Neil Barrett's SS13 collection occupied, with admirable presence, a room rumoured to have been Chopin's practice space. His womenswear appeared at ease in the opulent setting. Rather than projecting pretension or insolence, Barrett's clothes embodied a sense of natural grace and poise inside the theatrically gilded interior with its slightly tobacco-stained ceiling mural of a bright blue sky. Although his clothes could easily float from there, to a cafe, to a gallery or office without any incongruity, the setting complimented his collection's core values.
Barrett's clothes are designed for women who inherited Katharine Hepburn's iconically slouching posture, androgynous aesthetic and formidable character, his designs defined by their wearability, flexibility, convenience and sensuality. His thin leather teen-shirts and cape-back dresses are designed to resemble a coat casually thrown over the wearer's shoulders. A trim tan trench-coat comes in two parts – a bolero jacket and sleeveless, belted body. Every item is intended to offer aid for highly-kinetic, cerebral women who demand that their garment be as supportive as mens' suits.
Here, the British-born designer invites us into his stunning show-space to offer his insights into his ideal wearer and her needs.
Dazed Digital: How do your clothes effect the way women move? Neil Barrett: All my fabrications are sculptural and architectural, in subtle fabrics, so they flow beautifully. I think that my garments, when static, look very masculine but they are feminine when worn because they float on the body. When women wear them, they move gracefully.
DD: What have you observed are the main cultural differences between how French and British dress and what they want from clothes? NB: British women project a cool nonchalance. They don't want to appear to be trying too hard, whereas French women are effortlessly elegant.
DD: Tell us about your choice of palette. Why have you selected this particular range of colours? NB: I am a big believer in black and white. I feel they are right for this moment in time. They, and my monochromatic shades, allow the design and form to really stand-out. The petrol, white, tan and dusty jade allow the garments' cut to come through.
DD: Ultimately, what do you hope that your clothes will provide for your wearers? NB: I design to give my girlfriends the things that they lack but need. I want them to have slouchy, chic and comfortable clothes.