Simon Doonan Out as Barney’s Creative Director: Sneaky Snub Or Genius Move?

In an interesting and somewhat shocking move, Barney’s announced that Simon Doonan, who has been with the brand nearly 25 years, will no longer serve as creative director. Taking his place effective January 17th is former W magazine editor Dennis Freedman. Barney’s CEO Mark Lee, who previously headed Gucci and took over at Barney’s this past summer, already cut ties a few months ago with two other executives who had been with the company a long time, prompting some speculation at the time that Doonan may be next. {Racked NY}

Barney’s has not, however, ousted Doonan. According to a press release, Doonan will remain with the company in a new role, as Creative Ambassador at Large.

Simon Doonan“Mr. Doonan will continue to be a key media spokesperson for the company, will continue to contribute to special window projects, will host special events with customers and media, and will serve as roving ambassador with links to all creative and communication areas including social media,” the release said.

Initially, we thought this was a carefully masked demotion of Doonan, but it really might be a brilliant move. Creative Ambassador at Large sounds like a lesser position than creative director, much like the editor at large position at a magazine is not as prestigious as being the editor in chief. Doonan, however, is the most public figure Barney’s has, and the luxury fashion retailer may simply be trying to create closer ties with the public by expanding Doonan’s role as its most visible employee. When fashion retailers attempt to become more relatable to consumers, it is always commendable. We’re also very impressed that Barney’s appears to be taking social media into consideration.

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

Brilliant, indeed, but Doonan may still be taking one for the team.

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