They say New York is the city that never sleeps, and its fashion doesn’t seem to take a break either. Just as the madness of New York Fashion Week wound down, Barneys opened its doors for its highly anticipated biannual Warehouse Sale—a name that will send some dedicated shoppers’ hearts aflutter.
Every fashion lover considers Barneys an institution: The luxury department store displays trendy, funky designers such as Alexander Wang and Proenza Schouler as well as more iconic labels like Prada and Lanvin, attracting a wide clientele that ranges from Upper East Side housewives to the funky downtown set.
When it comes to sales, Barneys is pretty much Mecca: The retailer knocks 75 percent off every designer that matters, with continual markdowns as the sale goes on. The Warehouse Sale is the go-to savings event for those who want discounts on coveted designer fashions from last season, or, even better, overproduced on-trend items.
If there’s anything I’ve gleaned from prior experiences at this sale, it’s to show up early (the line started forming last Thursday at 5:30 a.m.). But this time around, whether you were an early bird or fashionably late, it didn’t make a difference—this was not Barneys’ best.
First off, the prices weren’t clearly marked—many pieces didn’t even have price tags, forcing me to wait in line forever just to get a price check. The markings that were there were very misleading (red dots meant absolutely nothing). On top of that, a good amount of designer items were “imperfect” (code for damaged). I was elated to find size 7 Manolos for $79, only to realize—at the register—that the pair was defective: One shoe was, in fact, a size 6.
The setup of the sale was the same as in years past. The shoe rack was located straight across from the entrance, and was, as always, the most bountiful. The only downside is that all shoes must be boxed and tied up before you can move on to the rest of the sale, leaving me little to no time to mull over my purchase. I have to hand it to the Barneys salespeople—they knew the shoes were the best selection and they controlled it accordingly: An assembly line of people was on call to fetch the other shoe in your pair. Behind the shoes were a few worthless boxes of accessories, then racks with dresses, skirts, and trousers.
The jeans were tucked away to the right of those racks—size 27 seemed to be a plentiful size—and the home section lived just behind that. A fair amount of people hovered over the jeans—surprising considering most of the skinny jeans were gone and most of what was left were wide-leg cargo pants. Even so, seconds after I put down a pair of J Brand flight pants, they were snatched away.
“The stuff from winter, like, isn’t here,” one girl lamented. Her friend curtly replied, “It’s being stashed for the next warehouse sale.” The ladies were right, perhaps due to a nonexistent winter, there were minimal sweaters and little to no outerwear on display, which is unusual for a fall/winter sale.
And of course, the extra-small and small sizes were the first to go. One girl looked longingly at a black Marc Jacobs dress before announcing, “It’s a size 6, it’s not going to fit!” She assured her friend, “As soon as I saw it, I knew it was Marc Jacobs.” This is the kind of girl that attends this sale: the all-knowing, trend-spotting, balls to the wall fashionista.
Behind the checkout area were two racks (yes, only two) of designer duds, which were being attacked from all sides. The racks were annoyingly placed outside the entrance to the dressing room, which made the experience of trying on clothes even worse. Entering the changing area was like pushing through a crowded lounge downtown, except everybody is in their underwear, and instead of fighting for a spot at the bar, they’re lunging for mirror space.
This once legendary sale is a shadow of its former self, likely because Barneys is currently struggling with a multi-million dollar debt load in conjunction with a 2007 takeover by the private equity firm Istithmar World. Like the past few Warehouse Sales, this one fell short—it wasn’t worth the elbow grease. I think the woman next to me browsing the designer racks best summed up the sale when she turned to me and said, “It’s kind of a scary place to be, here, isn’t it?”
Claire Stern is a Barnard College senior majoring in English. Buyer’s Remorse runs alternate Fridays.