Susan Beebe's Sweaters Are Warm, but Can Cost a Cool $1,850 Each
11/16/1981 at 01:00 AM EST
Susan Beebe, 25, hoped to work as an assistant for the designer Geoffrey Beene in the summer of '80. In the end Beene never called, but New York's stylish Bergdorf Goodman did—with an offer to buy four of her elaborate hand-knit sweaters. Then an East Side boutique ordered four. So Susan, a 1980 Parsons School of Design graduate, bravely plunged into the high-risk business of being a self-employed designer.
With a $10,000 loan, she converted half of her Manhattan loft, shared with husband Glen Northey, also 25, into a studio. Beebe's specialty is her line of luxurious sweaters in suede, fur, marabou or guinea hen feathers mixed with angora, cashmere or mohair. The cheapest retails for $500. The high prices haven't deterred buyers. Bergdorf's, where her cult following is strong, has opened a Beebe boutique. Saks Fifth Avenue and Elizabeth Arden cosmetics feature her sweaters in their swanky ads. London's Regine and Lina Lee on Beverly Hills' Rodeo Drive have taken on her line. Even the president of San Francisco's I. Magnin, Steven Somers, made a special trip to her SoHo loft for a showing.
A Fort Lauderdale native, Susan, whose father is a safety inspector and whose mother sews costumes for antique dolls, began designing in high school. In 1976, while in her last year at Miami Dade Community College, she won a Bill Blass award for designing and, on his advice, went on to Parsons. Now she has 30 knitters on the payroll, and Glen has quit as a New York Hilton personnel manager to handle business details. Ironically, Susan rarely wears a Beebe. Says she: "I just don't lead that kind of life-style."