Barneys Gets Green & Peaceful
November 20, 2008
It's almost Thanksgiving, and that means that in Retail Time it's well into Christmas season. This year, in efforts to pump up increasingly anemic sales, stores are anxious to start the holiday period as soon as possible, so walking around midtown, it looks more like mid-December, with the extra-cold weather adding extra atmospheric effect.
Our friends at RACKED have been following the progress of Barneys New York's famous windows, which are planned and designed months in advance. Knowing how much work goes into their execution, it's difficult to criticize them, but here we go anyway.
This season, the slogan is "Have a Hippie Holiday" as Barneys celebrates the 50th anniversary of the peace sign. In a holdover from last year's "Green" theme, the retailer has commissioned its favorite designers to create outfits out of sustainable materials commemorating the symbol, some of which are surprisingly smart and appealing while others are...not.
Our question is, since when did Barneys become such a schoolmarm?
It's not that the windows are bad or inept. Far from it. They are still funky and clever, but for a company whose holiday displays became famous for being wickedly funny, irreverent and potentially inappropriate, the latest turn towards politically correct virtue is something of a letdown.
We are in full support sustainable materials and peace, but wasn't this year the perfect (and hopefully only) opportunity to do a merciless Sarah Palin window? The woman was comedy gold, and obviously a shopper. As always, there continues to be an endless supply of public figures in need of deflating, a job Barneys used to do with great skill and glee.
On the plus side, around the corner on 61st street, Barneys has, as in recent seasons, devoted a window to paintings by students of the East Harlem School which are for sale to benefit the school. The bright, graphic children's artworks have more verve and energy than peace dresses by famous designers. You would have to be made of granite not to be charmed by them.
Perhaps Barneys will never be able to live up to the creativity of its holiday windows from the '80s and '90s, but windows full of merch, however exclusive it might be, will never replace the sneaky satire of years past.
We're all for virtue, but frankly, what customers could probably use right now is more funny.
Barneys New York Madison Avenue at 61st Street, Midtown
More pictures after the jump