NEW YORK — If demand exceeding supply is a measure of success, then Barneys New York scored on Wednesday with the launch of Kate Moss' Topshop collection.
But Barneys may have underestimated the demand, ordering only 10 of each of the two most sought-after styles, a limited edition long black gown for $575 and limited edition "barbed wire" dress for $475. The retailer purchased a total of 11,000 items from the line for its Madison Avenue flagship here and 14 Co-op locations.
Gillian Haynes, a self-described "fashionista," swept onto the seventh floor of the Madison Avenue unit on Wednesday brandishing a newspaper. "Gone," said a saleswoman when Haynes showed her a picture of Moss wearing the barbed wire dress to an event on Tuesday evening.
"I waited for months," said Haynes. "I'm really disappointed. Everything's gone." When told the store ordered very few of the dresses, she said, "They ordered only 10 dresses? For New York City? For Barneys?" Haynes consoled herself with a black one-shoulder gown but worried about the U.K. sizing. Sales associates told shoppers the line ran small.
Barneys estimated that 200 to 300 people were waiting for the store to open on Wednesday morning, with the line wrapping around the building from Madison Avenue to 61th Street near Fifth Avenue.
"Kate's everlasting allure is part of the draw," said Julie Gilhart, senior vice president and fashion director. "There's a huge following for her."
That much was evident when the doors to the store opened at 10 a.m. Barneys employees tried to usher consumers to the elevators in small groups, but they ran into the store. On the seventh floor, the frenzy associated with capsule collections ensued. Shoppers ripped clothes off mannequins, grabbed items from racks and out of the hands of sales associates, and even tore head shots of the model from displays. Four Moss-dressed mannequins suspended from the ceiling of the eighth floor were momentarily lowered so customers could remove the clothes. At 10:30 most of the merchandise was gone, except for some T-shirts.
"I've been here since 6 this morning," said Meryl Hershkowitz, holding a stack of 20 garments. "They should have limited the number of people entering the store. I'm buying for my daughters. I don't fit into this."Megan Chin, 26, said she expected the line to be more affordable. "I loved Stella McCartney for H&M," she said. "I saw some things on the Topshop Web site, like the chiffon one-shoulder gown, but it's higher priced. I thought everything was supposed to be under $100."
The collection ranged in price from $20 for muscle T-shirts to $575 for the long black gown. In between there was a scatter sequin top for $55; button waistcoat, $85; Marienne cropped skinny jean, $115; Petra denim HotPants, $102; cotton pansy print dress, $120; bondage dress, $158; cream silk jacket, $245, and one-shoulder ink chiffon dress, $278.
"The response has been unbelievable," Gilhart said. "We'll be getting more pieces in the store in June. We're going to get a great Kate jean that we think is following the trend with a wide leg and higher waist."
Barneys also plans to offer Moss' Topshop collection for fall. "We'll definitely order more because it's been successful now," said Gilhart, who is thinking about other potential collaborations with "stores like Opening Ceremony and Colette. They incorporate art so much into their work. There could maybe be some partnerships down the road."
Four models wearing Kate Moss masks were installed in the windows of the flagship Wednesday morning and waved to passersby.
Moss didn't pose in a window as she did last week in London, but she still managed to cause quite a commotion on Tuesday evening when she arrived at Barneys for a cocktail party to celebrate the line. "Where do I go?" she asked one of her handlers as she was beseiged by camera crews, photographers and fans upon entering the seventh floor.
Moss posed for the requisite shots with Topshop owner Sir Philip Green. Even the jaded fashion editors in attendance pulled out their cell phones and digital cameras to capture a photo of the fashion icon. Nearby, friend Sadie Frost looked on with bemusement and danced with the DJs. "I'm here to support my friend," she explained, showing off one of Moss' looks.
Barneys creative director Simon Doonan admitted to being a fan of the High Street store himself. "Whenever I go to London, I always go to Topman," he offered. "Over there, men actually care about how they look. It's not like here.""I know what makes a man look good, but I'd never be able to design for them," said Moss, before being ushered upstairs to the cordoned off eighth floor where she remained for most of the party. BFF Naomi Campbell showed up 15 minutes after the party was supposed to end.
Guests at the party were allowed to look at, but not buy, the clothes. On Wednesday, Barneys limited purchases to five items per customer.
A Barneys spokeswoman said the atmosphere was frenzied at Co-op units in New York and Los Angeles. "Others didn't sell out as quickly," she said. "They're about 50 percent sold out. The other stores didn't have the full range."
Sondra Hodes, manager of the Co-op unit on Broadway here said there were 25 to 30 people waiting when the store opened at 10 a.m. "As soon as I unlocked the door they made a mad dash to the rack," she added. "We have some tanks and T-shirts left, but the dresses, jackets and jeans sold out the first hour. We had about 16 styles."
"I'm taking discards from people and begging people for things they don't want, which I've never done before," Alison Victor, 24, said at the Madison Avenue flagship. "So far, the clothes look very cute."
Daniela Ruiz, a fiction writer in her 40s, said she is a Kate Moss fan. Recently she bought a drawing of Moss by Mark Quinn, the bad boy British artist whose recent show at the Mary Boone Gallery featured lifesize sculptures of Moss in various yoga positions. "It's the combination of the artist and Kate and fashion," Ruiz said. "Art and fashion makes it a very exciting piece to have at home." As for the Topshop clothes, Ruiz said, "Everything is already gone. I might get one piece for curiosity. I feel young being here."