Barneys is solidifying its relationship with streetwear.
Over the weekend, the retailer’s second The Drop @ Barneys event debuted on the West Coast in Beverly Hills, after premiering at the New York Madison Avenue store last fall. The two-day event, put on in partnership with streetwear publication Highsnobiety, invited industry designers, celebrities and influencers including Jeremy Scott, Heron Preston and Jordyn Woods for signings, performances and collaborations. Guests could customize T-shirts and sneakers, listen in on panels about streetwear and fashion, and shop 20 exclusive capsule collections released over the weekend from streetwear and luxury brands like Fear of God, Prada, Balenciaga and Fila.
According to Barneys, the event drove up the Beverly Hills store’s year-over-year sales for that weekend by 50 percent, and traffic by 400 percent. Eight thousand people visited the store on Saturday, June 2. Already, the retailer has plans to put on a second New York event later this year, as well as expand it internationally, according to WWD.
“The Drop LA was developed over six months, utilizing the full efforts of every department in the company,” said Matthew Mazzucca, creative director at Barneys. “[It’s] a new retail experience that allows us to provide something unique in the retail sphere for every Barneys customer, giving them a reason to stay in the store longer and engage with us in a new visual way.”
The Drop events encapsulate the blossoming bond between streetwear brands and luxury department stores, and the promise of the streetwear-inspired drop model around new inventory releases and brand exclusives. Rather than formal full-season collections, the drop model consists of single products released at a time, often with limited availability. These buzzy, timely collections drove customers to shop among the carnival-style frenzy over the weekend. For customers who didn’t make it to the event, the capsule collections are marked on Barneys.com as “DropLA” exclusives.
At The Drop in Beverly Hills, newly added products included Wu Tang Clan’s relaunched brand Wu Wear and the 101 sneaker from Fear of God, which sold out over the course of the weekend. The capsules are sold under Barneys’ exclusive private-label XO line, which has housed other collections like Justin Bieber’s Purpose tour merchandise and other limited-edition collaborations.
“These drops draw in a new consumer who may not see Barneys as an outlet for this type of fashion, and it opens the eyes of the traditional Barneys customer in understanding that there are other brands outside of what they know that are making premium product,” said Jeff Carvalho, the managing director of Highsnobiety.
With Highsnobiety, Barneys is borrowing the knowledge of the industry, and the relationships its needs to enter the community and win over customers who may not have considered it before. Similar partnerships between Nordstrom and after-market sneaker retailer Stadium Goods, and Bergdorf Goodman and Kith are targeting the same younger customer, who may not have known that Barneys carries streetwear brands.
“New luxury is about access and freedom, and brands like Fear of God and Gucci can learn things from each other,” said Carvahlo. “Luxury is learning from what happens outside of their space, and certainly new designers are understanding what it takes to be luxury.”
The relationship between luxury department stores and streetwear brands wasn’t always harmonious. Married to the Mob designer Leah McSweeney said a former Barneys buyer told her that “she wished she could carry [McSweeney’s] streetwear stuff, but she couldn’t because they were a department store.” But that was 10 years ago. Today, designers like Virgil Abloh, Heron Preston and Demna Gvasalia of Balenciaga and Vetements are setting trends, drawing younger generations to shop, and blurring the lines between what’s considered streetwear and what’s considered luxury.
“I think they’ve realized they need us, maybe more than we need them,” said McSweeney.
Today, retailers like Barneys are being pushed in the direction of the new consumer.
“Department stores need to cater to this new customer – they simply do. You need to pay attention to what’s happening with the younger generation, because they have spending power,” said Carvalho. “The model of the department store working with collaborators is a gateway into that store, but they have to have a commitment to the young consumer. It will be interesting to see how they keep them coming back.”