What Simon Doonan’s Promotion Really Means — in the Press, at Least

Simon Doonan

Photo: Getty Images

Simon Doonan with Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen.

By now, everyone has recovered from the shock of yesterday’s Barneys New York shake-up, and the reactions are pouring in.

The big question on everybody’s mind, it seems, is whether much-beloved Simon Doonan’s new “promotion” was actually a push out the door. Though a few publications and sites outright took sides (Team Simon or Team Neutral), most are waiting to see how things play out.

We read through all the reports so you wouldn’t have to.

Womens Wear Daily ran a statement by Mark Lee, Barneys’s chief executive officer and the man behind all the recent changes:

Simon has been an intrinsic part of Barneys’s DNA for close to 25 years. I am thrilled to work with him and to have him continue to bring his unique wit and multifaceted talents to Barneys in this new role of creative ambassador-at-large.

Doonan declined to comment, so no insight into how he feels about the shift is offered. However, WWD also spoke with Neil Kraft, Barneys’s former creative director who now heads up KraftWorks, and he said:

For the past 25 years, Simon has been the lifeblood of Barneys visually. It’s a pretty radical step to bring in someone from the magazine world. He [Simon] has been one of the people who made Barneys what it is over the last 25 years. [But] 25 years is a long time. It’s probably great for Simon, and Mark wants to make his mark. It’s a really unique place. They’ve never been able to find the magic that was there when the Pressmans owned it.

The New York Post, on the other hand, had a less rosy view of the affair and sounded the death knell for Doonan, saying, “Simon Doonan has begun a slow, painful march toward the exit at Barneys New York.” The story goes on to quote anonymous inside sources:

Simon has been the face of Barneys for a long time, and you could say that face just got a slap,” said one source close to the company. Added another: “Nobody gets promoted to anything with ‘at-large’ in the title.

The source continued, saying Doonan “didn’t seem to be his normal self—he seems pretty sad about the whole business.”

British Vogue touched upon what Doonan’s new role with the retailer would entail: hosting special events, contributing to special windows, and being a key media spokesperson. But more importantly, it scored a statement from Doonan that was extremely upbeat and positive:

This exciting evolution of my role at Barneys is brilliant,” Doonan said. “Change has always been integral to the strength and vibrancy of the Barneys brand. I am delighted to be part of this new chapter.

Elle said what everyone was thinking: “Yes, creative ambassador-at-large is a real job that exists at Barneys now.” Succinct and to the point.

Surprisingly, Cathy Horyn of the New York Times did not offer her opinion on the matter, merely going into a rundown of what occurred. Perhaps readers have something to look forward to on Thursday?

Fashionista agreed with Elle, questioning Doonan’s new title and wondering: What about the windows?

It’s a pretty funny title and sounds kind of made up, but then again fashion houses love to have brand ‘ambassadors’ so it follows that a retailer could have one too. So what does it mean? And more importantly, will Doonan still do the windows?

 One thing’s for sure: This isn’t the same old Barneys anymore.