The act of dressing can be a creative exercise, an artistic pursuit. Art and the artisanal: the dress of the artist as archetype inspired the Neil Barrett Autumn/Winter 2020 collection. This collection proposes tools, materials – a palette – for any man, and everyman, to create.
It is universal, for all ages and nationalities, an idea that has been constant within the Neil Barrett wardrobe. Underscoring Neil Barrett’s continuing fascination with the evolution of masculine dress, we can recognise even this creative freedom as a form of uniform, a way of dressing to express the man inside. Individual, and yet collective.
There is a tension, a conversation between the hand-made and the industrial, highlighting the beauty in both. Like different facets of art – Minimal versus Expressionist, Abstract against Figurative – different approaches to forms, fabrications and aesthetic can co-exist, in a man’s wardrobe as on a gallery wall.
Coats and jackets feature Neil Barrett’s signature hybrid details across the forearm, contrasts of function emphasising the importance of hands as creative tools; macro-scale details – rivets, stitching and fastening systems – play on proportion and perspective in visual games akin to paintings. They encourage us to look harder, to examine.
There are references to a back-catalogue of work: a retrospective. A Hybrid Biker-Coat is a direct reference to Autumn/Winter 2003; a down-padded jacket after an original example from Autumn/Winter 2000. The latter inspires an entire series of puffer archetypes – aviator jackets, sweatshirts, duffle coats – reinterpretations of garments with a new sculptural volume.
Accessories explore classics: bags are recognisable, cartridge bags, worker’s satchels, artist’s portfolios and messengers. Shoes are moccasins or desert boots, elevated through material and a new statement sole; a collaboration with Chinese athletics brand Li-Ning results in technical running shoes, an essential component of a new urban uniform.
Art here is inherently urban, tied with the industrial and modern: graffiti, the act of ‘tagging’, of making your mark and leaving a piece of yourself behind, inspires prints, embroideries and jacquards. This also connects with the gentleman traveller, the voyager and souvenir hunter – drawing inspiration from cultures visited, combining references and recollections into a unique hybrid. Hand-knit sweaters have a sense of Objet Trouve, sketched prints on wool are derived from Berber carpet patterns.
This season, Neil Barrett invited a Milan-based graffiti artist known as Red to work in residence and create new works to be integrated into the collection. Famous artworks are remixed and reimagined, alongside text-based works, including a new ‘NB’ graffiti tag jacquard. In a creative dialogue, these hand-worked art pieces become modern fabrications – elevating them to luxury, translating them from the world of art into fashion, and the language of Neil Barrett.
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