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.”
Breaking News: @louisvuitton's men's artistic director @mrkimjones is leaving the French fashion house after nearly 7 years. Jones joined Louis Vuitton in 2011, following a three year tenure as creative director of British luxury goods brand Alfred Dunhill. Jones is to exit Louis Vuitton after showing his fall 2018 collection for the brand in Paris on Thursday. Read the full exclusive story on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
For men’s fall 2018, @giuseppezanotti drew on elements from streetwear, sport, biker, combat and rock ‘n’ roll. Pictured here are a pair of shoes from the collection, featuring zippers, rhinestones, and silver hardware. Head to WWD.com to see a roundup of the accessories from Milan’s men’s fall 2018 shows. #wwdfashion (📷: Andrea Delb)
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of @ralphlauren’s snowboarding collection, the brand is mining its archives. The iconic brand is reintroducing vintage styles and dropping new designs for a color capsule that will be available in Ralph Lauren stores and @openingceremony on January 25. The capsule will consist of 10 pieces, including the Snow Beach Pullover, pictured here, which is a collector’s item that rapper Raekwon wore in Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple” video. #wwdfashion (📷: Tom Gould)
For @rochasofficial’s pre-fall 2018 collection, creative director Alessandro Dell’Acqua channeled the sophisticated and intriguing Catherine Denevue in the film “Belle de Jour.” Polished collarless coats, midi skirts, suits and ’60s graphic motifs were all featured in the collection, adding a sense of discreet luxury. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion
“We tried to produce clothing of that couture quality, but the most daunting part was that we only had a matter of days [to do it],” said costume designer Lou Eyrich, who recreated Gianni Versace’s iconic looks for @americancrimestoryfx. Eyrich searched online retailers and vintage shops for original pieces from the design house and for @penelopecruzoficial, who plays Donatella Versace. Head to WWD.com to read how she created the Versace world. #wwdfashion
Only three months after her stellar debut catwalk season, @kaiagerber has inked her first big design collaboration –– with @karllagerfeld. The collection blends Lagerfeld’s Parisian chic aesthetic and the model’s signature West Coast casual style via RTW, accessories, footwear and more. The #KarlLagerfeldxKaia collection will launch in September with a series of events. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews