwear, stalwart brand Belldini is still going strong after several decades for a number of reasons. One of them is that even the trendiest L.A. career woman will be more likely to wear Belldini’s feminine-but-streamlined pieces to the office instead of Kitson-influenced denim or tank tops.
“Our family-owned company has been doing this for 30 years, so our overall commitment to timeless style has not really changed,” Joseph Esshaghian said. “Belldini had branched into other fashion categories, such as women’s suits and angora knits for short periods during that time. However, wardrobe staple knits have always been our niche. It is not so much that we’re bringing this [approach to fashion] back into style. It just so happens that what we have done most successfully for three decades is coming back into fashion in a big way.”
What Esshaghian is referring to is a collection of knitwear that ranges from basic twin sets, to dramatic flowing tunics and sweater jackets, to dresses that frankly could stand in for couture Italian knitwear line Missoni, whose budget line caused near riots at Target stores across the United States last fall. However, one important thing that sets Belldini apart from other well-priced or budget clothing lines is an emphasis on quality that puts the wearer ahead of fashion’s transient nature or designer label hype.
“I have noticed a trend in the fashion industry toward disposable clothing,” Esshaghian said. “Though many stores carry or specialize in clothing sold for ultra-cheap pricing, the reality is that once you wash something once or twice, it is history. Belldini, on the other hand, has focused on clothing that is designed with care, even though our price points are very competitive [$80 to $300]. While our pieces are investment dressing, you are not paying top dollar for something that will last you for several years.”
As Esshaghian explains it, Belldini is not just a family business, but also a personal labor of love. This is reinforced by the fact that his wife — whom he met through a rabbi in Israel around the time of their separately making aliyah in the months following the 9/11 terror attacks — and his extended family are a key test market and ongoing source of feedback for individual garments, underscoring his personal commitment to keeping the brand relevant for women of all ages and walks of life.
Though his father hoped Esshaghian would pursue a recession-proof career path in medicine, Esshaghian’s heart was in joining and retrofitting a company in the business of making different kinds of women feel good about themselves, whether they were dressing for work, weekends or High Holy Days services. Although the company and the L.A. fashion industry were in a time of transition when the younger Esshaghian decided against medical school, the father initially objected to his son stepping in. The son, in this case, knew best, and Belldini has gone into its fourth decade with flair.
“The collections we are designing now are made up of individual separates that will stand out, even if they are wardrobe staples,” he said. “Though we are starting to incorporate more basic sweaters into the line — even in not-so-basic colors — we want to give women a variety of choices that will help them make their everyday ensembles more interesting, special and individualized. Our customers also appreciate the fact that, while the pieces are sexy, they are not too revealing.
“We also want to be sure everything we design is flattering on the body, from the proportions of individual sweaters to the type of knits. Since we have been doing this for so many decades, we have a sense of what body types work with different yarns and knits. Each style is tailored with this in mind, so if one sweater is not quite right for a certain body type, we will change up the rib or the yarn to ensure as many people will look good in a certain style as possible.”
As Esshaghian sees it, dressing for success, especially in tough economic times, encompasses the idea that you should put as much care into shopping for your everyday garments as his company does in manufacturing them.