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Nostalgia is a Treasure Trove

Barrett’s latest collection delved into the past that shaped him​ — bringing a new warmth and intimacy to his precise designs.​
Neil Barrett Autumn/Winter 2016 | Source: InDigital.tv
By
  • Tim Blanks

MILAN, Italy — In hindsight, Neil Barrett spent years wound up so tight as a designer, so precise that you could cut your finger on his edges, they were that sharp. His was a mod sensibility carried forward to n​ow, where the particularity of every detail needed to be utterly definitive. It resulted in some wonderful clothes, but it was also a corner into which he was about to paint himself.

Then something happened. Hello, world! Barrett’s latest collection delved into the past that shaped him, childhood, teenage inspiring new colours and shapes for this most rigorous of designers, starting with a very 1970s brown as the foundation of a palette that also included red, yellow and electric blue. Remember Barrett has only ever been black and white (and navy blue).

And with the colours came the clothes from his teenage closet: track tops and pants, shearling jackets, anoraks, high-waisted pants, George Best’s soccer jerseys, all of them reconfigured by Barrett’s years of working in Milan. The jerseys, for instance, now in knit instead of the nylon they’d originally have been cut from.

If you could isolate a flaw in Barrett’s career in fashion, it’s that he has been a somewhat chilly designer. What impressed immediately with his new collection was warmth, not just in colours he’d never used before, but in the sense of his re-discovery of his own story. That personal element loaned an intimacy, where once there would have been distance. The eagles that took flight on a tee, a sweatshirt or a bomber jacket Barrett would have seen on the moorlands in Devon when he was growing up. The indie-ness of a worn shearling recalled not just the music papers that were his primary style influence in his teens (New Musical Express, where art thou now?) but also his earliest collections. And he referred back to those collections by revisiting his signature hybrids, top half parka, bottom half Crombie, for instance.

Barrett claimed his launchpad was a question: how can I do something I don’t normally do? In doing just that, he has clearly opened up a whole new savannah of possibilities for himself. Nostalgia is generally noxious. Here, it was inspiration.

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