MILAN, Italy — Funny how you can know someone for years, appreciate in the abstract that they’re becoming successful, and then BOOM! one day they throw open the imposing doors on their monumental new headquarters and you realise with a start, “Oh, that’s what’s been going on for the past decade.”
So it was with Neil Barrett on Saturday as he launched his new collection and his new offices in Milan. The spirit of the artist Donald Judd — linear, minimal, precise — hung over both. In fact, “stark” wouldn’t be putting too fine a point on it, though Barrett scarcely needed Judd to prod him in that direction. The designer has always worked to a “much less is much more” philosophy, paring away superfluity until what remains is one of the purest aesthetics in menswear.
But, now that the sheer scale of his business has been made manifest in the building that bears his name, there was a sense with his latest collection that he was quietly celebrating his evolution. (The noisy celebration came later on Saturday night, with dinner and a d.j.) Never one for undue decoration, Barrett nevertheless scrupulously defined his designs in his own meticulous way, adding a strip of colour here, a stripe of reflective tape there, even letting loose with a lush, inky seascape graphic on a silky bomber jacket.