Anyone who remembers the original Barneys New York store in Chelsea knows that it was actually three buildings. There is the part of the old Men's store that was the "Traditional" side, became Loehmann's and is once again a Barneys store. There was the series of apartment buildings on 17th Street that became the Women's store and is now the Rubin Museum of Art, and then there was the building between them on the corner of 17th and Seventh Avenue which was housed the "International" side of the men's store. Most of that building has also been given over to the Rubin Museum, but, oddly, the street level was never incorporated. While the museum had always covered the windows of this section, recently they have been uncovered, revealing a dusty construction site. A closer look shows that since Barneys was forced to close the Chelsea store, this particular corner has never been turned over to something else. At least for a little while longer, you can see the old store's interior relatively left as it was when it was shuttered. Though it's hard to show in the photo through a dirty window, under the rubble you can see the original floor, shelves and the staircase to the upper floors. Why the sudden activity? The building at 113 Seventh Avenue as well as the rest of the Rubin Museum at 150 West 17th Street have been sold by the Museum and are now on the rental market. We might suggest that an excellent tenant for 113 Seventh Avenue on the corner might be . . . Barney's?
While it might be premature to suggest an expansion of the four-level store that just opened barely two months ago, There are some glaring omissions in the new Barneys where the men's offerings of what was once the most comprehensive men's stores anywhere have been reduced to less than a single floor of designer collections and luxury sneakers. The corner building would give Barneys enough room to add the missing home department as well as flesh out the store's incomplete menswear offerings on the upper floors.
We aren't holding our breath that this is somehow secretly in the works, but shouldn't it be?
Stranger things have been known to happen.
There isn't exactly a Critical Shopper column in this week's Thursday Styles, but Jon Caramanica wrote about going to Barneys in Chelsea, so it seems to be one in all but name only. As per usual, the review begins with a little nostalgia. This time its our quasi shopper's memories of a Brooklyn childhood where the thought of Barney's (It had an apostrophe once) seemed too fantastical to be real (except that Mom had been quietly shopping there for herself all along). But that was a different Barneys than the one that currently sits on Seventh Avenue between 16th and 17th Streets. Even Caramanica notes that this new flagship store seems to be missing something, or a lot of things. "It’s like the airport version of the Madison Avenue store, perhaps more a suggestion of actual Barneys than the thing itself," and then, "It’s the MP3 to the FLAC file of the main store," —remember, he's a music writer too. Well put, although, to us it's more the the remix that bears almost no resemblance to the original track.
After all, Barneys in Chelsea is essentially a women's store now. The store that built itself on men's suits now devotes only a fraction of its space to any kind of men's apparel, and there is neither a traditional tailored suit nor a necktie to be found in the entire place. Caramanica calls the merchandising scheme "ruthless" allowing for only the most reliably profitable items, which is why, like in any other department store the main floor is an "ocean of handbags", and Chelsea Passage, the home department named after the neighborhood where it was born, has been neglected altogether. In the end, our shopper finally finds satisfaction in the basement in the chair of the Blind Barber, which tells us that maybe the inevitable comparisons to other versions of the store miss the point at the new Chelsea Barneys.
A heavy snow was not anywhere near close enough to keep excited shoppers away from the new Barneys New York flagship that (their designation) that opened Monday on the site of its original men's store on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Sixteenth Street. Barneys' management has been very clear that they had no intention of recreating the old store, and they certainly have not. It is best to go in without looking for the Chelsea Barneys you once knew and loved, and judge the store on its own terms, but the new store does point out just how far current Barneys management has taken the store from its roots now that it has returned to the scene.
