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Hamill: Between racial profiling and insane prices, Jay Z’s Barneys collection a joke

This whole Barneys/Jay Z “shop-and-frisk” circus is becoming a parody of itself.

Here I am on Wednesday at lunchtime wandering the Jay Z collection on the third floor of Barneys up on Madison Ave., pricing a white T-shirt with leather epaulets — $995. Black jeans — $365. En Noir leather shorts — $2,590. An En Noir hoodie — $3,100. If the price doesn’t kill you, George Zimmerman might.

I’m wandering through this darkened room of the Jay Z collection with rap music blaring and a six-minute film projected on the walls of a subway roaring out of Brooklyn into Manhattan.

Which is comical because no sane New Yorker would wear any of this overpriced junk on the subway without an armed guard.

And he might rob you.

After four different workers ask if they can help me, I realize I’m the only potential customer in the room. At lunchtime. And I’m just writing down prices, including $695 for a black cashmere ski mask called The Elder Statesman. Which you can wear to the bank you’ll need to rob to afford to shop here. Smart fashion statement to make at night court.

I’m tempted to try on the Just Don black leather Brooklyn baseball hat with python trim for $875, but I come from old-school Brooklyn, like Jay Z, where a baseball hat in Modell’s went for like $20.

Art director Joanie Lemercier (left) and artist Boris Edelstein designed the Jay Z display, including three windows. Lemercier says he doesn’t understand why the media ‘made such a big deal’ about two racial profiling allegations.

So I wander out onto the street following two white guys who pass a lone black protester who berates Barneys shoppers. I ask the white guys if they’d heard about racial profiling at Barneys.

“Of course,” says Joanie Lemercier, from France. “I am the art director of the Jay Z display. This is my associate, Boris Edelstein, the artist. We designed these three Barneys windows, too. I cannot understand why the press makes such a big deal out of two incidents. In Europe this wouldn’t happen.”

He says he conceived the show with Jay Z. “Barneys hired us and put us together with Jay Z,” he says. “We collaborated with Jay Z on the theme and look of the show.”

What’s the theme and look?

“It’s about black and white,” he says.

No kidding.

“It’s about Jay Z coming from the Marcy projects, from the darkness of Brooklyn, and into the bright city of light of Manhattan,” he says. “So we took a film crew to Brooklyn to shoot on the streets and in the subway and we project that on the walls behind the merchandise, which is also mostly black and white.” So did Jay Z go with you to deep, dark Brooklyn?

“No, he just approved the story boards,” says Lemercier.

So Jay Z’s show is autobiographical, about a poor projects kid from Brooklyn who rides the rails and discovers himself in the bright lights of Manhattan.


Except that when two black shoppers, one from Brooklyn, one from Corona, Queens, came by subway to the bright lights of Barneys and spent hard-earned money and got profiled by the store and the cops and detained for being black in a white store, Jay Z decided, “The show must go on.”

That’s called forgetting where you come from.

Had the cops detained the two shoppers for psychiatric evaluation for paying the insane Barneys prices it might be understandable. Anyone who spends $3,100 on a duffel bag clearly needs his head examined. But, face it, these black people were detained for being “uppity.”

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