February 06, 2006
Neil Barrett couldn't have picked a better moment to debut his women's collection. Suits are in the ascendancy, and this Milan-based British menswear designer cuts a mean one. For fall, he worked two themes: formal eveningwear and the army. That translated into trim black coats inset with satin cummerbunds (a timely detail given fashion's ongoing obsession with the waist), curving pencil skirts with tuxedo stripes, and lapel-less jackets, all tailored with a military precision. Slim pants with a sexy swagger were a highpoint, especially for those of us who miss Helmut Lang. Structure is Barrett's calling card, but he didn't lose his sense for proportions when he did soft, belting a boat-neck sweater over a flaring double-layer skirt. His last looka pleated cocktail dress with a trompe l'oeil effectwas the most feminine of the bunch, perhaps indicating where this talented designer will take his womenswear next.