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Our Look at Creative Director Dennis Freedman’s Work at Barneys and Impact on the Industry

In the early 90’s an interviewer asked me if it was ‘product’ or ‘process’ that was the ultimate driver. “Wrong ‘P'” was my reply, “It’s People.” People are what drive business, livelihoods, interest, and yes, product and process.

Dennis Freedman is one of those people. And upon the recent announcement that he is parting ways with Barneys New York as Creative Director after six years at the helm to pursue new opportunities, it gave us pause as we reflected on just how much impact a single person can have on our industry and how often we take that for granted.

Freedman was an untraditional choice for the retailer having spent 20 years on the publishing side at Fairchild and known most notably for being the founding Creative Director of W magazine. He joined Barneys NY at the bequest of CEO Mark Lee who had the wisdom to recognize that an outsider perspective from a creative not formerly from retail was just what the retailer needed. Together with then EVP of Marketing Charlotte Blechman, who recently joined Tom Ford, Freedman helped Barneys to become more than just a retailer, but an experience.

That experience manifested itself through the vehicle of The Window, a philosophy of interaction between in-store, windows, advertising, events and more. “More” represented by those rare moments that transcends the traditional boundaries of marketing and seep into the cultural landscape becoming part of a larger narrative. Specifically The Impression admires the 2014 “Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters” campaign which spotlighted transgender men and women. The campaign was unexpected, warranted, humanizing, and emoting, opening a dialogue that was necessary at the time while aligning the retailer with core values that meant more than sales.

Those values included engaging other ‘people.’ Freedman’s vision was one of collaboration with various artist, entertainers, musicians, and designers. Under Freedman, collaborators included The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, Alex Katz, Rob Pruitt, Bob Recine and Nick Cave, as well as, notable photographers Juergen Teller, Bruce Weber, Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, and talent such as Lady Gaga, Jay Z, Baz Luhrmann, Miuccia Prada and John Galliano. And his work isn’t done as Freedman is curating a May Barneys New York project featuring sculptures of artist Louise Bourgeois and archival pieces by Comme des Garçons’ Rei Kawakubo. The exhibit will coincide with upcoming exhibition of Rei Kawakubo at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Impression wished to highlight a few of Freedman’s projects below from his first campaign in 2011 with Carine Roitfeld and Mario Sorrenti, to Lady Gaga’s Gaga Workshop for Holiday 2011, to Disney’s Electric Holiday in 2012, to Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin’s holiday 2014 Baz Dazzled, to “Our Town” campaign in ode to New York by Bruce Weber, and more. Our ode is to the person who helped elevate the idea of how a retailer interacts with a community. After all, it’s about people, and Freedman is a people person.


(Spring 2014)
Campaign Photography | Bruce Weber
Interview profiles spotlighting 17 transgender men and women | Patricia Bosworth


Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin
(Holiday 2014)
Street performance and Event at Central Park Zoo

(Spring 2016)
Campaign Photography | Bruce Weber

Campaign Photography | Mario Sorrenti

(Holiday 2011)

(Holiday 2012)

Campaign Photography | Inez & Vinoodh
(Fall 2013)