Select reporters were invited to breakfast at Barneys New York this morning with new CEO Mark Lee who gave them some idea of how the store, and in particular the Madison Avenue flagship, will evolve under his stewardship. For starters, he promises that none of the chain's flagship stores are set to close. Here are some key points:
BOMBSHELL: Barneys will no longer carry Prada handbags and women's apparel, though women's shoes and men's collections will remain. Consider this a signal that Prada is officially no longer the golden luxury brand it was just a few years ago. Also, keep in mind that this development comes from former Gucci executives (To clarify the decision, several outlets are reporting that the Prada situation stems from Prada's desire to convert their women's apparel and accessory spaces in Barneys to leased shops, not a decision by Lee to jettison the lines. Losing the lines was consistent with a longtime Barneys policy not to allow leased departments. We wonder how this attitude from the vendor will affect Prada's position at Bergdorf Goodman which, with a few exceptions, follows the same policy.) Handbag space will be filled by the more exclusive and expensive Valextra. The second floor Apparel space will become an Azzadine Alaïa shop. Expect Prada RTW to show up at Saks or even Bloomingdale's next Fall.
ADVERTISING: The website has already been redesigned, and a new, post-Simon-Doonan black-and-white ad campaign called "Backstage" launches this Sunday in The New York Times and will continue in the usual major magazines.
RENOVATIONS: The Madison Avenue store, which has been relatively untouched since its opening in the early 1990s, will undergo some significant renovations including the entire ground floor(to be completed by by November). The Men's Co-op is also set for an overhaul which would connect it with its corresponding department in the women's store (which is interesting because they are currently not on the same floors). The Beverly Hills store is also set for renovations.
In a symbolic move, the store's signature red awnings will be replaced with black ones that match the shopping bags. Interpret that as you will, but WWD reports that Lee, an admitted man of few words, says of the changes “It will open up a ripple effect for what will happen in 2012 and 2013.”
Brace yourselves for the coming Barneys Transformation. Trust that it won't happen quietly or without copious comment.