Neil Barrett 2017 Menswear
Retailers repeatedly informally report that Neil Barrett is hot-to-trot on the rails right now, but it that hot air? Apparently not: “It’s been our best year since we started,” this softly spoken, deeply consistent designer confirmed backstage before this evening’s show. Squinting at the collection that ensued, you could kind of see the intersections of broader taste across Barrett’s own unwavering practice: He incorporates elements of sport and so-called modernist graphics in luxurious fabrications that have a little overlap with the ironic reclamation of early sportswear. But Barrett doesn’t need Cyrillic, and he isn’t a mimic.
Today’s brown-heavy, blue and orange–strafed offering was, Barrett winningly revealed, informed by the clothes worn in the American TV shows he’d watched in the UK as a kid. So the opening group of brown blousons and chore coats in calf and suede tipped a wink to the mighty wardrobes of Starsky & Hutch and Knight Rider. Military shirting with sideways-obtuse buttoning details on the arms and a slightly boxy cut seemed more ’80s navy blockbuster—Top Gun, of course. The sources also dug deep into ’80s sportswear in the knit graphics.
So that was the backdrop. Barrett’s processing of it—“always reinterpreted and reinvented, but never revived”—was to take his seriously masculine templates and apply that reinvention via intarsia inserts and marquetry that traced out a variation of his oft touched-on diagonal graphics. The forensic exactitude to Barrett’s delivery generates a warming friction with the putatively relaxed genre of clothing he tends to examine. Said Barrett: “I take it step by step. I don’t really hype myself. I let other people talk.” As we all should.