Neil Barrett recently made his first official work visit to Hong Kong. Upon arriving at his flagship boutique at The Landmark, he meticulously arranged the chairs and adjusted the music before settling down for the interview.
Born and bred in the United Kingdom, Barrett graduated with a BA in fashion design from Central Saint Martin’s College and a MA in men’s fashion design from the Royal College of Art. He later settled in Milan, where he worked for mega fashion houses such as Gucci and Prada before setting up his eponymous label. While his CV boasts an impressive list of qualifications from prestigious fashion institutions, this Englishman in Milan embodies a free spirit in terms of design, business and life.
“Setting up my label was such a liberating experience; it allows you to do so much with so little limits,” Barrett enthuses.
Today his signature look - a tailored silhouette with a touch of urban cool for men - has attracted a following from the style set including Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom.
“I believe men should look like men, but stand out in a knowing, subtle way,” he says.
It was only when women began asking for smaller sizes to wear themselves that Barrett decided to create a women’s collection.
“I feel that I can finally call myself a women’s wear designer with the autumn/winter 2012 collection. There’s volume in men’s wear that’s still masculine, but then taking the successful parts from men’s wear for women’s wear, there’s a masculine edge but simple and minimal, it’s like going home,” he says.
This juxtaposition is also apparent in his current spring/summer 2012 collections: Fitted blazers in light wool and tough leather bikers match with houndstooth trousers that are cut in a relaxed way. Barrett says that they are “something recognisable, easy but evidently new” and should appeal to both genders.
“When I design, I always think the clothes should look good in a black and white photograph, so the tailoring, the fabrics, the silhouette show something interesting in the clothes.”
It’s his unique combination of English aesthetics and soft yet precise Italian tailoring that place him in a league of his own.