Hollywood Stylists Reminisce After Sale of Barneys New York and Expected Store Closings

Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Barneys New York

"You felt like you had made it as a stylist if you were pulling clothes at Barneys,” says Cristina Ehrlich, after a judge approved sales of Barneys New York Inc. to Authentic Brands Group LLC, with plans for liquidation of remaining retail stores.

Responding to news of the probable demise of Barneys New York and the foreseen closing of the Madison Avenue and Beverly Hills stores, Hollywood stylist Jessica Paster (known for her work with Emily Blunt, Olivia Munn and Hilary Duff)  told The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday that the announcement  was "heartbreaking," saying,  “I don't want it to go and, if I had the money, I would buy it myself.”

Paster’s reaction was typical of Hollywood’s styling and costume design community in the wake of Thursday morning’s approval by a bankruptcy judge for the sale of the famed retailer’s assets for $217 million to fashion licensing company Authentic Brands Group LLC. Under the deal, Barneys New York will likely close its five remaining stores, and the brand name may be licensed to Saks Fifth Avenue.

Attorney Jeff Trexler, associate director of the Fashion Law Institute at New York’s Fordham University, tweeted afterwards, “There was a palpable sense of loss, even more so than in a typical bankruptcy case. And after the judge left the room, the stunned silence gave way to quiet sobs.”

Paster, one of THR’s 25 Top Stylists of 2019, calls the store “one of my go-to’s” and recalled starting out as a 20-year-old styling assistant in 1996 when the store had first opened. She was told to go to Barneys and pick out clothes for a shoot from the then-director of the Styling Services department, Michael Sharkey. At first, he turned her away, because the stylist she was working with had not returned some clothes that had been loaned out previously.

“I started tearing up,” Paster recalled. "And Michael kindly said, ‘Do you have a credit card?' He grabbed me by the hand because he felt bad for me because I told him that it was my first job. He walked me through the whole thing and gave me five pieces to take, even though my credit card could not cover it all, and said it had to be back in two days in perfect condition. And that was the start of my relationship with Barneys.”

The Barneys store in Beverly Hills was also where Paster first encountered designer clothes from the likes of Azzedine Alaia, Junya Watanabe and Sacai. “And how many times have I called and said, 'I need something and I’m on my way' and you get there and it's ready to be picked up,” she adds.

Stylist Jeanne Yang posted a heartfelt message on Instagram last week saying, “Every costume designer, every stylist, anyone who’s on a show, they’ve all been using Barneys for years.” On her way to The Late Late Show with James Corden set with client Jason Momoa, she told THR, “I don’t know what we’re going to do without the store. It’s going to be a huge loss that creates a huge hole in the L.A. retail scene, not to mention all the jobs that will be lost. These are people I’m friends with, from the ones who work in the parking lot to the people in Studio Services to every single salesperson.”

Los Angeles-based designer Barbara Tfank, a favorite of former First Lady Michelle Obama, recalls that Barneys was the first store to carry her clothes when she started her collection. “I was there for over a decade and I had the most wonderful experience,” she said. Earlier in her career, Tfank was a costume designer and did celebrity photo shoots in between film gigs. “It was a miracle when they opened Barneys in Los Angeles,” she said. “A dream come true. There isn’t anyone you ask about Barneys who didn’t go to the store to get ideas.”

Stylist Negar Ali Kline, who has a large roster of starry clients, including Jessica Lange and Tom Hanks, said, “It’s so emotional for me, I’ve been a client of Barneys in L.A. since the late ‘90s. But even before that, I remember living in New York and going into Barneys as a college student, and it was a wonderland, an emporium of beautiful things... Barneys was where all the creative, cool people shopped.”

Cristina Ehrlich (who styles Laura Dern, Greta Gerwig and Mandy Moore) says that back in the aughts, before L.A. was so much about fashion, going to Barneys was where stylists like herself saw European fashion up close for the first time, if they hadn’t yet been to couture shows. “I learned about the touch, the hand of those clothes," she recalled. “It’s where I learned about avant-garde designers like the Antwerp Six, and it just had that very special aura of ‘fashion’ about it. You felt like you had made it as a stylist if you were pulling clothes at Barneys.”

Nov. 1, 11:33 a.m.: Updated to correct Trexler's title. 

Nov. 1, 2:43 p.m.: Updated to correct Kline's title.