Julie Gilhart, who helped Barneys see the potential of major designers during their formative years, who is a pioneer of eco-friendly practices – primarily for creating a green Barneys label – and was a welcoming face at many events featuring the likes of both, has officially left the building. While some might say they could see the struggling Barneys needed a fresh injection, others are crying that she and executive vice president Judy Collinson were blindsided.
Mark Lee, who just accepted the CEO gig at Barneys has replaced Julie’s role as Fashion Director with Daniela Vitae who worked under him at Gucci, where he served as CEO and she was president of all North and South American business. People are fearing that the union of Vitale and Lee under the Barneys roof will dilute the quirkiness and energy of some of its talent, making the iconic store more mainstream.
The New York Times writes that designers have grown accustomed to the “hands-on, almost nurturing approach of Ms. Collinson and Ms. Gilhart, and people in the industry were not sure how to read the decision by Mark Lee, the store’s chief executive since August, to dismiss them on Monday – without warning, according to two individuals familiar with the matter.”
With now recognized names like Proenza Schouler, Olivier Theyskens, Alexander Wang, Zero + Maria Cornejo, AsFour and Alabama Chanin as part of her successful roster of talent schooled through Barneys, the fashion world is up in arms asking “For real?”
The best question going is probably through the New York Times asking “Will Top Firings Change Barneys Cool?”
We can only wait and see, but if this re-shifting proves some sort of new trend for ho-hum mainstream to work its way even more into the fashion industry, we’re in for a boring ride.
UPDATE: A Barneys spokesperson has just informed us that Daniella Vitale will not be replacing Julie Gilhart. The organizational change is as follows: Ms. Vitale was hired on as Chief Merchant and Executive Vice-President responsible for all of Women’s and Barneys.com operations. She is also responsible for the hiring of the new women’s Fashion Director.