While the imminent arrival of Nordstrom near Columbus Circle has retailers reevaluating the retail potential of the Upper West Side, Barneys New York has quietly shuttered its location at Broadway between 75th and 76th Streets. The store was originally born in 2004 as a co-ed Co-op location and then transformed into a more luxe Barneys New York branded boutique exclusively offering women's merchandise featuring more expensive designer-level apparel, footwear and handbags. The problem, however, even in the store's initial Co-op days, has always been the mantra of real estate agents everywhere: Location, location location.
You don't have to be a real estate savant to know that an upscale apparel shop on the Upper West Side would belong not on Broadway, a stone's throw from Fairway, Zabar's and Citarella, but two blocks east on Columbus Avenue amongst the Rag & Bone and Theory boutiques. While Brooks Brothers appears to have found some success near Lincoln Center and also on Broadway in the 80s, fashion on Broadway has tended to top out at chain stores like Banana Republic and Gap. Even the fabled, sprawling Upper West Side mini-chain Charivari of decades ago kept its casual unit on Broadway while its directional designer boutiques were on Columbus —and that was in the go-go 1980s.
The location was never a winner for Barneys in either of its incarnations. As a Co-op store, it was the smallest of the spin-off chain's Manhattan branches, and made for a cramped shopping experience, even if its premium denim and somewhat more affordable contemporary fare was well-suited to the general demographics of the area. Despite only a smattering of upscale apparel retail north of Columbus Circle, The Upper West Side provides a wealthy customer base that has been traditionally under-served when it comes to fashion. As Barneys revamped its direction in 2013, the transformation of its Upper West Side shop into a more minimalistic women's-only boutique with luxurious designer offerings felt much more out of place with its four-figure handbags and stock of Manolo Blahnik heels on Broadway flanked by Lululemon and other more prosaic food and service merchants —the right store in the right neighborhood on the wrong street. Additionally, the store was never really big enough to reflect the full expression of the Barneys New York brand, which is associated with large, department-store sized locations. It was like a tiny Barneys that wasn't really much of a Barneys.
As you can see in the photo above, the former micro-Barneys' shelves and racks are now bare. Commercial Observer tells us that it closed on February 18th, but that the lease runs through the end of 2023. One would hope that a replacement tenant can be installed soon, but given glut of overpriced retail space that stands empty for extended periods of time all over Manhattan, the potential for it to become another white elephant storefront is unfortunately high.
There used to be a time when we could all get excited for the Barneys Warehouse Sale.
Sure, it wasn't for amateurs. It was in a grotty basement that required patience and skill to negotiate —and then there were the crowds and the lines, but it was worth it for the thrill of the scavenger hunt as well as the satisfaction achieved when finding a great price on something one could never afford at full price, or even on a regular markdown in a regular Barneys store. Maybe it was even something one had one's eye on all season that appeared as if summoned by magic.
Well those days are long gone, and we figured that once Barneys started a year round Warehouse Sale website offering its own merchandise from previous seasons as well as overstock from its regular vendors there would be no point in continuing the in-person event sale. Why would we need to go to the Warehouse Sale when the best stuff was being funneled to the website? It seemed like a more up to date way to clear old stock anyway, but the seasonal, then annual Warehouse Sale persisted as the merchandise became less and less appealing and the event drifted into irrelevancy. A couple of years ago, it appeared to be gone for good, but then, last week, it reappeared, this time in a raw retail space on Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg (pictured above). Could it be returning because the folks at Barneys have found a way to make it relevant again? Will it be cooler because its in Williamsburg? Is it worth revisiting?
The answer, sadly, is no on all counts.
The Shophound stopped by on the sale's first day, when it seems not fully set up, so we gave it the benefit of the doubt and checked back over the weekend to find that, yes, it had now been completely laid out and stocked, but still was a mess. In a space far too small for the amount of merchandise being offered, we found racks packed full of clothing crammed together to the point where it was nearly impossible to see what was being offered without tugging at garments and breaking hangers —if not damaging the clothes themselves. Barely categorized, there was little attempt to arrange things by size in the most rudimentary ways. In other areas, boxes were set out for shoppers to rummage through, many of which were filled with merchandise that may have been sold on the Warehouse Sale site, but probably never in an actual Barneys store. There was no attempt to separate designers, so the meant that a crazy Hood by Air showpiece was crammed on the rack by a Marc by Marc Jacobs bomber jacket from a past season and some of the Justin Bieber tour apparel that was touted as a prized exclusive in Chelsea only a few weeks ago. Clearly that was a merchandising mis-step.
Are there no gems to be found? Maybe there are some, but this Warehouse is more of a needle-in-a-haystack project than we have ever seen. And rather than imagining that one might find something good while rummaging around, one's mind quickly shifts to wondering if there is really anything we really need there, and then to questioning if it is really worth the time and trouble?
As far as we can tell, it is not.
Additional discounts have already started, but we will not be chronicling them as we once did. You have until the 14th to shop, but don't feel that you have missed anything if you don't bother. There are better opportunities to find better bargains these days. You don't have to subject yourself to this sloppy display to get them.
Barneys Warehouse Sale runs through September 14th at 280 Metropolitan Avenue between Driggs Avenue & Roebling Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
The Barneys Warehouse Sale had been frustrating in its final incarnations, and now it has become downright inscrutable. As far as we can remember, the last time the once highly anticipated shopping event was held was two years ago, long enough to feel confident that the sale which had become a shadow of its formerly abundant self had finally been put down for a well deserved dirt nap. With little fanfare, however, Barneys announced yesterday that the famous seasonal event will rise from the presumed dead and take up residence for a couple of weeks in Williamsburg on Metropolitan Avenue. At this point, there's really no telling exactly what we will find there. In past years, there have been a few good finds, but also increasing amounts of merchandise that appeared to have been carted in from Barneys outlet stores that had never really seen the inside of a full line Barneys store or even just acquired from off-price vendors to fill bins that felt very off-brand. The Barneys Warehouse website handily took over from the live Warehouse Sale, often offering satisfying bargains throughout the year, but, just when we thought we would never see another one again (seriously, we actually though about it two days ago) here comes the news that the live, brick-and-mortar sale will come back tomorrow. Will the two years off be enough to make sure the sale has enough great merchandise to fuel two weeks of selling, or will it be a bunch of irrelevant, picked over dregs? We will have to check it out tomorrow to find out for sure. See you on the L train.
Barneys Warehouse Sale from August 31st to September 14 at 280 Metropolitan Avenue between Driggs Avenue & Roebling Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
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.
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.