The Barneys Bloodbath Begins

November 30, 2010 • Shopping


There's a new sheriff in town and as we reported yesterday, the bloodbath at Barneys New York is underway. In an abrupt and tiny announcement yesterday, the retailer said Julie Gilhart and Judy Collinson (the two top women's fashion execs who combined have spent nearly 40 years at Barneys) up and left the company "to pursue other opportunities." Simon Doonan is speculated to be next.

According to today's NY Post, Barneys' new CEO Mark Lee has a reputation for being "cold, quiet and logical" in his management style. The former Gucci honcho skipped any mention of Gilhart and Collinson in a written statement. There was also no mention of Creative Director Simon Doonan, fueling the speculation that a rumored riff between Doonan and Lee could soon boil over.

The exiting of Gilhart and Collinson is a sign that Lee is looking to broaden the appeal of the famously edgy retailer and is wielding the ax after just three months on the job. Due to over-expansion in cities that are less fashion forward like Dallas, Boston and Las Vegas following an ill-advised expansion under Dubai-based owner Istithmar, Barneys must now cater to more mainstream tastes.

Larger fashion brands sometimes complained that Gilhart cherry-picked their collections in search of fashion gems. Meanwhile, smaller, up-and-coming designers lamented her ruthless prohibitions against selling to other retailers.

Barneys' profitability will be a key issue in the year ahead as Istithmar (which famously forked out nearly $950 million to buy Barneys in 2007) struggles to maintain its grip on the company. Last year, Los Angeles billionaire Ron Burkle scooped up nearly half of the retailer's debt, and is poised to seize control of Barneys if losses continue and Istithmar can no longer foot the bill.

As for Doonan, who is known for his avantguarde window displays and snarky journalism on fashion and pop culture, has an uncertain future with Barneys.
According to one NY Post source, Lee is concerned that Doonan "has used his popularity to promote himself rather than Barneys, and that's going to have to change."

Source & photo: NYPost

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