When Istithmar, the investment firm owned by the Dubai government, snapped up Barneys New York last year, cynical fashion tongues wagged that it would only be a matter of time before a major management shake-up. Sure enough, in May, amid buzz that he was clashing with the new owners, Barneys chief Howard Socol, 63, suddenly announced his retirement. Socol, for his part, downplayed the rumors. “This is a full-time, seven-day-a-week job,” he told Women’s Wear Daily, W’s sister publication. “There are a lot of things I love to do. I plan to enjoy life, travel a lot and expand my mental and physical capacities. There is a lot on my ‘I want’ list.” Another retail job, he insisted, isn’t one of them.