Neil Barrett’s Fall 2020 “Untitled” collection is ultimately about the art of dressing and the artist within us all. He sets out to prove that his clothes can work on all men regardless of age. “It’s a question of taste, not of age,” said the designer, who filled his collection with new hybrid iterations pulled from his archives. Barrett is a minimalist with a discreetness to his work that spans both time and genre. It’s edgy in a sense, if you will, but at times feels deliberately toned down. He specializes in an ultra clean controlled simplicity, and it all makes sense when you see the designer emerge at the end of his show with a quiet, happy nod to the audience. In other words, this is not a designer who is a tortured soul. He might nod to underground and punk themes politely, but then carries on with his business in a zen-like manner.
Barrett’s work is thoroughly British, through and through, but you won’t find any obvious stereotypes of either upper class society or plaid clad anarchists. What you will find are his interpretations of biker cool, Teddy boys, blue-blood aristocrats, and other working class blokes. This collection in particular is a meditation on the artist, which is fitting, because art crosses over social boundaries and classifications. With so many bits and pieces of British character and subcultures, Barrett is saying look, all of these people, movements and economic brackets are part of British heritage and culture. At the same time, his clothing leaves room for the wearer to bring something new to the table. It can be hard to describe Barrett’s work at times because there’s always room to add more definition when you explore the details.
The collection seemed to fall into three parts: a sleek urban downtown creative commuter who wears sleek suiting and outerwear with edgy details and plenty of black; or a more playful individual who wears textural shearling, artsy sweaters, and vintage inspired overcoats; then there’s the sporty, western inspired mashup involving slightly cowboy-esque denim, yoke western shirts, and puffer coats in terracotta, royal blue, pine green, and a bright folksy red. Barrett designs real clothes for real people not just for fashion aficionados. His clothes are for anyone who appreciates exquisitely tailored, timeless pieces. Barrett is always thinking about what real people need, or artists in this case. Do they need to stay warm on public transport, or in a poorly heated industrial studio space? Do they need a minimalist wardrobe that says a lot and does a lot with very few pieces? Do they want to express themselves without screaming for attention? The answer is yes to all of the above. It’s a profound statement about working with what you have, and remixing it to find new forms of self expression.