Forget about fashion directors and window dressers. The biggest news coming out of Barneys since CEO Mark Lee came aboard is that the luxury retailer is dropping Prada handbags and women's ready-to-wear from its stores. Update: We've heard from a source within Barneys that the real reason for the break up is not because of Barneys being unhappy with Prada, but because of a disagreement about leasing. (Prada wanted to lease its space in the store like it does at other department stores; Barneys doesn't do that.) And that the decision was made before Lee even got to Barneys.
The Prada handbags section will be replaced by Valextra, a handbag line that's exclusive to Barneys. (We're sure you've heard of it--they've been shilling it like crazy for the past couple of years.) The store will still carry Prada men's ready-to-wear and Prada shoes for both sexes.
While this move may seem insane to a fashion person, especially given Prada's knock-out spring collection, it most certainly makes sense on a balance sheet. Think about it: How many people do you know who own Prada shoes? If you work in fashion, probably 10 or more. How many people do you know who own a Prada dress? Maybe one or two. makes sense in terms of maintaining the Barneys brand. The store is supposed be a well-curated, lively mix of product. Not a mall.
But let's hope that if Lee is able to get Barneys back in shape, he'll be able to convince Prada that they need their backpacks in there once again.
Update 2: Here's an official statement from a Barneys spokesperson:
"Prada has been and continues to be an important vendor for Barneys New York. We will continue to carry footwear for both Men and Women as well as Mens Ready to Wear. Prada’s exit in the categories of Women's leather goods and Women's Ready to Wear was planned prior to Mark Lee’s arrival as CEO of Barneys and stemmed from the unwillingness of Barneys to consider leased departments. Barneys stands by the no vendor leased space still today enabling us to retain our point of view in our stores."
For more on Lee, see Lisa Lockwood's piece in WWD (subscription required).