NEW YORK — Shoppers on Saturday will get the first glimpse of the redesign of Barneys New York’s Madison Avenue flagship, but it will be months before chief executive Mark Lee’s vision for the store comes into focus.
The scaffolding surrounding a section of the main floor will come down on Saturday to reveal new gray marble floors, American oak fixtures, new lighting and ceiling details. A section of the floor near Madison Avenue between 60th and 61st Street will be unveiled in mid-September. Construction on the main floor will then be put on hold until after Christmas.
In the interim, Barneys will tackle the eighth floor, combining the men’s and women’s Co-Ops and opening a cafe by mid-October. The cafe, which will be called Genes@coop, in honor of Gene Pressman, Barneys’ former chief executive officer, will have some innovative digital elements and food by Mark Straussman, the chef behind Fred’s restaurant on the 9th floor.
“It’s nice,” Pressman said of the cafe. “They asked me if I minded if they name the restaurant after me. I said, ‘knock yourself out.’ I don’t have any creative input in the store and I have no interest in having creative input.” Asked whether he’ll eat at Genes@coop, Pressman said, “Yeah, why not. I’m sure I will.”
Barneys hired Yabu Pushelberg, a Toronto-based architecture firm, to collaborate with Lee and creative director Dennis Freedman on the store’s re-design.
The project includes overhauling the fifth to eighth floors and Chelsea Passage as well as other areas of the store.
“Mark Lee is truly trying to change the company,” said a retail expert who is a close Barneys observer. “There’s this big investment in the image of the company that wasn’t happening before because of the recession and a lack of leadership. Mark has ben able to get money to invest in the company [from parent Istithmar].”
Istithmar World, the investment arm of the state-controlled holding company Dubai World investment fund, bought Barneys in 2007 from Jones Apparel Group Inc. for $942 million, and has since pumped millions into the stores. The retailer’s valuation declined sharply in the recession and it accrued significant long-term debt. “Mark wants to evolve [Barneys] and he should evolve it. The fact is that he’s evolving and pushing and investing,” the source said.
Already evident is a certain graphic quality seen in advertising, a high-brow approach to windows and a beefed-up special events schedule. “We’ve done more events in the last six months than in all of the last three years,” said a staffer, citing the launches of L’Wren Scott’s handbag collection and an upcoming event for Patti Hansen’s Hung on U collection.
Barneys’ Madison Avenue flagship opened in September 1993 amid cost overruns attributed to Pressman’s insistence on featuring the work of interior designers such as Andrée Putman, elaborate mosaics and 40 different types of wood in the original construction. Given the company’s financial troubles in the Nineties, subsequent rescue and changes in ownership, the store has not had a major makeover since it opened.
“It lasted a long time,” Pressman said of the Peter Marino-designed store. “If they’re going to rip it all out, that’s their prerogative. It wasn’t done to be trendy; it was done so that it would last.”