Neil Barrett Spring/Summer 2016 Menswear
Funny thing: Neil Barrett’s last men’s collection so thoroughly revisited his past that he couldn’t really go there again. He’d been speaking the same language for so long that it was past time to find something new to say. That could have presented an overwhelming challenge for Barrett, a designer whose strengths always lie in his limits. But he rose to it, road-mapping his future in the process. A win-win.
He showed no bombers, sweatshirts, or sweatpants—in his words, “none of what I’m known for.” And Barrett did something else he’d never done before, basing his collection on pattern rather than tone. Given that pattern is new for him, it’s fearless to collect the most iconic masculine motifs from around the world—camouflage, batik, nautical stripes, and keffiyeh checks, along with animal and kimono prints—and fuse them into new combinations: a keffiyeh Jacquard bisected with marinière stripes, for instance, or a hybrid of leopard and batik. “Potential future classics,” he confidently called them.
The fusion didn’t stop with pattern. He also blended the utilitarian spirit of American workwear with the precision of European tailoring. Slouchy, cropped, cuffed jeans were shown with a crisp, printed poplin coat. A keffiyeh-like pattern was woven into a tone-on-tone evening jacket in midnight blue, the accompanying jeans, tuxedo-striped. Barrett may have inherited expertise when it comes to the sharpness of military garb, making him a master of a unique contemporary uniform, but that was a tempting cul-de-sac. Today he found a way out.