Now that Barneys New York is out of the red thanks to a debt-for-equity deal with new owner Perry Capital, the retailer is ready to flaunt some recent improvements. Today, Barneys unveiled its newly redone fifth floor featuring shoes for both men and women. It's the first time the department store has done a co-ed floor, which makes it a unique shopping experience--only Harrods in London offers something similar.
The new floor is truly elegant--chic and restrained, airy and luxurious, all the better to display the shoes, which are presented almost like artwork. Simon Doonan put it best when he said it looked like "a beautiful dreamy '60s apartment."
There were some notables on hand at this morning's opening including Richard Perry's wife Lisa, whose designs are sold at Barneys, as well as Debra Messing, who ties into the charity component of the opening--Messing does work with the Human Rights Campaign, and this week Barneys will donate 10% of shoe sales on the new fifth floor to the HRC. But whenever Simon Doonan is around, he's pretty much the only person we want to talk to. So we got his take on the new floor, whether he'd like to spend the night there, and why he likes trying on ladies' shoes. Then he put a shoe on my head.
Fashionista: So what do you think about the new floor? Simon Doonan: The new floor, I am delirious! It's so beautiful and I think it's just this big glamourous dream palace of shoes. The magic of it is, you've never been able to see the shoes more clearly. It's about beautiful architecture and lighting.... and, drum roll... the merchandise. Hello! You can really see everything in a way which makes it exquisite and fabulous.
So if you had to do a Night at the Museum type thing at Barneys, you would pick this section? If I was locked in Barney's? Yes. I would definitely pick the shoe area because, well, the couches are so comfortable. [...] And you are in this delirious dreamy environment that looks like a beautiful dreamy apartment. It's like a beautiful, 60s dreamy apartment, so I would feel right at home. [...] This would be my favorite lock-in spot. I have a small foot so I can try on any women's shoe.
Which one do you have your eye on? Debra Messing is just trying on these great Givenchy boots. Those are fabulous. You know, I can kick it old school with a Blahnik. A little Blahnik lizard.
How high of a heel could you wear? [The Blahnik lizard he was holding up had around a three inch heel.] That's not really pushing it. You have to remember, I went through glam rock, and during the early '70s when shoes were really high and really crazy, they were also really high and really crazy for men. That's a significant difference from now. Shoes are high, creative, crazy for women. For men they are actually quite simple.
Right, you get a platform on your brogue, but that's it. Yes, we have those fabulous Prada shoes with a little bit of a rubber stripe, but I love them. I would love to wear them, but I think with small people like me wearing them, it's like, 'Oh look, isn't that cute. He's trying to be tall.' I think you have to be tall to wear those. Before, I had shoes with four inch heels... Men could buy men's shoes with big heels and big platforms, so I guess I'm bitter. I really want that to come back, so I can be jacked up to a normal height.
What do you think about men and women shopping on the same floor? Well, there's a little bit of separation, which is good. A little bit of architectural separation is good because sometime women want to rage around the shoe department without their husbands knowing exactly how much damage they are doing. I think it's very chic to connect the two, and it's part of now, you know, for a husband and wife to come together and shop and go off and do their thing and encourage each other a little. It becomes sort of a creative exercise. It becomes a group activity. Sharing and caring.
Apparently men are catching up to women--even overtaking them--as consumers, especially online. Do you see any evidence with that? I mean, it's taken a long time in America for that to happen. Designer fashion has been pushed at men for many decades, and now, I feel like in the last decade they are engaging with it. It's the metrosexual thing. People think that metrosexual was a one-off thing. It wasn't. It's becoming what people are.
And it just stayed. Like skinny jeans? It's what people are. It's like skinny jeans. There's a metrosexual point of view where it's okay to care about what you look like, without compromising your virility. In fact, it's good to be a bit dandified. It's a sign of virility in a way. You know.
How so? With the English men, to be dressed to impress is part of it. Look at the way soccer players dress in England. They are all dressed up, and I think they are realizing they are not mutually exclusive. You don't have to be a shlub in order to be virile.
Oh, and that's when Doonan put a Manolo on my head (see photo evidence above). It was the best start to a week I've had in a while.