Barneys NY

The news yesterday that Marigay McKee (left, with Michael Kors), former Chief Merchant of Harrod’s, was moving to New York to become President of Saks was interesting — but not as interesting as the news today that Richard Baker, the new owner of the store chain (and a sudden department store mogul along the lines of Galen Weston: he also owns Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay) was planning a $200 million refit of the flagship. $200 million on one store? If I was a speculating gal – and you know I am – I would guess this means the Fifth Ave branch is going WAY upmarket. WAY upmarket. And you know what that means? We have new strategy in the department store wars. Read more

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What’s up with Oscar de la Renta? The man is creating news – and potential controversy – right and left. After paving the way for John Galliano’s return to fashion, a move that was both welcomed and castigated by the fashion set (depending on who you asked), today Mr de la Renta, America’s pre-eminent couturier of uptown society thanks to his way with a gown (see actress Jennifer Garner, pictured), announced he was creating a collection for The Outnet, Net-a-porter’s cut-price platform, that will be more “accessible” than his normal line. Effectively, he is remaking old patterns in old fabric and pricing down. The way the company puts it is, to paraphrase, along the lines of “taking out the originality mark-up”.

Actually, this is interesting for a more macro reason than linguistic gymnastics. Mr de la Renta’s move, combined with the recent launch by Barneys NY of its own stand-along cut-price web site, barneyswarehouse.com, to sell end-of-season merch, effectively creates a luxury strategy face-off over the issue of outlets: good or bad? Seems to me we are heading towards stilettos at dawn. Read more