"I have to do things in a masculine way." Astonishing how rare a sentiment this can be at a men's fashion week. But Neil Barrett makes no apologies. His Spring collection was a case study in fluidity made manly. The season has already sent several designers into a tailspin chasing lightness, often ending up in realms of soft nonsense. Not him. Barrett begins designing at the fabric level, a practice that costs him some eight to nine months in planning and nets him immeasurable reward. It's been a season of shorts, but Barrett's, swinging around his models' legs, managed to feel anything but swishy. He chalked it up to the fiber blends he tests and re-tests, rayon-Cupros and rayon-viscoses.
Guys and sport go hand in hand—at least according to a certain logic—and there was a strong athletic bent to the collection, with its varsity jackets, baseball jerseys, basketball shorts, and gym-class sweatshirts in cocooning neoprene. That also meant it skewed young. But picked apart, there was plenty for an older crowd—say, a designer customer base—to pick up. Barrett's obsessiveness pays dividends. His take on a regatta stripe is a case in point. He wove a version of it in fabric, then photographed and digitized it to create a print. Not happy stopping there, he sent the lot to a couture fabric mill (he won't say which) to weave into a degradé jacquard. Up close, it looked like it had been scratched by claws. "It has to be a bit fucked up," Barrett said. Tough talk. But the gray skies withheld rain until the moment the last look left the open-air runway. There's no surefire key to the will of the gods, but it's hard not to read something into that.