Let's begin with what's good about the store. For starters, Barney's current, extremely minimalistic interior design style looks a lot better in Chelsea that it does on Madison Avenue. While slabs of marble, steel and glass have made parts of the home base mother ship look disturbingly like the lobby of a very expensive office building that has been filled with handbags, similar elements have been employed to much better effect downtown in a much smaller space. A broader array of materials and more generous use of carpeting on the upper floors give the store the more intimate ambiance that befits a luxury establishment. The decor is also much more integrated, continuing from floor to floor as opposed to the Madison Avenue location where one floor may feel well appointed and another may have been stripped down to the point where the 'minimalism' just feels minimal (read: cheap). New display fixtures with freeform shaped bases appear throughout the store and with the central spiral staircase they both create unifying visual elements. In an uncharacteristic move for the anti-nostalgic store, the staircase deliberately recalls the Andrée Putman designed steps from the former women's store which still stands around the corner on 17th street as part of the Rubin Museum. As for the merchandise, the women's floor does a fairly good job of condensing many of the offerings from uptown on a single floor. There is some fine tuning left to be finished, and some collections had clearly not yet found their final placements on the floor, but the presentation was strong. In fact, though the Meatpacking District is several blocks away, the new Barneys looks to be some serious competition for Jeffrey, the only real high-end designer level multi-brand store currently remaining in that rapidly evolving neighborhood. Though the main floor is designated for Women's and Men's accessories, it does recreate the "sea of handbags" effect from uptown and the men's section is pushed into a smaller section toward the back —which brings us to the store's drawbacks, chief among them being the way that Barneys, once New York's greatest all-around men's store, has marginalized its longtime core business.
It's not that, the men's department is totally pushed aside. It gets all of the selling space on the third floor. Unfortunately, it has to share that floor with an as yet unfinished Fred's restaurant, so overall, there are substantially fewer square feet devoted to men than there are to women. This may have been something of a miscalculation, because as it happens, when The Shophound visited the store on Monday afternoon, all floors were busy with shoppers curious to see the new Barneys, but the men's floor was packed like it was the height of the Holiday season. Chelsea is, after all, still Chelsea. And one of the not particularly well-kept secrets of Barneys success as a store for adventurous men's fashion was that it was situated right near a couple of neighborhoods known for their predominantly male populations that tended to be more interested in fashion that the average guy (read: gay). Though Chelsea has changed since the 90s, it hasn't changed that much. What's glaringly missing from the store, however, is any hint of the traditional men's clothing that once filled the entire space that the new store occupies. Except for a very modest counter of casual shirts and sweaters on the main floor, the entire men's offering is comprised of high-end designer collections. While the Madison Avenue store still has a floor devoted to pricey European tailored clothing for men, Barneys has, in recent years, essentially walked away from broad and deep assortments of men's clothing that made it a shopping destination even before Chelsea was a bustling gay neighborhood. There is not a Brioni blazer to be found in the new store, nor is there a Kiton suit or a Zegna tie (or any ties at all as far as we could tell). The new store makes it very clear how Barneys management cares about traditional clothing as a core business which is not at all. On the other hand as a men's designer collections store, it is excellent, and the spacious shoe department —again, totally devoid of traditional, classic footwear— is much more comfortable and easier the shop than the renovated one on Madison Avenue, and the fancy sneakers were moving briskly. Another element borrowed from uptown is the lower level beauty department which also includes a small branch of the Blind Barber. Unfortunately, here is where the dramatic spiral staircase falls flat. It's landing takes up so much space in the middle of the somewhat less expansive floor that it pushes the counters to the edges, making the otherwise well merchandised department feel cramped. It also points out the fact that the renovation of the space included the removal of the escalators. While they may not be essential to a store this size, they are rarely unwelcome to customers who may occasionally tire of waiting for elevators or climbing stairs. Also missing is the well liked home section, so any hopes of seeing the Chelsea Passage department return to its namesake neighborhood will be disappointed.
Criticisms aside, the new Chelsea Barneys succeeds in filling a void that was left when its was shuttered on the same spot about a decade and a half ago. Once again Chelsea has a premier fashion shopping destination that can serve as an anchor for the surrounding blocks which, surprisingly, haven't changed a great deal. Despite the fact that Barneys has so little regard for the original store that once stood there that it completely redesigned the facade which had been pretty much untouched, the store still manages to recapture the feeling of being in a special, off-the-beaten-path establishment far removed from the bustle of midtown luxury shopping. Though it is sure to attract its share of tourists, it feels again like a unique, luxurious neighborhood emporium that could only exist in New York. That's no small feat, and it should be enough to make it thrive again —perhaps enough to expand back into the available corner building on 17th street that completed the original men's store and allow it to present a full representation of the Barneys concept.
Barneys New York Downtown 101 Seventh Avenue at 16th Street, Chelsea
The long awaited unveiling of the new Barneys Chelsea Flagship in its erstwhile men's store location is only days away.
Over the weekend, The Shophound happened to pass by and see the scaffolding covering the new storefront being taken down. As we reported earlier, the exterior of the store (pictured above) has been completely redesigned from the previous entrance to the old men's store that Loehmann's maintained while it inhabited the building. In its place is sleek plate glass, slabs of marble and, most notably, a lengthy steel awning that wraps around the 16th Street corner of the building (pictured below). Those plate glass windows appear to reveal a view directly into the store, so don't look for those famous display window to make a comeback on Seventh Avenue, but the store's logo has been embedded into the sidewalk just in front to the windows for a feeling of permanence (pictured below).
Opening day is expected to be sometime around this weekend to coincide with Women's Fashion Week beginning on Thursday. A look at the second and third story windows revealed racks of clothing waiting to be placed in their departments, so store staff is probably busy stocking the shelves at this very moment. Barneys' Spring advertising campaign entitled "Our Town" and photographed again by Bruce Weber pays tribute to New York's incomparable nightlife characters and features non-professional models in a reference of sorts to the store's more bohemian roots downtown. See a video of the campaign after the jump, and stay tuned for more opening news in the coming days.
WWD is reporting that the official opening date for Barneys in Chelsea will be Monday February 15th. A "Friends and Family" preview will be held the day before on Sunday the 14th, though we don't really know if this means it's a strictly restricted VIP preview or simply a soft opening. Either way, you can start your countdown now.
As if by request, shortly after we mentioned that the RAG & BONE sample sale had been MIA so far this season, it was announced to be beginning today at its usual Chelsea Market location. In fact this is around the same time it happened last year —even a bit earlier than last year. The Shophound stopped by yesterday afternoon for the preview day (which experienced R&B sale shoppers know is only loosely restricted) and found everything pretty much as expected, which is generally what is to be loved or not about the brand in general (pictured above). The long denim table was exactly where it always is. Mostly everything we saw fell into the black, brown, olive green or gray color category. There are plenty of great vintage or military inspired shirts (pictured below), knits and coats, with a particular abundance of men's pea-coats and a bit more of the kind of sports performance inspired separates in keeping with current trends. As of yesterday afternoon, the sale was still in the late stages of set-up mode, so there may have been more merchandise to bring out. Without going into granular detail, prices seemed to be around 60% to 75% off retail depending on the item's original retail price, so Rag & Bone on sale costs perhaps just slightly more than J.Crew at full price. Fans of the brand should make haste to get themselves down to Chelsea. The first day is generally a madhouse.
While KIKI de MONTPARNASSE will continue its warehouse sale through the weekend, the only other sale of note we discovered this week is what is being billed as a JEAN PAUL GAULTIER Farewell To Ready-To-Wear sale which is beginning tomorrow at Century 21's Upper West Side location in Lincoln Square through Sunday the 17th. This is a new venue for Century 21's recent foray into sample sales, and it promises vintage and collectors' pieces from the celebrated French designer who recently ended his prêt-à-porter line in favor of concentrating on his Haute Couture and fragrance businesses. We are not quite sure what to expect from this sale, but it sounds like an intriguing option especially with few other sale events happening.
Be sure to check our SALE ROLL sidebar at left for details, locations and any late breaking sales.
Next week, SEIZE sur VINGT's popular sportswear and haberdashery sale begins with an online preview starting on Tuesday.
