Fashion

A Timeline of Barneys New York, From Its Founding to Its Goodbye Sales

What does the Barneys bankruptcy mean for the rest of the luxury realm?
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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The business of luxury as we know it is in the throes of a reconfiguration. While brands that have adjusted technologically thrive, there are a few that have tripped, fallen, and may longer be able to pick itself up. The latest casualty is none other than the iconic Barneys New York, which first filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last August. When companies file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a partnering corporation is usually involved, according to the U.S. Courts. This would call for a reorganization of the company to pay off debts gradually and/or keep the business running.

After this announcement, The New York Times released a feature on the department store’s legacy and its status as an innovator—“Barneys, a Beacon of Luxury,” the headline read. “It stood apart from other department stores as a symbol of aspirational elitism, an attitude of exclusionary elegance that made it a New York institution and a must-see destination for well-heeled shoppers,” the article said of the almost century-old establishment. At that time, only 15 of its 22 locations were to be shuttered, but after the bankruptcy proceedings on October 25, it was decided that the Authentic Brands Group will purchase what’s left of Barneys and all remaining stores are to shut down. The brand will, however, live on as a pop-up section in Saks’ flagship branch.

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We take a look back at the history of the company in photos:

Barneys was founded in 1923 by businessman Barney Pressman.

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The official story was that to get the capital he needed for the business, Pressman pawned his wife’s engagement ring. The famed department store traces its humble beginnings as a men’s discount clothing store on Seventh Avenue.

When the second generation of Pressmans took over, Barneys went from discount to luxury.

Barney’s son Fred inherited the business in the ‘60s and sought to turn it into a purveyor of luxury goods. He partnered with the likes of Pierre Cardin and Hubert de Givenchy to revamp the men’s collection and give American men access to European fashion.

A decade later, Barneys expands its horizons by catering to the female shopper.

The company saw an opportunity to expand and Fred’s sons Gene and Bob took it upon themselves to oversee the introduction of designer apparel for women. In 1976, they helped launched fashion designer Giorgio Armani.

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Artist Ivan Chermayeff designs a fresh, new logo for the store—one that does away with the apostrophe in Barneys.

Photo by WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.

It’s the same logo that we know today.

Apart from playing a vital role in the careers of emerging American designers, Barneys also collaborates with upcoming Japanese designers.

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Photo by FLICKR/PHILLIP PESSAR.

It was also around this time that the department store launched the CO-OP, which was Barneys’ answer to contemporary fashion with a much more affordable price tag. The CO-OP ceased in 2013 and many of its stores either closed down or were converted into small Barneys boutiques after.

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Barneys becomes a leader in fashion advertising in 1986.

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When I saw this Barneys New York Campaign by Steven Meisel @stevenmeisel_ featuring Linda Evangelista @lindaevangelista back in the early 90s, I knew I wanted to be part of that. I didn’t know some short years later I would be working for Barney’s ultimately in Beverly Hills. Then one day someone said that Linda was on the second floor. I NEVER get star struck but, when I heard I ran down to my office grabbed this poster on the wall and hightailed it to the second floor. I waited until she was done with her transaction and as she was leaving I sheepishly asked her ( being 6’3” Samoan I am hardly the sheepish looking type ) if she wouldn’t mind signing one of the posters. She said yes and ran to get it from where I stashed in the back. She was super gracious and lovely and was on cloud nine for a week. I still have this poster and as I look at it now it will have always have a special meaning. As I look at my life after BNY, i was grateful to experience and be a part of something special. Meeting, learning and working with some of the best in the business. While I swear this will be my last Barneys post, just wanted to say thank you @barneysny. ?????? #barneysnewyork #barneysman #bny #barneysbeverlyhills #lindaevangelista #stevenmeisel #ronniecookenewhouse #genepressman #fredpressman #barneypressman #instafashion #tasteluxuryhumor #fashionaddict #instastyle #fashionvideos #fashionforever #barneysnewyorkforever #visualmerchandising #vm #displayqueen #schlappi #simondoonan #newyorkshopping #sexandthecity ##carriebradshaw #mirandahobbes #samanthajones #charlottegoldenblatt

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The retail giant then tapped supermodels Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, and Christy Turlington to grace campaigns shot by photographers like Nick Knight and Steven Meisel. It was in the same year that they worked with Madonna, whose promotional material cemented Barneys' place as an undisputed leader in New York luxury.

When the ‘90s came around, Barneys was ready for something bigger—its first-ever store abroad.

A Barneys in Fukuoka, Japan
Photo by WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.
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Apart from opening stores across the United States, the department store also made it to Japan.

In 1993, Barneys opened its Manhattan flagship, which was the biggest store to date.

The flagship store in New York
Photo by WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.

At 230,000 square feet, the store was designed by Peter Marino and was erected on a covetable address: Madison Avenue.

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While more stores continued to open, Barneys faced its fair share of struggles.

This was marked by the opening of a Barneys Warehouse store for discounted items and vendors reportedly dropping Barneys for delayed payments.

In 1996, the Pressman family filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

After this, the company was consolidated with its Japanese investment partners, Isetan. The latter company was able to take ownership of some of the larger department stores in key locations. This move allowed Barneys to close some of the stores that were no longer performing well.

From 2004 onward, Barneys experienced many shifts in ownership and management.

Photo by WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.
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The Pressman family sold what they had of their shares to the Jones Apparel Group, and in 2007, a Dubai-based equity firm bought out it out from them. This led CEO Howard Socol to resign. He was replaced by former Gucci Group chief executive Mark Lee in 2010. In 2012, Barneys once again found itself in new hands after Perry Capital acquired majority ownership.

Filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy once again.

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#2020

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On August 6, 2019, Barneys filed for bankruptcy, which led to the closure of 15 stores and majority of its outlet stores. On October 25, it was made known that Authentic Brands Group—the holding company of Nine West and Juicy Couture—won the bid for Barneys at $271.4 million.

Closing sales.

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Authentic Brands Group CEO Jamie Selter announced the liquidation sales shortly after the proceedings were settled and rates across the stores and online website are marked down by five to 10 percent off.

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