Barneys New York

Best Men’s Shoes, August 2008

Barneys New York has the requisite breadth of classic footwear staples that you’d expect from a luxury retailer: no-nonsense Prada lace-ups suitable for a meeting with the company CFO, Tod’s driving loafers nudging you to skip that appointment and cruise up PCH. What makes Barneys’ fourth-floor shoe department superlative, however, is its flair for the extravagant, the quirky, and the downright ludicrous. On a recent visit we tried on gladiator sandals from Balenciaga, Yohji sneakers, and navy blue calfskin Lanvin loafers. White Thom Browne wing tips, heavy as anvils and tagged at $1,250, aren’t for the timid, but Elton John picked up a pair here.

 

Best Tableware, August 2008
If you want to impress the in-laws, set the table with pieces from Gearys or David Orgell, companies whose ornate china leans to the traditional. But if you want to impress, say, Doug Aitken or Delia Brown at a dinner party, go to Barneys New York for the most innovative tableware designs. The eight brands of china carried here include Hermès, whose Jardin des Orchidées collection is not available online, and Dibbern, from Germany, whose pieces feature gold-plated etchings of tree bark. Such works of art beg to be flanked by black goblets by Philippe Starck and croc-patterned, wood-handled flatware by Alan Saint-Joanis.

 

Best Handbags, August 2007
Ask fashion queens where to buy a handbag and you’ll find yourself on Wilshire Boulevard between Roxbury and Camden. Neiman Marcus carries 30-plus designer lines and has a whopping seven in-store boutiques devoted to the likes of Prada and Tod’s. But Barneys New York shines even brighter, carrying more than 40 lines, from smaller independent labels such as Gryson (for the Bel-Air set), Kale (structured bags in bright colors), and Bing Bang (perforated leather) to heavy hitters like Fendi and Marc Jacobs. “Must” bags notwithstanding, it’s possible to make a handbag purchase for a couple hundred here.

Best Perfume Counter, April 2004

The allure of the perfume selection at Barneys New York starts with the display—one stunning bottle after another whispering “Try me.” Carthusia floats in square glass with a vintage spray pump (it dates back to 1681) not far from I Profumi di Firenze, which recently debuted here with ten scents, and the collection by Serge Lutens, another new launch. Barneys is the place for those niche brands you won’t find emblazoned on billboards or wafting up from scent strips. Their latest exclusive: Susanne Lang’s fragrant wonders (mixed into a custom cocktail at the counter) started arriving last month. The assortment (dangerously close to the shoes) is enhanced by the people behind the glass: Each time we linger, someone gives us another tidbit of rarefied olfactory knowledge.