A fawning PR piece by David Kamp in next month's Vanity Fair has appeared online and revealed several details about the Barneys New York store returning to part of its previous home in Chelsea. Most importantly, the store is set to open sometime in February with an inaugural event recreating the "Decorated Denim" auction, one of the first major celebrity driven AIDS benefits staged in 1986 to celebrate the opening of the new Women's store around the corner on 17th Street. It featured Levi's Denim Jackets decorated by artists and designers like Jean Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Paloma Picasso and Jean-Paul Gaultier modeled by Nell Campbell, Peter Allen, Andie MacDowell, Susan Sarandon, Iman and an up-and-coming singer named Madonna. The new version has been upgraded to motorcycle jackets decorated by artists such as Ugo Rondinone, Kim Gordon, Anicka Yi, Lisa Yuskavage, and Glenn Ligon with proceeds benefiting the non-profit art space White Columns as well as The Center, the West Village's LGBT Community Center on West 13th Street.
Possibly, the event will have celebrities descending the new spiral staircase that is being constructed to connect all five shopping levels of the re-imagined store much as they did the original one that still exists in the Rubin Museum of Art inside the former Barneys women's store. An abstract rendering by architect Steven Harris (pictured below) shows a finished version of the main floor shown in the recent photo above. Apparently, the store will have a new design scheme different from the stark marble, steel and glass that current management installed on the main floor of the Madison Avenue flagship. Beyond the rendering, fewer details are available regarding the store's look, but the article does reveal its merchandising scheme which includes Personal Shopping suites on the fourth floor, a men's department and a "younger" edition of the Fred's restaurant on three, Women's apparel on two, Accessories for both men and women on the main floor and, as on Madison Avenue, cosmetics as the staircase's final destination on the lower level including an outpost of the Blind Barber joining its locations in the East Village and Williamsburg. Chelsea nostalgists will not find too much to directly recall the previous Barneys store on the site which comprises only what was once the traditional half of the original men's store. Certainly, that store's exhaustive men's suit department which once covered multiple floors will not be found re-created there, and it's unclear whether or not there will be a tailored clothing offering in the store at all. It is likely to be skewed toward more advanced "downtown" fashion, and the opening will launch with exclusive collections by Alexander Wang, Proenza Schouler, Vêtements and Adidas Y-3 by Yohji Yamamoto created just for the store. Even the familiar canvas awnings will be replaced with what is described as a sculptural stainless steel canopy on the building's redesigned façade. Windows will not be devoted to Simon Doonan's fanciful displays. He has long since been relegated to an "Ambassador" role. Instead, they will feature portraits photographed on New York City streets by Bruce Weber. Regardless of how one feels how the store has been updated as “a modern Barneys for a modern downtown New York,” in the words of CEO Mark Lee, the anticipation for the new store has been extreme, Now, it will only be a few more weeks until we can see it for ourselves.
It's pretty easy to gauge the construction of Barneys' upcoming Chelsea store because they leave the plywood doors open all the time allowing a view inside. For a while, The Shophound has been skeptical that the store could be finished by the "Early Spring" projected date posted on the building, but after peeking in yesterday, we saw that workers had already progressed to installing what appeared to be shelves and other fixtures on the main floor. Of course, we have no idea what the upper floors look like, and they still have to replace the storefront which was demolished earlier this fall. Can they do all of this in the roughly three months before "Early Spring" arrives. A great deal has to do with whether or not merchandise has been ordered to fill the sizable store. If goods are on the way, then they will need to get the store open in a reasonable amount of time to have some full price selling before markdowns start in May and June. The picture above could give us a hint as to exactly how far along things have gotten.
A lot of veteran New York shoppers were delighted last year when it was revealed that Barneys New York would take over part of the original store on Seventh Avenue in Chelsea where it became a retailing legend. Anyone who thought that the old store (pictured below in a 1989 archival photo) would somehow be recreated, however, is in for a surprise. The new Barneys in Chelsea will be doing more extensive remodeling on the space than the intervening tenant, Loehmann's, ever did before moving in.
