Amid a pre-Depression retail boom, Barney Pressman opened his eponymous shop Barneys New York on a then-seedy corner of Manhattan, at Seventh Avenue in Chelsea. He retired more than 50 years after the store’s 1923 opening, at which point the Barneys New York label had come to signify a certain kind of discerning luxury, a savvy downtown chic marked by its monochromatic color palette and carefully curated array of designers. Though it has since expanded from its roots in menswear into womenswear and home goods—in addition to a physical expansion across the city and the globe—almost 100 years after its founding, Barneys New York returns to its roots with a new campaign.
In tandem with the opening of a new flagship store in Chelsea—on the same block the original shop once occupied —Barneys has announced its “Our Town” campaign, featuring photography and short films by Bruce Weber. The campaign stars quintessentially New York personalities, ranging from international icons like Lady Gaga and Yoko Ono to local celebrities like the first female New York Fire Department battalion chief Rocky Jones and Frank Pellegrino, owner of East Harlem Italian restaurant Rao’s. Below, you can watch “The Banya in Brooklyn,” one of Weber’s micro-documentaries, which highlights a traditional Russian bath—a New York institution that recalls the city of yesteryear in which Barneys got its start.
“In Russia, it’s very traditional to have a sauna next to a lake or a river,” narrates the bath’s founder in the nostalgia-infused clip. A patron of the baths chimes in: “For the women, it’s no wrinkles. I am 70; where are my wrinkles? It’s because of sauna. I’m serious.” The clip offers glamor in a perhaps unexpected place, a luxurious ritual surviving from another era. Barneys Creative Director Dennis Freedman says the short sprung from Weber’s fascination with the culture of Russian bathhouses. “Over the decades New York has opened its arms to immigrants from all over the world,” he explains. “This bathhouse is the perfect and authentic example of how one community has transplanted its roots in our city. And we are all the richer for it.”
The video series reaffirms the brand’s ties to New York while underlining the very traits that make the city, and Barneys with it, such an international beacon. “One of our goals for ‘Our Town’ was to showcase the rich culture and diversity of New York City,” continues Freedman. “We looked for unsung heroes.” Diversity of ethnicity, gender, and experience are all on full display throughout the series, which also features a clip of Tangerine actress Mya Taylor alongside members of the LGBT Community Center, as well as images of female construction workers who helped shape the physical landscape of the city. It showcases the people and places that lend New York its essential New York-ness, the qualities Barneys seems to cherish in its own brand. A century later, Barneys is still really Barneys New York.
BARNEYS NEW YORK’S NEW CHELSEA FLAGSHIP WILL OPEN LATER THIS MONTH. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT THE BARNEYS WEBSITE.