Last Thursday, Bebe president and C.E.O. Greg Scott was in town to celebrate the opening of Chicago's marquee Bebe store—a 7,500 square-foot, three-level space on Oak Street. To underscore the brand's connection to the local fashion community, Scott partnered up with Vogue and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's fashion department for a three-part event.
The evening began with the Behind-the-Seams reception held downtown in Sage Studios (SAIC's new fashion studios). The event was part champagne-and-Vosges-truffle reception and part Project Runway-style contest. While the crowd of of local fashion editors, designers, and photographers mingled in the studios' central space, a team of four judges including Scott and local designer Maria Pinto visited 14 student fashion designers at their in-classroom work stations. The students chatted with the judges about designs they'd created for the school's upcoming spring fashion show—modeled on busts and live models—and shared their inspirations. (For example: “I'm inspired by homeless people, and how they carry all their belongings with them,” said student designer Mi Ri Uhm of her voluminous dresses plied with bundles of fabric.)
At the end of the hour-and-a-half reception, the judges awarded three students with $1,500 cash prizes intended to further their careers. Scott said that Bebe's efforts to support local designers are in keeping with the theme of Thursday's event. “Bebe loves Chicago; Chicago loves Bebe,” he said. “The event was our celebration of Chicago, which has always been an important central market for Bebe.”
The event's second part, co-sponsored by Vogue, took place at the new store. Vogue director of special events Ann Vincent comes to Chicago roughly eight times a year for work, and said that the two-month planning process for the Bebe opening was “seamless” due to the mag's “great relationship with Bebe. We understand them, and understood their goals for this event. They wanted to introduce the new store to a young, hip, cool crowd,” she said.
Scott added that he thought the partnership with Vogue would attract a good cross-section of the magazine's readers and potential Bebe customers. “This [partnership] is a great way to reach new clients—those who have a fashion-forward mindset and may read Vogue, but who have not yet been introduced to the Bebe brand,” he said.
In the store, oversize covers of Vogue framed the entrance and servers circulated with Bebetinis, a ruby-hued blend of Cointreau, champagne, and cranberry juice. The gift bags represented both brands as well as the city of Chicago: Local artist Gary Weidner decorated the bags with the “Chicago loves Bebe” catchphrase, and takeaway gifts included the latest issue of Vogue along with a Bebe-branded mirror and water bottle.
After the store opening, guests received wrist bands that granted access to an hour of complimentary Bebetinis at River North nightclub the Underground.