Were you hoping that those display windows would once again hold some whimsical Holiday displays? Those windows have been blown out along with the rest of the entire street level façade of the building, which we noted a few weeks ago. Yesterday, we spied a flat rendering of the new store's front elevation (pictured above) posted on the plywood covering the construction site which indicates that the dramatic entrance to the previous store is being completely removed in favor of a more innocuous set of glass doors. A stone wall will bear the store's signage, and it appears that most of the rest of the front will be glass. We are guessing that it will offer a view directly into the store rather than serve as display windows, more like the smaller, former Co-op stores in Brooklyn and on the Upper West Side. This will be a disappointment for anyone who had held out hope that Barneys would give a nod to the old Chelsea store by reproducing or at least restoring part of what remained there. Of course, we should know by now that the current executive team has no interest in nostalgia for classic Barneys. In fact, given the opportunity to preserve or tear down anything that would remind shoppers of the original store, they almost always go with tearing down and replacing with slabs of marble and glass. We have become accustomed to this by now, but shopping nostalgists in New York should be prepared for the likelihood that Barneys' grand return to Chelseas may not be quite as grand as they might have been hoping for.
We were all pretty excited to hear that Barneys New York will soon be re-inhabiting the location on Seventh Avenue in Chelsea where it became a world-renowned retailer during the 1980s. If you think, however that the new store will simply slide into its old home with minor renovations, then you don't know Barneys these days. While the exterior of the store has remained relatively intact while construction crews ripped out any trace of the former Lehmann's flagship that took over what was the larger part Barneys' original Men's Store, plywood scaffolding went up a few weeks ago to obscure what looks like a major redesign of the store's façade. The Shophound got a peek inside yesterday afternoon through door left carelessly ajar that shows that the entire ground floor of the store's frontage has been demolished including the grand entrance and the windows that once housed Simon Doonan's infamous Holiday displays. Rumors have the second floor exterior blown out as well, but, so far, that remains to be seen?
What will the new Barneys look like?
Chances are it will have a lot of glass, steel and slabs of marble like its Madison Avenue counterpart, so anyone hoping for a nostalgic feeling when the store finally reopens may have to adjust their expectations.
And about that opening date . . .
About a year ago we heard that the store was pushing it's projected opening forward to January of 2016, and while that was promising news at the time, it seems hard to believe that a new façade could be completed in three months, not to mention that the store's interior space still looks completely gutted.
We may have to cool our heels for just a little bit longer before Barneys once again graces Chelsea with its presence.
Does it feel like there's something missing?
Have the relatively few still fairly decent sample sales going on right now felt like not much of a satisfying offering?
That's because, as far as we can tell, this will be the first the first Labor Day Weekend that there is no Barneys Warehouse Sale somewhere in Chelsea since they started having them.
Yes, we know.
The Shophound has been bitching and moaning about how bad the Warehouse Sale has gotten over the years for quite some time now, and it had become but a shadow of the former basement full of bargains that it was in its heyday. Yet, somehow, we almost always found something there worth our journey downtown. Some shiny bargain, undiscovered by others always managed to get into our hot little hands to complete even a marginally satisfying shopping trip. We have vague memories of walking out of there just a year ago with some once pricey shirts from Michael Bastian and Brioni that ultimately totaled less than $100 —nothing to complain about.
But yes, we had complained repeatedly that the sale had gotten so pathetic that Barneys should just cancel the whole brand-sullying event once and for all and focus on its Warehouse website, and it looks like that is exactly what they have done. While the Warehouse online experience often presents merchandise that is less discounted than what you'll find on the main luxury website's own final end-of-season sales, it still offers some good deals, especially on holiday weekends, like the one that is upon us. That's when extra discounts are applied to certain categories as well as clearance items bringing them close to the best deals that one might once have found in the Chelsea store's basement. Still, online browsing can't compare to intently rummaging through the bins under the original Co-op store on 18th Street (now a Room & Board), and we can't help but miss the late summer routine of deliberately finding a reason to walk down 17th or 18th street to see if any additional markdowns had been posted. Well, things will change. It's the nature of the universe, and at times over the past few years, it has looked like Barneys was ready to cancel the Warehouse Sale, so it shouldn't be too surprising to discover that it may actually have happened.
R.I.P. Warehouse Sale.
Even though we complained all the time —and you were far from perfect— it turns out we really loved you all along. You are already missed.