June 21, 2008
If you want the essence of Spring 2009 on Milan's catwalks, you could look to the title Neil Barrett gave his latest collection: Sartorial Gymnast. Barrett has always loved a hybridrecent themes include Tuxedo Ski and Visconti Punkand he was originally going to call this one "Breton Gymnast." Brittany lingered on in the navy striped blazer over striped tee toward the end of the show, but "Sartorial" made more sense, considering how fundamental extreme tailoring is to the Barrett ethos. The designer took Milan's current fusion of sportiness and formalwear to a logical extreme by making high-performance jersey fabrics the foundation of the collectionfor jackets, pants, even a peacoat. Barrett can be an unforgiving body-con, but the material gave his signature leanness a little leeway. And the iconography of gymnastics introduced some appealing new visual elements into his vocabulary, primarily the graphic color scheme. It was intriguing to see how effortlessly Barrett's inspiration dovetailed, once again, with his own particular style fixations. Who knew that gymnasts and skinheads had so much in common? The collection also left us with another cliff-hanger for next spring: Will real men take to stirrup pants?