On Jan. 11, an intimate cluster of designers and editors slipped into their “British cocktail” finery and headed to the Peninsula Hotel on Fifth Avenue to toast the post-holiday windows at Barneys New York. “Normally we all get to January and the windows seem rather dull,” remarked British Consul-General Antonia Romeo. “It’s great that now in January you can look forward to looking at really fantastic windows, too.”
Of course, Romeo may have been biased in her appraisal — the retailer’s windows, in collaboration with the British Fashion Council, are currently brimming with the fashions of emerging and established British designers. Several of those designers were in attendance at the dinner hosted by Romeo, Barneys, and BFC chief executive Caroline Rush on the hotel’s second floor: footwear designer Paul Andrew, Osman creative director Osman Yousefzada, Marcus Wainwright of Rag & Bone, Alice Archer, and Jonathan Saunders, chief creative officer of DVF.
As guests discussed the upcoming collections season — and recently concluded men’s wear shows in London — over the three-course meal which culminated in a selection of charming petit fours, Romeo, who this week was appointed Permanent Secretary at the Department for International Trade in the U.K., stressed the serious quality of the dinner. “People often say to me in my job, ‘Shouldn’t you be doing serious things, focusing on the economy,'” Romeo remarked. “British fashion contributes 26 billion pounds to the U.K. economy every year, and employs over 800,00 people. So it’s a really serious part of the U.K. economy.”
And while the dinner marks both a farewell and homecoming for Romeo, who will return to London for her new role of developing international trade relationships, Barneys will remain a home away from home whenever she’s in town.
“I think what British fashion does best is that it can combine high and low,” she mused. “Barneys on the ninth floor — that’s like being in London.”