Ron Robinson, Raquel Allegra, More L.A. Fashion Insiders on Their Fondest Barneys Memories

The end of a retail era is nigh. By now, you've heard most of Barneys New York's story: In an effort to stay afloat, filed for bankruptcy and closed nearly all of its stores in August. Streetwear mogul Sam Ben-Avraham was among those in the running to save the ailing department chain (he even started a #SaveBarneys petition and Instagram account), but ultimately, Authentic Brand Groups acquired the business and its intellectual property on November 1.

ABG is closing all remaining brick-and-mortar stores, including the flagships in Beverly Hills and on Madison Avenue in New York. According to ABG, the latter will be turned into a "pop-up retail experience… [and] the first order of business will be to reboot Barneys New York on the fifth floor of Saks Fifth Avenue's newly renovated New York City flagship," followed by Barneys shop-in-shops within Saks in the U.S. and Canada.

Liquidation sales are now underway. When we stopped by the Barneys Beverly Hills store closing sale this past Sunday, it was quite the saddening sight to see giant signs announcing "Everything must go!" and "Nothing held back" throughout the legendary fashion institution's five-story building. The on-site garage is also no longer validating, and parking rates start at $5 for two hours.

Signs at the front noted that everything was 20 to 40% off, with an additional 15% off almost everything until Monday, Dec. 9. (While there's no word of the exact closing dates, expect even deeper discounts as the end of the year nears.)

Women's designer ready-to-wear was marked down to 35% off (excluding Fendi and other luxury labels), men's designer RTW was a total of 45% off, and all clearance items on the second floor were an additional 40% off. In the women's shoe department, we spotted Burberry, The Row, Versace, and other luxury labels for 30% off, while bags from Altuzarra, Mark Cross, Valentino Garavani, J.W. Anderson, and Delvaux were among those going for 25% off or more.

Jewelry was priced at 30 to 40% off, while Barneys' in-house womenswear, menswear, and footwear lines were 40 to 45% off. Downstairs in the beauty department on level LL, select cosmetics were 15% off. It's also worth noting that the blowout is also happening online at barneys.com and at barneyswarehouse.com.

Barneys New York's Wilshire Boulevard entrance. Photo: Danielle Directo-Meston/UncoverLA

The retailer was founded in 1923 by Barney Pressman as a discount men's store in Manhattan and became known for its witty newspaper ads. Under his son, Fred, the store transitioned into selling luxury in the '60s and expanded to womenswear in the '70s. (Along the way, it ditched the apostrophe in its name.) It wasn't until 1994 that Barneys opened its Beverly Hills outpost.

Pressman's grandson, Robert L.A. Pressman, told the L.A. Times in 1993 that it was "important to be in a community we felt comfortable in." His family spent "tens of millions of dollars" converting the property that encompassed the former offices of American Savings and Progressive Savings into the 100,000-square-foot store and "several hundred" parking spots.

They are iconic. And it is sad, because they did represent a very important part of the fashion industry.

— Ron Robinson

Before Barneys closes its doors for good (which will sadly be very soon), we recently asked a handful of L.A. fashion insiders to share their honest thoughts and fondest memories of the iconic retailer. Among those weighing in is L.A. retail pioneer Ron Robinson (who recently announced that he's closing both of his stores; more on that soon) and cult-favorite designer Raquel Allegra, who went from working as a Barneys sales associate to being stocked at her former employer (she started her namesake fashion line after clients literally began requesting the hand-destructed tees off her back).

Beauty brand manager and Materiae founder David Pirrotta recounts his own incredible Barneys adventures in NYC: "We valeted and I remember walking into Barneys like it was yesterday: The music, the merchandising, the beautiful sales associates, and the most stunning clientele! I knew from the moment I stepped inside that I would someday work and shop at Barneys."

Eyewear designer Garrett Leight, NSF Clothing creative director Jamie Haller, and L.A. menswear boutique owner Paul Witt also shared their experiences with UncoverLA. Keep reading below and scroll through the gallery above for more photos of the sale scene at the Beverly Hills location, and stay tuned as we'll be keeping tabs of Barneys New York's L.A. closing sale.

Ron Robinson, L.A. Retail Pioneer

"I think my first thought is… that I'm sad because they are iconic. I've grown up knowing Barneys from before, before, before, [back when] the original owners [the Pressman family] had it. They are iconic. And it is sad, because they did represent a very important part of the fashion industry.

Additionally, they were also my client as Apothia [which I launched in 1983] and still are because they're still open, and we still send our staff there in the cosmetic and fragrance area. That perspective is also a loss for us [as a business].

And then there are so many ways to analyze what's going on there. That's now turning into a branding project. It [also] says something about my decision [to close my own store]. I'm going to preface that personally, my decision was [because] I've seen branding projects like that happen, and they often don't turn out so well. They're certainly not the same as the original. And I saw that in that, and I saw that in Fred Segal when they sold the name to somebody else [twice]."
Ron Robinson, owner/founder of Ron Robinson and Apothia

Jamie Haller, NSF Clothing Creative Director

"My best memory was the first time I got into Barneys. It was 2011. We literally were jumping up and down when we received the order. The moment is still so vivid. I worked for Ever then. It was such an amazing moment. Ever since then I've had the luxury and pleasure to be a Barneys brand designer, first with Ever and for the last eight years with both NSF Clothing and Icons Objects of Devotion.

