By  on October 16, 2009

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Barneys New York unveiled its ninth flagship Thursday with the opening of a store here that mixes ultracool and whimsical design and display with touches of the Southwest desert.

Within the two-level, 60,000-square-foot space, in a new wing of Scottsdale Fashion Square, is a front-and-center array of exclusives Barneys has brought to Arizona, like Proenza Schouler handbags, Dries Van Noten men’s wear, Valextra leather goods, Dior Homme, Paul Smith Exclusive, Nina Ricci handbags, Balenciaga for women, Rick Owens for women and Alexander Wang for the women’s Co-op. There’s a Fred’s restaurant on the second level with large wrap-around windows framing city and mountain views. There’s also a women’s shoe salon, the Co-Op, designer apparel for women and men, cosmetics, fragrances, accessories, jewelry and a Chelsea Passage for gifts, books and home decor.

Barneys joins competitors Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom at the high-end mall, in downtown Scottsdale, while Saks Fifth Avenue is under 10 miles away in Phoenix.

The state’s booming population and tourism industry would seem to make Barneys a natural fit despite Scottsdale’s laid-back, outdoor lifestyle. The retailer is hoping to attract both well-heeled residents and tourists. But it’s been struggling in the poor economy with the rest of the luxury industry, and has its work cut out for it. In such locations as Dallas, Las Vegas and San Francisco, Barneys hasn’t generated as much business as hoped, while even its more successful units have been impacted by the recession. And Barneys executives have acknowledged that in good or bad times, the store, with its expensive, high quality merchandise, often artisan and esoteric in character, is an acquired taste, requiring lots of advertising, special events and cultivating of clients.

Nevertheless, as Michael Celestino, Barneys’ executive vice president of store operations, asserted, “We firmly believe our client is here.’’

In addition, the store isn’t about to alter its character. True to its slogan — taste, luxury, humor — the new store combines clever design and luxe furnishings with merchandise by established and emerging designers. But there is bound to be some tweaking of the merchandise, as Barneys learns more about the market. Celestino said, “We will let the market tell us what Barneys is to them.’’

There are nods to the Arizona landscape in everything from construction materials to the artwork. The three entrances are framed by glass and sandstone, and in one, there’s an enormous glass box showing off a dangling wood and metal sculpture. “We don’t do cookie cutter stores. Each has a different look,’’ said David New, Barneys’ executive vice president of creative services.

Inside, there’s a gallerylike layout wrapped around a signature staircase that is as much about function as it is art form. Its thick glass and steel panels have a structural look inspired by the rugged desert. Creative director Simon Doonan calls it very “brutalist,’’ rising from a sea of marble flooring, and a match for Arizona. “It’s not a prissy state,” he said.

Dramatic interior elements include a jagged mosaic tile floor, luxe upholstery in pinks, oranges and bronzes, and cork walls. Sculptures, murals and drawings — some with subtle Southwest designs and colors — round out the store. There’s a giant horse made entirely of wire hangers peering over the staircase. The mannequins get playful with a patient and doctor in a therapy session, and a group engaged in a Wack a Mole-style game. “There’s a lot of theater going on inside. It’s going to be up close and personal,’’ New said.

Barneys, with nine flagships and 19 Co-ops around the country, is the crown jewel in Fashion Square’s 100,000-square-foot expansion, which features first-to-market retailers like Arthur and Michael Stars and upper-end restaurants. In all, the sprawling Fashion Square is home to five department stores and 225 retailers.

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