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During the recent London Collections: Men show, we sat down with Barbour‘s Design Manager Gary Janes and White Mountaineering‘s Designer Yosuke Aizawa to ask them about their upcoming Spring 2015 collaboration collection, as well as the platform that held its unveiling. The range — a follow-up to their Fall/Winter 2014 collection — included variants of Barbour’s classic waxed cotton jackets, shirts, raglan-sleeve blousons, shorts and more, where White Mountaineering’s aesthetic and attention to detail add a more “designer” approach to Barbour’s utilitarian outerwear. Read on to learn why and how the project came to be, as well as what their future plans are together.
“It’s important to have environments where people feel safe to showcase ideas without too much of a commercial bent.”
Janes on LC:M as a platform
What are your thoughts on LC:M as a platform?
Janes: I think it’s always important to have environments where people feel safe to showcase ideas without too much of a commercial bent. Newness is important for fashion, but there isn’t always a collective outlet for individuals to bring it in, and so they need a helping hand in that respect.
Aizawa: I think LC:M is very different from the Milan and Paris fashion weeks as it gives a lot of chances to new designers – during my time here I’ve found it is a bit similar to Tokyo Fashion Week in that respect.
How did this partnership happen?
Aizawa: When we got to Barbour’s hometown in South Shields, we were able to visit their archives and the surrounding area, and that’s where I got a lot of inspiration from. There’s a lot of history around the brand, so I tried to mix in aspects of White Mountaineering while protecting the details and heritage of Barbour.
How were both Barbour’s heritage aesthetics and White Mountaineering’s use of modern and technical fabrics incorporated into the collection?
Aizawa: We focused on retaining the patterns and shapes that are synonymous with Barbour while updating them a bit with the prints and patterns from White Mountaineering.
Janes: We were fortunate to come into contact with White Mountaineering via an agency in Japan called Yagisusho. Thomas had worked with them for a couple of jackets for Barbour so we thought it was a good fit. The approach was made in Japan initially, and then we invited Thomas and Yosuke over.
We’re really glad that Yosuke has that practicality, but also a designer’s mind so he knows the rules and can change them up. For example, we’re known for waxed fabrics and he’s done something completely different using those. He’s also introduced some new cuts while retaining the essence of Barbour. He’s made a nice blend between East & West, traditional & modern.
“It was good to have a framework to work within, so adding on to an existing base was both challenging and interesting at the same time.”
Aizawa on designing for Barbour
Could you talk a bit about the new contributions Yosuke brought to the collection?
Janes: The way we see it is we’re always better off from working together. Barbour weren’t trying to quash what he brought to the table. We were quite open while trying to keep certain things Barbour-like as with the use of waxed fabrics. The one thing we’ve really limited is the colors to keep the size of the range tight.
Did you have a theme in mind when designing for Barbour?
Aizawa: For me it was really important to adding something while retaining the Barbour image and details. If we kept changing it and trying making it keep edgy each time, Barbour’s heritage might have gotten lost in there.
It was good to have an existing framework to work within, so adding on to an existing base was both challenging and interesting at the same time.
How was the process of creating this collection, collaboratively speaking?
Janes: We do have a distance between us. The first idea was to get together to see if it was fit. So, Thomas and Yosuke came over and we looked around the archive and that’s when we knew we were good together. Once we established that trust, we decided that Yosuke could present us with ideas; we’d review them and then go from there. Actually, my involvement in this was to manage this through; not to come up with new ideas, but to realize Yosuke’s.
Because there’s a mutual respect between us, it was very natural. He’s shown us photos of his dad wearing Barbour jackets so there’s a history there. and can bring something new to to the table.
“The first season is a lot like fireworks in that it’s exciting and very important to establish presence for the brand.”
Aizawa speaks about his experience
Could you detail what stands out in this collection?
Janes: What I would point out most of all is this jacket because of the print on a collar. From a distance it’s supposed to look like camo, but up close, it’s actually waves like in a Hokusai painting and integrated into the waves is Barbour’s oldest brand – the Beacon brand from 1904.
From there, it’s a smaller cut than a typical Barbour jacket but with the signature details like triple stitching, leather inserts and eyelets, but with Yosuke’s contribution, which was
laser-cut waxed pockets.
Aizwa: Especially with the shorts, the pockets are actually from the jackets. The jacket is a strong part of the Barbour collection, so I chose to mix that in throughout the collection.
Was the East meets West dynamic a conscious decision?
Aizawa: It was actually quite natural how it came about because I wasn’t thinking about Japan that much in the beginning, but when we went there, we went to the coast almost up to Scotland and we really found the coastal landscape was very similar to Japan. Both Japan and the UK have common points both as island nations and with respects to their natural connection with the ocean. I wanted to use that, so that’s where the waves came in.
Why the Beacon line in particular?
We used the Beacon line, our foremost line, to symbolize it was new in the collection as well as because it (the lighthouse) has represented our brand for 130 years.
Are there any plans to work in the future?
Janes: Because this is a summer collection, we’ll naturally want to do a winter collection as that’s where Barbour works better. We’re working on a winter collection at this point in time and then see where we go. We have a two-year contract, so there’s definitely room for a story to develop, but we’d like to make it bigger from there.
Aizawa: The first season is a lot like fireworks in that it’s exciting and very important to establish presence for the brand, but to really create and continue a line going forward is the most challenging and interesting part. We’d like to take a heritage brand like Barbour and further orient it with current fashion.