Illustration of the Barneys Chelsea store.

With the return of Barneys New York to its original site in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, there’s nostalgia and sentiment, and most expect the usual Barneys irreverent wit and style embedded in the windows and the merchandising.

But at the core of the project is a major effort to give the city a different take on luxury.

Exclusive designer offerings and introductions in men’s and women’s wear will be sprinkled across the 55,000-square-foot space, WWD has learned. And that means a range of products across categories that Barneys has exclusively on either a global, U.S. or local basis.

The new Barneys will open in the second or third week of February, but there’s no specific date yet given the uncertainties of construction and last-minute tweaking.

Merchandise is another story. The mix has been in the works for months and is set.

Products to be sold only in Barneys downtown as “global exclusives” include women’s capsule collections by Irene Neuwirth, Feathered Soul, Elder Statesman and Sidney Garber; the Douglas Little fragrance collection called Heretic and the Bergamot fragrance from Malin and Goetz. Barneys is also relaunching its own Route du Thé fragrance for men and women and introducing a Route du Thé candle.

On the men’s side, Barneys will sell an all-black collection from Greg Lauren, a capsule collection from Fear of God, and items from R13.

Regarding U.S. exclusives, Barneys downtown will carry capsule collections by Alexander Wang in ready-to-wear and Proenza Schouler in handbags. In jewelry, Irene, Feathered Soul and Tate are providing capsule collections. Barneys also has the U.S. exclusive on bags and clutches in python and crocodile from Baraboux; embroidered white tunic shirts from a new French brand called Kilometer, and capsule shoe collections from Aquazzura, Valentino, Gianvito Rossi and Sarah Flint.

In men’s wear for the U.S., Barneys in Chelsea will carry some exclusive runway looks from Lanvin, Givenchy, Balmain, Rick Owens and Alexander Wang, and a collection by Sulvam, a former assistant to Yohji Yamamoto. The store is also introducing to New York a range of constructed jackets by Shiro Sakai, who worked with Rei Kawakubo for more than a dozen years.

Exclusives are what every retailer tries to score, regardless of whether they target affluent or low income customers. And in luxury, it’s more important than ever, given the sector’s widening distribution [some say overdistribution] through off-price and outlet stores, Web sites and designers’ own boutiques. In addition, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and other luxury stores have been seeing a decline in tourist spending by international travelers, particularly those from China, Russia and Brazil. Generally, last year luxury traffic and sales were down in the U.S. Given the scorched landscape, purveyors of designer merchandise must come up with innovative, differentiated product and new services and experiences to entice shoppers back.

Rendering of the spiral staircase at Barneys opening in Chelsea.

Rendering of the spiral staircase at Barneys opening in Chelsea.  Courtesy Photo


Barneys in Chelsea will have its fair share of amenities and services. For example, the lower level, called the foundation level, will house cosmetics, skin care and fragrances, as well as a men’s barbershop by Blind Barber. The third floor will showcase men’s designer ready-to-wear and footwear, as well as a Freds restaurant but with a menu of its own [unlike Freds at Barneys on Madison Avenue] that emphasizes drinks and small plates. Personal shopping suites will be on the fourth level for a more private experience, and there will be treatment rooms on the foundation floor. The second level will house women’s designer ready-to-wear and footwear, and the ground level will sell men’s and women’s leather goods and accessories, as well as women’s fine jewelry.

Right upon entering the store, located at 101 Seventh Avenue on the corner of 16th Street, visitors will be drawn to a large spiral staircase connecting the selling floors. Grand staircases as a central focal point have become a Barneys signature. The store is being designed by the New York-based architectural firm Steven Harris Architects.

As previously reported in WWD, Barneys in Chelsea will have 200 feet of frontage along most of the stretch of Seventh Avenue between 16th and 17th Streets and wrapping the corner of 16th Street. At 55,000 square feet, the downtown unit will be about half the size of the original Barneys flagship on the site, which at its peak measured 120,000 square feet and encompassed the entire Seventh Avenue frontage from 16th to 17th Streets. Barneys is leasing the site.

In recent years, Barneys has closed more stores than it has opened, and converted some of its Co-Op stores into regular Barneys sites. But the business was stabilized in 2012 with the arrival of Richard Perry, who took a majority stake in the business by extinguishing virtually all of the $600 million in long-term debt that Barneys had. Barneys operates flagships on Madison Avenue; in Beverly Hills; Chicago; Seattle; Boston; San Francisco; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; and Scottsdale, Ariz., as well as and 25 other smaller stores and outlets across the U.S.

Barneys was first opened in 1923 by Barney Pressman. The site was vacated in 1997 after Barneys opened its Madison Avenue flagship, and it was converted into a Loehmann’s that shut down in February 2014.

Besides Chelsea, Barneys has another big expansion move in the works — becoming a third anchor inside Bal Harbour Shops in Bal Halbour, Fla., near Miami. Saks and Neiman’s are already there. A Barneys lease depends on an expansion of Bal Harbour Shops being green-lighted. That Barneys would also include a Freds restaurant.

Two years ago, Mark Lee, the chief executive officer of Barneys, told WWD that when Barneys left Chelsea, it created a void in the market. It’s never been filled, though there is greater competition nearby in the Meatpacking District where many monobrands have opened shop. There is also Scoop, which carries several designer brands, as well as Jeffrey New York, both in the vicinity, and several off-price big-box stores on Sixth Avenue. The addition of the High Line, the Whitney Museum and the influx of residential properties and retail stores have brought greater traffic to the area. Business among fashion retailers in the Meatpacking District and Chelsea is said to be mixed.

The old Barneys was as much a style hub and a place to see and be seen. But the new Barneys isn’t simply about restoring the past. “We didn’t do this just for nostalgic reasons,” Lee once told WWD. “The store is really being built and strategized as a modern investment for a modern downtown.”

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