Bebe is amping up its sex appeal — but knows where to draw the line.
That’s according to Steve Birkhold, Bebe Store Inc.’s chief executive officer, who likes to reference his company’s $10 million campaign that kicks off this Wednesday by saying, “For the Bebe girl, nine-to-five means 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.”
Fashion-wise, the emphasis is on body-conscious silhouettes, cropped tops, tight sweater dresses, and short black dresses with cutouts and sequins. “It’s about anything that is sexy, not trashy,” Birkhold said. There’s a fine line between the two, which Bebe has crossed at times. Yet for many years, Bebe, founded by Manny Mashouf in 1976, capitalized on its daring ways and owned the contemporary sector. Recently, however, sales and profits have slipped with the rise of fast-fashion competitors, emerging contemporary brands and department stores building up their contemporary offerings. Last year, Bebe took a tamer approach, expanding the offering with wear-to-work options and toned-down head-to-toe looks that didn’t necessarily turn heads. A bridal collection appeared and disappeared relatively quickly. Retail sales for the fiscal year ended July 6 fell 8.6 percent to $442.8 million, compared with $484.2 million for the year before, indicating that many shoppers have been turned off.
Seeking to win back the customer and recover its trendsetter reputation, Birkhold’s team has turned its attention to the going-out category and to some degree is de-emphasizing wear-to-work. “It’s about being sophisticated and sexy” and giving customers “different options on what she wants to show and what she doesn’t want to show,” Birkhold explained. “If you were to look at the core parts of our business and where it’s weighted, we are definitely seeing differences in each category.”
Inventories lean to provocative evening dresses and outfits, and the old Bebe belief that being edgy is safer than playing it safe. “The body-conscious dress category is super, super hot,” Birkhold observed.
The new campaign underscores the shift, the ceo said. “We started with unbranded teasers that created some curiosity. Already, there’s been speculation that it was Bebe.” The teasers, running since July 15 in major markets, utilize just campaign imagery and script, and incorporate a social media call-out with the #be9to5 hashtag. Bebe is working with bloggers and influencers to help spread the buzz. Branded ads go up Wednesday and will be seen in national women’s magazines. Right after Labor Day, the Los Angeles-based Bebe will open New York offices inside those of JWalk, the agency handling the campaign. Bebe will use its new location for events and as a showroom for the press.
Bebe is spending around 10 percent more on media this year, partially because it’s developed a bigger digital presence through social media, breaking from past seasons where there was greater reliance on outdoor advertising. Birkhold declined to specify the media budget.
“I have been here over six months now. It’s starting to come together,” said Birkhold, who was formerly ceo of Lacoste North America and Diesel USA. “We are reengaging with our girl in a way that makes sense to her. We continue to sell denim, weekend and the day dress category is gaining momentum. But clearly, when the Bebe girl walks through our doors, she is looking for something to go out in.”
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye