For 50 years, the long-lasting boutique has introduced confidence, generosity and the world’s style developments to central Arkansas.

 

Little Rock, 1972. Two associates endlessly modified the view of style in central Arkansas. 

Girls had been leaving the state to search out the newest in advantageous clothes and accent choices, and these associates determined Arkansans deserved higher. 

Barbara Baber, co-founder of Barbara/Jean, the legendary upscale girls’s clothes retailer, had a sister who was a mannequin in New York. 

“We had a plan that she was going to do the shopping for in New York and I used to be going to have the shop. We had been going to make use of a job alternative to see one another and in addition to have enjoyable.”

Baber and enterprise companion Jean Chaffin collectively bought a home on Cantrell Highway throughout from Cantrell Gardens. The intention was to “simply cute it up,” Baber says, however issues with the construction pushed the duo into constructing the mini-mall the place Barbara/Jean is as we speak. 

With quite a lot of competitors available in the market for moderate-priced clothes, Baber had been conserving her eyes open for a aggressive benefit, and she or he discovered it whereas in San Francisco. 

“My husband had a gathering there and I went. I noticed a line known as J. Tiktiner there, and it was probably the most lovely, lovely factor I might ever seen. It was French. And it was simply attractive.” 

Baber introduced the model to Arkansas and “it simply flew out [the door].”

Barbara/Jean’s mission, because the starting, has been to supply the world’s absolute best to the ladies of Arkansas, and in June of 1982, the specialty boutique gained consideration in a Girls’s Put on Every day piece titled “Barbara/Jean Carves its Area of interest in Little Rock.” 

As soon as luxurious clothes strains hit the racks on the retailer, Chaffin had the concept to introduce high-end cosmetics. Then got here the sneakers, jewellery and equipment the shop nonetheless carries as we speak. 

“We found out jewellery was an actual money-maker and that jewellery does not take up a lot house,” says Greer Grace, Baber’s daughter and an proprietor of Barbara/Jean from 1985 till 2008.

Clockwise from high left: Greer Grace, Christine Bailey, Bailey’s daughter Elizabeth, Barbara Baber.

When Grace first began working together with her mom within the retailer, she introduced an experience in numbers. She had an MBA and a decade of expertise in enterprise underneath her belt. 

“I believe I am the primary one which ever checked out what we made a revenue on final 12 months and what we should always go do the subsequent 12 months,” Grace says. “We removed our stock, and we’d usher in new style yearly. These days, you see the identical factor rather a lot, however that is what Barbara/Jean targeted on, and that is what the ladies needed. That is why they got here in season after season.”

Throughout Grace’s tenure, the corporate skilled nice progress each financially — gross sales went from $300,000 in 1973 to greater than $5 million within the early 2000s — and in sq. footage when it added govt enterprise, fashionable sportswear and modern departments. 

With all the progress got here much more discover. In 1993, Hillary Clinton wore a Sarah Philips robe from Barbara/Jean to President Clinton’s inaugural ball, which was reported by information retailers like Girls’s Put on Every day, Folks Journal, Vogue and plenty of others. The robe and one other Sarah Philips go well with from the shop that she wore throughout her husband’s acceptance speech at the moment are each on show within the Smithsonian. 

In 2008, Christine Bailey, gross sales affiliate turned senior purchaser, bought the shop from Grace. She had joined the staff in 1992 and introduced promoting, shopping for and merchandising know-how together with her.   

“Nicely,” Bailey laughs, “I used to be 28 years previous, and I actually answered an advert within the paper.” She was a jewellery gross sales consultant in 4 completely different states, however was getting married to a Little Rock resident. “I knew I needed to get off the street … I interviewed with Barbara and her daughter Greer they usually employed me. 

“I really like and adore this retailer, and it’s simply the place I’ve at all times been meant to be.” 

Bailey felt strongly about attending European markets for brand new items “to proceed to make Barbara/Jean actually stand out and make us completely different than all the opposite boutiques within the state … and that turned out to be an excellent choice for the shop.” 

“We at all times discovered our area of interest as being form of a step above the whole lot,” Grace says of Bailey’s visionary management. 

The store has had many seems to be over time, however its standing as a go-to for prime caliber style stays the identical.

And the style world was watching. In 2006, Vogue wrote a two-page unfold and Harper’s Bazaar chosen the corporate as a Fashion Chief for style merchandise and excellent customer support. And in 2012, Barbara/Jean turned the primary retailer within the area to incorporate a Lafayette 148 New York shop-in-shop.

Tiffany Robinson interviewed with Grace and scored an internship the summer time between her sophomore and junior years at Hendrix School. 

“I used to be capable of work in all of the departments that summer time and study the whole lot that goes on,” Robinson says.  

Formally she joined payroll in 2001 because the advertising and promotions assistant after graduating. She labored her method up, transferring to assistant purchaser to senior purchaser, then from merchandise supervisor to enterprise supervisor. 

In 2019, when Bailey determined to concentrate on her ardour of serving to the shoppers she had constructed relationships with, Robinson bought the bulk curiosity of Barbara/Jean from her. This new period displays Robinson’s dedication to the shoppers, staff and neighborhood. 

The corporate has been concerned with many nonprofits in central Arkansas in a technique or one other by way of the years. Whether or not by way of style exhibits, unique trunk exhibits, public sale objects or dressing the visitors, Barbara/Jean at all times exhibits as much as assist the neighborhood. 

“We do rather a lot, and we should always, as a result of we’ve had numerous success from the neighborhood and quite a lot of assist,” Baber says. 

The twentieth Century Membership, Kids’s Advocacy Heart’s Girls of Inspiration gala, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Arkansas Museum of High-quality Arts, Clinton Library, Race for the Remedy, Arkansas Foodbank, Easterseals, Girls and Kids First, The Rep and so many others have been recipients of Barbara/Jean’s charity from the start, and there are not any plans to alter that. Staff are even inspired to get entangled by volunteering and are paid for time spent with nonprofits every month. 

“That is one thing that at all times was significant to me as philanthropy has at all times been such an necessary a part of my life as effectively,” Robinson says. “It’s nice to work for an organization who shares that worth.”

Present proprietor Tiffany Robinson joined the workers in 2001.

Robinson is fast to say proudly owning Barbara/Jean is her dream job, even when it is one she by no means anticipated. 

When offered with the chance to maneuver into the place of firm president, “the timing was good” as she was anticipating her son and the break from journey was welcomed. “After which after I was later approached with the chance to purchase the enterprise, I felt like I knew precisely what I used to be moving into, and I beloved the concept of having the ability to lead us into the longer term.”

Robinson’s very first undertaking in 2001 was celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of Barbara/Jean, and her analysis taught her about extra than simply style. 

“One among my first interviews with Barbara left a long-lasting impression on me and delivered to mild a number of the issues I had at all times taken with no consideration. Issues like again in 1972, it was not widespread for banks to offer loans to girls, so Barbara and Jean needed to go to a number of banks to get the mortgage to construct the constructing and open the shop,” Robinson says.

“The truth that Barbara and Jean had been progressive sufficient to wish to construct a constructing, which might not solely home Barbara/Jean, however different companies as effectively, speaks volumes.” 

All the feminine leads at Barbara/Jean by way of the years have impacted Robinson. 

“I’m past lucky to have Barbara, Greer and Christine as mentors in my life,” she says. “Every one introduced a special set of experience to share and encourage.”

In-store runway and trunk exhibits that includes globally famend designers have been highlights of the town’s social scene because the early days of Barbara/Jean.

There are numerous tales about prospects and celebrities by way of the years, however the widespread theme is that the true reward is in serving to the ladies of the neighborhood. 

“I believe what we’ve at all times been actually good at, due to Barbara’s coaching, is listening to our shoppers and serving to them discover options — studying why they walked by way of the entrance door and doing our greatest to fill that want. 

“Whether or not they truly simply wish to have a cup of espresso and inform us about one thing necessary happening of their life or in the event that they want a brand new wardrobe for an upcoming journey, our job is to be there,” Robinson says. From photoshoots to first dates, “we received’t give up till we discover a look [where] she feels and appears like one of the best model of herself.”

The friendships that develop from discovering confidence within the becoming room are a few of “probably the most beneficial property we’ve,” Robinson says. “We’ve so many consumers and staff who’re extra like household. It’s an exquisite atmosphere to be in every day.”

Baber enjoys seeing the transformations, too. 

“You get along with a salesman you actually like, who likes you and understands what you wish to do to make you into one thing just a little bit nicer and higher,” Baber says. “It offers you quite a lot of confidence when anyone places one thing on you and tells you that you would be able to put on it.”

“We’ve at all times prided ourselves on the real, sincere relationships that we type with our shoppers,” Bailey provides. “Once you work with somebody for therefore a few years and you find yourself working with their daughter and even their mom, it is simply greater than a salesman relationship. It undoubtedly turns into nearly like household or extra.”

From associates to mom and daughter to mentors and mentees, the corporate and the neighborhood wouldn’t be what it’s as we speak with out Barbara/Jean’s legacy of professionalism, luxurious and repair. 

“One of the vital spectacular issues about Barbara/Jean to me is the robust feminine management and imaginative and prescient,” Robinson says. “It began with Barbara and Jean, however continued with Greer and Christine. I hope to proceed that legacy and go it on to the subsequent individual, whoever that is perhaps.”


Barbara/Jean fiftieth Anniversary Celebration
Sept. 14 | Barbara/Jean

This in-store occasion contains makeovers with artists from Chantecaille, a jewellery trunk present with Spinelli Kilcollin, meals, drinks, scrapbooks and giveaways. Attendees are requested to carry an merchandise to donate to the Little Rock Animal Village.