That set the stage for a suspenseful hearing on a drizzling Halloween afternoon, as the bankruptcy judge, Cecelia G. Morris, prepared to approve the bid from B. Riley and Authentic Brands.
Joshua Sussberg, a lawyer representing Barneys, opened the proceedings with the news that it had not yet found an alternative. Still, it was their fiduciary duty to maximize the value of the company, Mr. Sussberg said, which meant “keeping jobs and stores open, viable, available for employees, for landlords, for trade vendors.” Barneys employs about 2,300 people, 2,100 of them full-time. And so, he said, if a “higher and/or better” offer came in before 10 a.m. on Friday, he would be making a phone call to the judge.
The judge, in her light Southern drawl, offered the use of six empty conference rooms at the courthouse to help speed along potential negotiations with Mr. Ben-Avraham, Mr. Jackson or others. Richard Chesley, a lawyer for Authentic Brands, was incredulous at Barneys’ refusal to face the reality that they had no alternatives, noting that his client had “abided by the rules from the beginning of this process.”
For decades, Barneys New York epitomized a certain kind of aspirational Manhattan cool.
In announcing its acquisition, Authentic Brands said it was “building a business model that will adapt this legendary brand for the future of experiential luxury.”
Daniella Vitale, the chief executive of Barneys, spent much of the summer meeting with potential purchasers. Gene Pressman, the member of the Barneys founding family who had driven the store’s expansion into women’s wear and, along with his brother Bob, helped mastermind the opening of its Madison Avenue location in 1993, considered jumping back into the fray “for about five minutes,” he said. He opted out because of the real estate issue.
Retail watchers will probably be arguing for years over what, or who, was to blame for the disappearance of what was once a cultural landmark.
On Friday, however, Barneys found itself felled by bankruptcy, sold for parts from a courthouse in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Just a week before the sale, Mr. Ben-Avraham was still insisting that his offer was on the way, even though the bid deadline had passed; a planned auction was canceled and a statement was released by Authentic Brands and Saks, saying that they had triumphed. It was “not over,” he said.
The bankruptcy saga of the famed New York department store involved last-minute alliances and vain attempts to cobble together competing bids.
And besides, it trademarks its own sort of clout: Kith collaborates widely, the new hallmark of prestige. When I went, there was a mini exhibition of its recent Disney collaboration, both audacious and inexplicable, and also a Kith/Vogue varsity jacket, which may well lead Anna Wintour to fire whoever convinced her of its merit. (The sweatpants are good, though.)
The cold, hard-to-swallow truth is that it is perhaps Kith, more than any of these other stores, that encapsulates the luxury evolution that left Barneys floundering. Dover Street, Totokaelo, Forty Five Ten, the Webster — they draw fundamentally from the same playbook, the same stratosphere of brands, the same ideology. They want to be sacred.
As a shopping experience, it’s never not grim. The store is claustrophobia inducing, and as rowdy as the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. There are intriguing pieces from Mastermind and Ader Error, but it’s a challenge to embrace them more than cursorily. The women’s floor essentially sells only après-spin items that would pair well with black leggings and Air Force 1s.
WHAT THE WEBSTER DOES WITH SMELL, Kith does with sound. On a frigid recent Saturday, after I had to wait in line outside for the customary few minutes, I entered the store and was greeted by Playboi Carti and Baby Bash, thumping at unreasonable levels.
It is glitzy and slightly awkward. In its European-ness, it reminds me slightly of 10 Corso Como, which is … still open, I suppose? Tough to say — I haven’t heard that name in years.
That said, on one of the days I visited recently, Totokaelo also had by far my favorite clientele, and easily the most vibrant: someone who looked like a rogue K-pop star on the lam, a young stylist for rappers, three men (shopping separately) wearing heels.
In the emerging designer and ceramic tchotchke section, the clothes are huddled together so tightly that it’s hard to disentangle the Sandy Liang tech-tulle from the Saks Potts patchwork mink.
Most ostentatious is the women’s designer section, which is thick with fanciful and often astonishingly expensive clothes, from Marni to Monse. It is far more thoughtful than the men’s section, which tends to the anonymously wealthy and only moderately imaginative, apart from a few electric pieces from Jil Sander and By Walid.
What I was craving was a combination of fantasy and authority, a place that could nudge me toward a new self, or a refreshed one. I’m older than I was when Barneys first hypnotized me, but no less susceptible to magic.
New York already has its replacements. We visit the heirs apparent.