March 26, 2010

Saks Fifth Avenue Hosts Details Magazine Party with Neil Barrett

Last night, I attended the Details Magazine party at the Saks Fifth Avenue Men's Store in San Francisco with guest of honor Neil Barrett. The event was much like the designer himself: casual and relaxed, yet chic and put together. I didn't expect this coming from a room of queens personalities, but there was a definite sense of calm that is a testament to Barrett's approachability. It was surprisingly easy to talk with the designer, as he gave his full attention to each of the many eager people surrounding him.

I noticed a change in Barrett's collections from seasons past. His menswear was consistently strong, but the womenswear collections were not as focused. It had androgynous elements but no true signatures like the mens collections. "I used to receive a lot of criticism for the womens collections. People kept saying I was designing for 'lesbians.' I had my assistants designing a lot of the womens collections, but I felt it was time for me to give it more attention or let it go completely," Barrett says. My question about where he draws inspiration for his womenswear was enthusiastically answered with stories about his good friend. Barret explains, "I have a friend that inspires me. She is incredibly chic and well-dressed, I want someone like her to wear my clothes." I do not remember his friend's name, but Barrett continued with more tales about his friend's childhood trio that grew up to be influential people in fashion that work at Celine and Ralph Lauren. Behind every good man, there is a good woman... for inspiration anyway.

"These past two collections, for both men and women, were all me. These were fully mine. I wanted to give the (womenswear) collections a more defined look, tailored and strong like the mens, but still sexy," Barrett proudly said. His past 2 collections really do belong to him. After playing lead designing roles with Gucci and Prada, Barrett began to design for his own eponymous line produced by the latter mega brand. In recent years, Barrett gained independence from Prada Group and Allegri and centralized production with Factory Srl in Tuscany who produces 90% of Neil Barrett's lines exclusively, including the Japanese brand BlackBarrett. Now the designer is excited about the future, and the cohesiveness of his new creations.

I was nervous to ask the generic question, "What type of man do you like dressing the most?" but Barrett quickly replied, "Justin Timberlake! He is the perfect man to dress right now. I did his last video with Madonna for 4 Minutes, and we are collaborating again for his next video." Barrett is no stranger to dressing celebrities, as leading actors like Ewan Mcgregor are loyal fans.

Seeing the Spring collection on the models was an added bonus for the night. Most of the outerwear pieces are double breasted. I am in love with the exaggerated gun flap that folds into a lapel. The rubberized treatment and leather used were the key looks of the collection, while a black, white, and gray color palette only adds to the wearability of the forward designs. The shoes also captured my interest. At first glance, the models looked like they were standing on the counters because the footwear was too small. But after examining them up close (after awkwardly asking and getting low to look), I saw that the shoes are slip-on's and I NEED THEM IMMEDIATELY.

At the end of the night guests were treated to Neil Barrett ties. I opened mine and received an all-black, slim tie, which I think represents why I became a Barrett fan in the first place. My love for Neil Barrett began when my entire wardrobe started to fade to black. The first piece I bought was a sleeveless tuxedo shirt with asymmetrical pleats at the chest. It is one of those pieces you see on the hanger and step back before approaching, afraid the mystique might be lost in different lighting. It is well made, expertly tailored, tasteful, and seasonless - just like everything else Neil Barret creates.

- jerome

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