I've always considered them the best and always will. It was one of the few places I cared about shopping. One of the few opinions and orders that defined me. They've been a big part of my creative spirit for the last nine years. They've definitely been a source of pride, identity, and inspiration and will be sorely missed."
Jamie Haller, NSF Clothing creative director and Icons Objects of Devotion co-founder/creative director

Paul Witt, Owner/Founder of Wittmore

"There are so many memorable moments in my life in Barneys New York that helped shape who I am. Whether it be a purchase, a work lunch at Fred's [on the fifth floor] or an event, Barneys for me was an institution for discovering new designers.

It was definitely one of the inspirations for me that helped create Wittmore. I was hoping that another investor would swoop in and capture the brand which would move them forward."
— Paul Witt, founder/owner of L.A. menswear store Wittmore

Raquel Allegra, Designer

That place had loads of magic, and over the last handful of years, they just homogenized the magic right out of that place.

Raquel Allegra

"I loved Barneys when I worked there. They painted and decorated and had so much personality. It was so special when you walked in there and you felt like, 'I can relate to these people. I feel comfortable here, let's get playful.'

Shopping should be like magic, and that place had loads of magic, and over the last handful of years, they just homogenized the magic right out of that place. You walk in now and it looks like any other department store, they got rid of all the cool furniture; all the cool personality. It's really sad to me. It was a really special time."
Raquel Allegra, designer

Garrett Leight, Eyewear Designer

"The closing of Barneys New York is bittersweet for me. We had an up and down relationship for many years, mostly up. However consumer behavior has been changing for quite some time, and Barneys didn't find a way to navigate that to stay alive. It seems as though [the department store] is the sacrificial lamb here, but if their competitors don't adapt it will continue to happen. What this means for rising designers is that they need to be thinking about working directly with their consumer through e-commerce, pop-up shops, and brick-and mortar-where applicable.

My fondest memory of Barneys is simply that they were the first major retailer to buy my brand and support it heavily in the men's department with great success. It built a great foundation for us to use that partnership as a marketing tool to grow our brand. I will always appreciate them for that opportunity and the brand will never be forgotten in my eyes."
Garrett Leight, eyewear designer

David Pirrotta, Brand Manager & Materiae Founder

"For me to hear that my alma mater is closing forever is heartbreaking to me on so many levels. I started my career in beauty at Barneys New York on Madison Avenue in 1999, but my love for Barneys happened in the l989 when my 'auntie mame,' Lucile Leclaire, called up my mom and asked to borrow me so I could accompany her into the city as she had to do some shopping. She was a regular at my parents' Italian restaurant in Hartford, Conn.

I was also one of the vendors that lost a lot of money from Barneys going bust, but [that is] not as upsetting as the 2,600 employees who have lost their jobs. My losses are far less than the gains I've received over the last three decades of having Barneys in my life.

— David Pirrotta

As a young teenager, I always sat with her so she wouldn't have to dine alone. She always smelled like the finest perfumes and was always dressed impeccably and had the most exquisite vintage jewelry. Now when I look back she reminded me of an older Anna Wintour. She and I had the most amazing connection and relationship. She was the first person who taught me so much about quality and luxury! 

It was Lucile who picked me up in her Aston Martin and we arrived in NYC Barneys-bound in less than two hours. We valeted and I remember walking into Barneys like it was yesterday: The music, the merchandising, the beautiful sales associate and the most stunning clientele! I knew from the moment I stepped inside that I would someday work and shop at Barneys.

So yes, I have a very personal connection to Barneys. Having worked over 20 years in the industry, Barneys has always been such a big part of my professional life. After leaving the cosmetic floor in 2002, I moved into the wholesale side of the business and worked with a showroom [of which] Barneys was our top customer. Then I went in-house with three other brands that had also launched with Barneys first and [the retailer] was also one of their top partners.

Cosmetics are 15% off at the beauty department at Barneys New York. Photo: Danielle Directo-Meston/UncoverLA

It was when I moved to L.A. in 2009 and started [my brand management company] when Barneys was such an instrumental part of the success of my business and the brands I represented. I managed to launch Rodin Olio Lusso, Odin, Blind Barber, Sachajuan, Verso, ZIIP Beauty, and so many other incredible brands! 

On the not-so-glamorous part of the bankruptcy, I was also one of the vendors that lost a lot of money from Barneys going bust … but [that is] not as upsetting as the 2,600 employees who have lost their jobs. My losses are far less than the gains I've received over the last three decades of having Barneys in my life. It was a big part of my childhood: Teaching me to dream, teaching me to be the best in my field and to always launching the most incredible brands I represent. 

I don't think we'll ever have another Barneys New York, but we continuously love partnering and launching brands with Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, and Nordstrom. We're seeing the most growth in our specialty business where it shows that shoppers are shopping local and online. We launched Materiae this past spring as we wanted a place to launch new brands where the consumer can continue to discover young and innovative brands… It has a bit of the soul that ran through the Barneys cosmetic floor."
— David Pirrotta, brand manager and Materiae founder

Barneys New York, 9570 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, 90210

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