At 3:15 p.m. on Monday afternoon, everyone in the elevator at Barneys New York was going to the newly opened shoe department on the fifth floor.
“You are going to love it,” gushed a store associate in the elevator, clutching an empty flute of champagne.
There was bubbly for everyone, and the crowd of shoppers, many of whom were European tourists, were clearly enthusiastic about the new 22,000-sq.-ft space, which now houses all designer shoes for women and men on one floor.
“C’est incroyable,” muttered a young woman, as she stroked a black Yves Saint Laurent suede pump with a gold cap toe. A few sofas away, a trio of Spanish-speaking women marveled at a black strappy wedge one was modeling, taking turns to breathily say, “Fabuloso.”
Store associates, too, were visibly excited, telling Footwear News business for the day had been brisk.
The floor, unveiled Monday, was designed by architecture firm Yabu Pushelberg, under the direction of Barneys Creative Director Dennis Freedman.
The space boasts ample natural light, with white Italian marble walls and translucent brass-mesh screens that help break up the space and highlight select merchandise. There are also custom-designed seats upholstered in mohair and cotton velvet, and strategically positioned full-length mirrors.
In the women’s section, two semi-private “cubes” took pride of place in the center of the floor and were dedicated to Christian Louboutin and Manolo Blahnik, the store’s anchor brands. As the women’s department merged with men’s, a significant amount of square footage housed Miu Miu and Prada.
Within the men’s section, brands exclusive to Barneys were marked “xo” and displayed along the windows, bathing them in sunlight. Names include Sergio Rossi, Alberto Moretti-Arfango, Battistoni, Endless, Harris, Officine Creative, Franceschetti and Bettanin & Venturi.
Exclusives, in fact, also play a large part on the new shoe floor, with brands such as Manolo Blahnik, Giuseppe Zanotti, Christian Louboutin, Balenciaga, Prada, Balmain, Ferragamo, Givenchy, Lanvin, Tod’s, Church’s and John Lobb creating styles especially for the retailer.
Designer Narciso Rodriguez, who is retailing his fall ’12 collection exclusively at Barneys, told FN, “I am very proud to be launching my shoe collection at Barneys during this very exciting time for them. The new shoe floor is truly extraordinary.”
Other labels were excited that both genders can now shop together.
“The combining of men’s and women’s on one floor is a testament to the importance of shoes in your wardrobe. I love the wide open space of Barneys’ new shoe floor. Each brand has room to make its own statement,” said Paul Goring, director of operations of John Lobb U.S.A.
And a Church’s spokesperson said, “The possibility to present the men’s and women’s collections together is consistent with Church’s brand strategy. Barneys is a true landmark in New York, and to be [sold] there is a great opportunity to meet a clientele who represents Church’s reference customers.”
There were also new iPad stations throughout the floor, which provided complimentary access to Barneys.com and its luxury content site, The Window. Sales associates also were taking full advantage of hand-held mobile devices, which provided current info on sizes in stock.
“The opening of our new fifth floor for shoes is another milestone in our multiyear plan to renovate our Madison Avenue flagship, which creates new cross connections between the women’s and men’s floors,” Barneys CEO Mark Lee said in a statement. “We are excited to unveil this luxurious new environment to our customers and shoe designers and are proud to support the Human Rights Campaign in the spirit of all variations of Perfect Pairs.”
Perfect Pairs is a project that supports the Human Rights Campaign’s Americans for Marriage Equality Program. As part of the effort, Barneys will donate 10 percent of sales from the new shoe floor between July 16-22 to the HRC to further its work in fighting discrimination against LGBT people and expanding marriage equality around the country.