When is it ever a good time to retire from our dance world? Most of us would say we can’t imagine the day because of our commitment to art and community. The same goes for Lori Binkly, owner of Karabel Dancewear retail store, who has been serving the dance industry for more than forty-eight years. Yet, the difficult decision to fully and gracefully retire has finally come.

Karabel Dancewear has been as diverse as its community. “There are so many customers that I have been serving. People in the land of show business, and artists…Tours that come in and the costumers for Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson. From the Ellen Show, TV shows, movies that costume dance sequences or nude scenes, I’ve been serving the industry for a long time.”

"Best in Drag"

Dedicated to making dancewear available at Karabel, Lori fits the professional, studio, and student dancer. In fact, “I’ve waited on many customers and seen them grow up, from toddler to adulthood. And the lovely parents.”

She’s cornered the muchly needed color-diversity market by offering undergarments suitable for all skin-tones as well as fitting Rupal’s Drag Race performers. “The performers come in to buy heels and I fit them. That’s been one of my favorite parts of the industry.”

Taking a moment to recognize Karabel’s history is to acknowledge our own. The original retail store owner was Ella Karabel. In 1971, she became ill and turned the business over to Joyce Stevens, Lori’s mother. At the time, Karabel was located on Melrose Avenue and Fairfax across from Fairfax High School. The store was located on the ground floor with Stefan Wenta giving ballet classes on the floor above. Soon after, Standard Oil purchased the corner plot of land and Lori’s mother found a new location for Karabel Dancewear at 4th Street and Fairfax.

First pointe shoe fitting

First pointe shoe fitting

I’ve waited on many customers and seen them grow up, from toddler to adulthood

Lori came up in retail, but her dance-passion paved the way for becoming the leading source for Los Angeles dancewear. Her early professional years linked movement and business savvy. “When I was about nineteen, I started working for Gilda Marx. I opened exercise franchise businesses. I was a regional franchise manager and opened her studios around the country.”

Lori gained insight by working for Gilda at Body Design by Gilda, Exercise Studio & Boutique. And, to this day, they are good friends. “I worked in-house, did fashion show productions, sampled lines for sales people… and taught exercise at her studio in Century City (at the time.) All while working at the factory. So, I did many things including teaching. I’d train the franchise owners and [help] open their studios.” Lori got them on their feet!

There is also the dance side of Lori’s story. She trained from the age of thirteen. “I took jazz at Steven Pecks on Robertson Boulevard. I assisted for Carol Connors and studied with Joe Tremaine, Joe Bennett, Roland Dupree, and Jaime Rogers. I was a jazz dancer for years!”

Professional dancers and former staff Lorena and Clinton

Professional dancers and former staff Lorena and Clinton

Having opened stores for Gilda and mixing it up in the dance world, Lori established serious skills that kept Karabel’s on top of all competitors. It’s no wonder the decision to personally move forward from dance retail, was difficult. “It’s taken a while because I really wanted to sell the business to someone who could take it over. But I was able to [transition] Karabel to a local dancewear store. Dancers Barre, in Sherman Oaks on Woodland and Ventura, will be the new home for Karabel inventory and phone number.”

Karabel’s is a staple in our experience and expectation of great service. Lori is pleased to announce that in finding the Dancers Barre owned by Susan Lemoine, “I found a very nice, lovely lady. I’ll be helping another retailer to service the community. I felt a responsibility. I’ve been in Burbank thirty years and in retail for forty-eight!”

Retirement plans? “Just emptying the building is as far as I can see past,” as well as helping to place her experienced employees with their specific knowledge of fittings, in a new retail position. “I haven’t really figured out what I want to do. I’m programmed to go into work five days a week. I’ve done all my own bookkeeping, scheduling, payroll, the bills. So, I really cannot picture what I might do after this.”

Lori Binkly and 2019 Karabel Dancewear staff

Lori Binkly and 2019 Karabel Dancewear staff

But, Lori is adamant, “I’m not completely retired, just from retail.” She’s been a buyer, merchandiser, consultant on fabrics and pricing, and has designed product through the years. “I’ve never taken time off except to have a baby.”

Karabel Dancewear has been as diverse as its community

Lori will close the store with the last day being June 23rd. The building has been turned over to a local merchant. The Karabel phone number and all dancewear inventory will move to Dancers Barre in Sherman Oaks, owned by Susan Lemoine. Lori’s legacy is found in her long service to our dance world and the thoughtful decision to find a good home for Karabel Dancewear.