There was once a period in Parisian haute couture where the sexes were divided across the topography of a client's body. Women crafted the flou, the untailored pieces running the gamut from the simplest blouse to the grandest ball gown. Men, on the other hand, cut and tailored the coats, jackets and suits - a young man named Pierre Cardin was the hand behind the padded and bombasted shantung-silk palette of Christian Dior's iconic 1947 'Bar' suit, for instance.
Apologies for that historical preamble: the point is, if Neil Barrett were alive and cutting his gib in the 1950s, it's likely Cristobal Balenciaga would have snapped him right up. Barrett cuts a mean coat - he always has. It's a foundation of his label's success. Another foundation is that he rarely, if ever, does anything to clutter it up. Barrett likes to keep it lean, mean and simple - but, of course, simple from far is far from simple. His knowledge of that maxim is where his strength lies. Example: in a season dominated by forceful outerwear, Barrett's leather-bound oversized parkas in devore wool and cocooning overcoats stood out. In the case of the latter, that was quite literally the case, their sculptural, architectural form soaring away from the body. They looked a little like mid-century Balenciaga - in fact, they were dead ringers for the sort of thing those brittle society mavens wore to lunch at La Cote Basque with the Duchess of Windsor. Sixties couture was Barrett's inspiration, and while that reference and it's silhouette has fast become a womenswear staple, it suddenly looked new when shrugged on by Barrett's skinny, wan-faced boy-army.
The clothes really acted as a foil for the coats, stick-thin cropped trousers and heavy workman boots shrugging off the couture allusions of sack-backs and seven-eighths sleeves and bringing them bang down to earth. Often those volumes looked more youth cult than haute couture, alluding to the all-enveloping anoraks of Mods, one of Barrett's favourite aesthetic stomping-grounds. That was also the undeniable take away from the tight, single-breasted suits that clamped the torso, and a colour palette of monochrome wools with flashes of French navy and oxblood. They were desirable too, a healthy retail back-up. But, truth be told, it was those spectacular coats that stole this show. Every single one was a winner.