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Blog: Christmas in August

Can Barneys’ new creative director spin Gaga into gold for the retailer?

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Fans of Barneys New York and Lady Gaga received an early holiday gift this week when the retailer announced that it’s collaborating with the pop/performance artist on a multifaceted holiday campaign. Opening in mid-November, the Gaga’s Workshop theme will center on the pop star’s interpretation of Santa’s workshop and will include holiday windows, a dedicated shopping environment on the fifth floor of the Madison Avenue men’s store, packaging and shopping bags.

This is the first holiday season for Barneys' new creative director Dennis Freedman, who has said his goal is to bring different kinds of talent to his windows and do something new and fresh. Ceo Mark Lee told Women’s Wear Daily that he had the idea for the partnership before he even joined the retailer. Together they’re making news.

I’ll admit, my first reaction was more dumbfounded than over the moon. Strange bedfellows, I wondered. But then again, outside of a spinning class, I’m not a big Gaga fan. Maybe it’s because I’m a girl of the ’80s and hear and see too much of Madonna in Lady Gaga. But those criticisms aside, I can appreciate that she puts on a good show – she’s over the top, she’s theater, she knows how to get someone to look at her. And that’s exactly the point, isn’t it?

“She is a Candy Pratts Price of today,” emailed Tom Beebe, vp, creative services, HMX Group, referring to the former award-winning store window and display designer for Bloomingdale’s. “She will bring back street theater.”

So Barneys will welcome flocks of her fans into its store this holiday, many of whom may have never stepped foot inside it venerable New York flagship. They’ll goo-goo over all that Gaga-Gaga, they might pick up a limited-edition gift. Maybe they’ll buy even more.

Barneys isn’t the first retailer to join forces with a pop-star personality. When Target partnered with Michael Graves, it did so to create excitement over blenders and kitchen ware as much as to send the message that Target is affordable and design-forward. Macy’s hangs with the in-crowd that includes Martha, Donald and Jessica. Topshop partners with fellow Brit Kate Moss. Stella McCartney designed mini-fashions for babyGap. The list goes on and on.

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But Barneys is the first retailer to partner with Gaga (although she is a face of MAC Cosmetics). Given the star’s penchant for over-the-top fashions, maybe it’s surprising that it’s taken so long. One thing’s for sure, retailer’s holiday season just got a kick-start in August. And that’s a dose of excitement anyone in this industry, meat or non-meat dress wearing, can appreciate.

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