Lord Have Mercy

Barneys New York was better when it was Barneys New York

Thepressreleasewasstunning,drippingpearls of wisdom like a diamond necklace drips pearls of, er, diamonds. There were big words in it (reproduced in ransom note type fonts on the store walls): "Outrageous, Contagious, Courageous," but they only made you think of Lionel Richie, Lindsay Lohan and Dan Rather. They didn't prepare you for the grand opening of the Barneys New York Co-Op store in South Coast Plaza. (It didn't help either that I read all that the day after.)

One expects very little from a New York Co-Op—running water, and maybe a radiator that works in months with two or fewer syllables. But this was a Co-Op in name alone; the real concept was "young, urban, eccentric style for 'chicks and blokes.'"

So we expected more; but what there was came off like New York trying to do California. It felt like an Armani A/X opening (remember them?), with an invite list that looked like a mash-up of Orange County Museum of Art meets the Newport Harbor Yacht Club. (The night was a benefit for OCMA.)

It sounded good, but in person it looked bad: navy blazers with gold buttons, metallic pumps—even though metallics are supposedly hot—lapel pins, unfortunate sandals. And those were just on people's parents; the kids dumbed it down with black Hawaiian shirts (black just isn't in the Hawaiian palette), rugby shirts, fake-'n'-bake sunburns under tube tops and faux-hawk after faux-hawk.

You wanted to shout, "Lord have mercy" in the ear of your plus-one over the Death Cab song everyone loves, except they took the words out of your mouth and silk-screened them onto a 10-year-wash T-shirt priced in the high two digits; T-shirts started at $45, jumping to twice that for something with an AC/DC logo.

The prices were fine; they were great. It's Barneys, and you're willing to pay for the quiet, sophisticated elegance that walks the line between new and old money with suave suits, dreamy ladies' separates, sleek shoes and oddities like beautiful swim trunks. You're willing to step up for stuff that doesn't look like it's costuming for TheO.C.This stuff didn't not look that way. For every pair of Marc Jacobs shoes, every floaty top, every pair of seersucker shorts, there was a faux rock tee, a gold metallic pair of Converse or another pair of $200 jeans.

New York should stick to doing what it does best: New York. Otherwise it just confirms what we already suspect: there's very little really new in fashion. Especially out here.

BARNEYS NEW YORK CO-OP, SOUTH COAST PLAZA, 3333 N. BRISTOL ST., COSTA MESA, (714) 641-0072.

 
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