The more convincing Neil Barrett tried to be about the essential minimalism of his clothes, the more the subtly intense luxury of his new collection contradicted him. Of course, minimalism and luxury aren't mutually exclusive. You only have to use fabrics as lush as the caramel-colored pony that Barrett cropped into a precise little jacket, or the double-face rayon whose rich, dry hand turned a plain old blouson into a thing of gotta-have-it beauty.
But Barrett's collection was about so much more than fabulous fabric. Minimalism be damned, there was a wealth of detail here. The hand-stitched leather ribbing on the cuffs and hem of that pony jacket; the ruff of plissé sneaking out from under an irregularly pleated pelmet skirt; the quilted leather chevrons on a blouson; the bonded velvet on a sweatshirt…they were artful touches that highlighted the difference a genuine design sensibility can make to an ordinary piece of clothing. "As much texture as I can include in a neutral, contained palette," was the designer's own measured rationale for a piece as complex as the biker that combined pony, leather, and wool in a geometric collage, or the fencing-vest-like breastplate in off-white python that he laid under a white coat in boiled wool. That breastplate was actually a trompe l'oeil insert that was Velcro-ed under the coat, in the same way that a trompe l'oeil skirt appeared under a cinched coat, or a lapel "scarf" was layered under another coat. Sounds tricksy, but it looked great.
It's always Barrett's ambition with his women's collection to prove that he can literally transpose his menswear. That he succeeded so well this season obviously had something to do with the fact that he was coming off such a strong offering for men, but it ultimately had more to do with the gender-immaterial power of the pieces themselves. He claimed "minimal" and "modernist," but "deluxe seduction" rang truer.