This womenswear retailer has always catered to a youthful customer—one who likes her party dresses tight, bright, and low-cut—so it was an intriguing choice that Bebe brought in Charles Benton as a design consultant. Benton's background is in luxury, having cut his teeth at Emanuel Ungaro during the Giambattista Valli days, but rather than being asked to tailor his looks to the typical Bebe customer, he was given free rein. "I was surprised myself how much freedom I had," the Rome native admitted backstage.

He opted for a frilly Gibson Girls theme, cast in all white and styled with an Edwardian touch. "But applied with a modern Parisian and NYC twist," Benton added. With ruffles, lace-up corset detailing, and pinafores—sometimes all in one look—it was tough to see the cool Parisian or New Yorker influence at times. It did help that fabrics ran in the high end with lightweight silk and cotton voile, embroidered silk, and stretch linen. And the later looks were stronger, such as a damask jacquard cut into a sporty anorak and a gorgeous closing dress with a pintucked bodice and shorter-in-front, floaty hem.

Overall, the hefty emphasis on sheer white fabrics and the exaggerated tailoring in puff sleeves and corseted waists felt surprisingly fanciful for Bebe. That didn't seem to bother the company's founder, Manny Mashouf, any. "We're going to produce a few of the looks for maybe 40 to 50 doors," he said. "I know it's not our usual thing—it's really for a more sophisticated customer—but the best part of it is, our whole design team has been reinvigorated. They learned how to do something completely different." With all the contemporary lines that show safe designs for New York fashion week, you couldn't help but applaud that out-of-the-box thinking.