The end of Barneys, the store that made us crave fashion

A recent ditch effort to save Barneys as an ongoing brick-and-mortar retail destination, a campaign led by founder Sam Ben-Avraham, failed. The store's demise is heartbreaking for employees who want to lose their jobs, suppliers who want to lose money and the ripple effect the store's winding up will have on the luxury store in general.

Like the decline of other older retailers, such as Sears and Toys R Us, the sale of Barneys was tied to the idea of ​​the store as something more than just a merchant of fine clothing and accessories. ABG is betting that the Barneys name carries so much resonance that if a customer who went into a scissors in Raleigh, Philadelphia or Atlanta saw it on the label inside a pair of cashmere pants, it would mean something. ABG believes that the Barneys name carries a certain cool, cosmopolitan cachet that extends beyond Manhattan's home base, even though New York is exactly where Barneys was eventually made ̵[ads1]1; judged by the ripple effect of not being able to muster enough sales to pay their exorbitant rental off Madison Avenue.

The agreement that Ben-Avraham tried to pull together was even more rooted in the mythology of Barneys as a shopping destination like no other. Central to his reasoning – and his #savebarney's campaign on social media – was the idea that the store was a cultural institution, a hub for a unique New York form of creativity, intellectualism and sophistication. In his accounting, Barneys New York was a place, not just a sense.

But it's been a long time since Barneys was all that, and that's why Ben-Avraham's pitch was so quixotic and why it gave way to ABG's plan, which feels like what happens when a mad scientist cuts off the limbs to the victim and keeps the brain afloat in formaldehyde. Both are based on memories of Barneys in the 1980s and 1990s, when it was run by the founding Pressman family and defined by its high-minded merchandise, eccentric windows, and its creative approach to retail that wasn't based on just buying more of what is already selling, but convince a customer that this, this is what you simply must have. The store had character, and part of the lid on shopping there was in deciding whether you were part of the glamorous tale that Barneys told.

Barneys was unique at a time when there were a good number of unique department stores. Bloomingdale's had their special events with bonkers, steeped in Broadway inspiration and junk ease, orchestrated by influential fashion director Kal Ruttenstein. Macy's was the store of abundance; it was equipped with everything a shopper could imagine. Henri Bendel was high fashion for very skinny women. Out in the Midwest, Marshall Field & # 39; s had its Frango coins. I. Magnin marked the West Coast's elegance. And so on. Barneys built a reputation for his embrace of avant-garde fashion, his devotion to fifty shades of black, his advocacy for new designers and his apparent willingness to put creativity above all else.

The store excelled at a time when fashion was elitist and its elitism only made people want it more. It was the point of sale for Barneys in its heyday; that's what set it apart from other stores. It was not a place to feel more comfortable; It was a place that encouraged you to stand up straight and try to impress others – or really just yourself. It may have induced uncertainty in some people; it made others strive.

Shoppers could choose a tribe. And if they chose Barneys, they could spend an entire afternoon in a place that, simply by being there, made them feel as if they had a more sophisticated sense of style. And if they went out with an elegant black bag, it announced to the world that they not only understood fashion, they had participated in it. They had passed the velvet pole.

Today, fashion is blissfully more democratic, more inviting. Less ambition. Stores that try to dictate get a strict dress on social media. The terrain shifted and Barneys began to wobble.

Many things happened to cause Barneys to tumble. Some of it was from the store's own production. It exaggerated itself with outposts across the country. It declared bankruptcy in 1996. It was sold and resold. Pressmans left. The management changed, and with each change the personality of the store shifted. The edge was broken, as did some of their creative panache.

Barneys could not control other stressors, such as the growth of e-commerce or the stranglehold that leisure and streetwear had on the clothing industry. How does a luxury retailer find the right mix when an entire industry seems to be tearing up running shoes, track pants and hoodies? Barneys has its website. It had plenty of items which is surprising. It brought in new names such as Koché and Marine Serre and continued to support its longtime favorites such as Dries Van Noten and Azzedine Alaïa. But that wasn't enough.

"In recent months, we have been working diligently with the court, our lenders and creditors to maximize the value of Barney's assets, and we are pleased to have completed this process," says company management in a statement. "We want to thank everyone our hardworking staff, talented designers and suppliers, and our loyal customers for being part of the historic and iconic brand that is Barneys New York. "

Through all this, salesmen whose reputation for haughtiness was always excessive, dutiful soldier. At a time when so many department stores have been letting go of their sales staff, Barney's crew, even through bankruptcy, served the customers, telling the story of their goods, sharing the queries about the designers, giving opinions to surfing customers.

fashion, and they encouraged their customers to care, too. They did fashion stuff. It might be Barney's ultimate legacy.

More fashion coverage from Robin Givhan: [19659015]

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