Barneys chief executive Howard Socol plans to resign, according to “people knowledgeable about the situation,” the New York Times reports. In August Barneys was sold to Istithmar, the investment branch of the Dubai government, and Socol reportedly disagrees with the new owner’s plans for overseas expansion.
Socol brought Barneys out of bankruptcy in the nineties, helping it recover from a $100 million debt and return to profitability. His strategy included landing exclusive deals with hot up-and-coming labels like Proenza Schouler while bringing in designers like James Perse and Rag & Bone. Other Barneys exclusives — ones perhaps more indicative of the experimental attitude — include Kate Moss’s line for Topshop (which never seemed that popular) and selling Rogan’s Target line this weekend, which befuddled some retail analysts.
If expanding internationally has been a challenge for “many American luxury brands,” we can only imagine how hard it might be to maintain Barneys’ delicate balance of awesomeness abroad. Socol is largely responsible for the store we know and love; it will be interesting to see if it can maintain its cachet in his absence (though we think it can). At least Simon Doonan doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.