We thought the recession would result in a kinder, gentler Barneys Warehouse Sale. We were wrong. From 7am, when we arrived to find a line of forty or fifty people braving the gale-force winds to wait on 17th Street, to 9:45am, when we spotted people actually looking at the leftover Christmas decorations in housewares, we felt like we'd somehow wandered into an alternate universe in which the economy was still thriving.
Right before Christmas, Barneys held a major sale, leading us to expect that the merchandise today would look picked over from the start. But the racks today seemed surprisingly plump and healthy, at least until the mob got to them. Spotted early on: Lots of 3.1 Phillip Lim and Alexander Wang dresses for about $200 (most of gone by the time we left, sadly.) We found a few DVF dresses in ready-to-wear, also hovering around the $200 mark, and some Trovata sweater-dresses for slightly less, but as has lately been the case, they were all hidden amid absurd quantities of Barneys brand cotton jerseys. Also prevalent among the RTW: A red-and-cream bow-tie Marc by Marc Jacobs dress you might remember seeing on Gossip Girl's Blair, for the unWaldorfian price of $209.
By the time we hit shoes, about half an hour after the sale had begun, the area was a war zone, despite the fact that almost nothing was under $300. We spotted a pair of soft gray suede boots by Stella McCartney for about $400 that might be worth the risk of getting impaled on a stiletto, and, as noted, a ton of Lanvin. Every year there's one failed trend that clogs the sale, and this time it seemed to be granny boots—the top shelves on each rack were full of lace-up Pradas and faux-Pradas by the Barneys brand.
Most recession-friendly area: The denim, where the deals weren't mind-boggling but nothing cost over $80. Least recession-friendly: Designer, just next door. Obviously, a pair of jeans is cheaper than a Givenchy dress, but we're talking about ratios here: The designer stuff just didn't seem marked down by a percent that made it enticing, especially after the deals in RTW, and especially because a lot of the merchandise looked kind of abused. While we were disappointed, though, others seemed less deterred—there were a lot of people trundling around under the weight of giant plastic bags filled with clothes. And as usual, the frantic public semi-nudity meant we had to be really careful about where to point the camera.
Downstairs in men's, of course, everything was much more civilized. We've got a menswear correspondent preparing a detailed report for the boys, but from our vantage, the place looked quiet, peaceful, and well-stocked with suits. Housewares is always a bust—nothing is sadder than Christmas ornaments in February—but we did spot some cute pillows. In previous years, we'd assume women who found nothing upstairs would snap those up as a consolation prize, but even in this otherwise recession-free zone, they seemed kind of lonely. Looks like even shopping die-hards now have their limits.