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Former Gucci head Mark Lee became CEO of Barneys just three months ago, but he's already implementing some major changes at the financial troubled chain. Yesterday, Lee announced that one of his colleagues at Gucci, Daniella Vitale, would take over the rule of chief merchant and EVP overseeing womenswear and the company's website. She'll be replacing Barneys vet Judy Collinson, who's leaving the company to "pursue other opportunities" along with fellow womenswear honcho Julie Gilhart.
Between them, Collinson and Gilhart have spent 40 years at Barneys, and they're known for having honed its distinctive style. Gilhart is credited with discovering Proenza Schouler, among other big names. Their departure suggests that Barneys is suddenly more interested in being profitable than being edgy—a reversal for a chain known in recent years for having impeccable taste but boatloads of debt.
The New York Post points out that Barneys expanded rapidly under its Dubai-based owner Istithmar, opening stores in cities like Dallas and Boston where New York style doesn't necessarily sell. Lee might believe it needs to go mainstream to survive. And he probably isn't much concerned about accusations that he's watering down the brand, since the same thing happened when he ran Gucci.
As for Simon Doonan, the Post thinks it's a bad sign that he wasn't mentioned at all in yesterday's announcement. One anonymous source tells them that Lee's worried that Doonan is using his fame "to promote himself rather than Barneys, and that's going to have to change." Boston, Dallas, if Doonan leaves we're holding you personally responsible.
· Julie Gilhart, Judy Collinson Have Left Barneys [Fashionologie]
· Schmata la vista [NYP]