When it's really working there's never so much a sexual confusion in Barrett's collections as a sense of style continuity.
It's always interesting to examine the wardrobes of Neil Barrett's men, and women. Usually, there's a great deal of crossover - she borrows from him, sometimes he filches from her. But when it's really working there's never so much a sexual confusion in Barrett's collections as a sense of style continuity. There's a classicism about his best work that means they look great on both sexes.
For his Autumn/Winter 2012 menswear collection, Barrett rejigged mid-century haute couture staples - the volume, say of a fifties Balenciaga sack-dress or sixties Givenchy opera-coat - for a masculine wardrobe. For his womenswear collection, he decided to translate that back into the female wardrobe - taking along some of the practicality and pragmatism of the male incarnation, but sexing it up just a little bit. The shoes told the story - a hiking-boot cross-bread with a tasselled loafer, then stacked on a cylindrical heel. All the ingredients were masculine, but something bumped it all up to scream woman.
The hefty duffles and parkas of Barrett's menswear were back in force, in the moire-etched wools that made them so memorable. But here they were worn over sinuous draped trousers in crepe de chine, halfway between a sarouel and a sweatpants. Sometimes brief skirts added volume, picked up by the firm, short coats which were occasionally doubled-up for effect: the storm flaps and sleeves of a trench were sliced into a bolero that could be worn, or perched on the shoulders. That was echoed in the cape style of the evening dresses, a sleek narrow column of fabric falling from the shoulders over a slender skirt. They weren't exactly masculine, but there was a no-nonsense quality, a strict minimalism to them that chimed with the more manly elements of this show.
The palette of Barrett's menswear was exceptional, and it bore repeating: hematite grey, merlot burgundy, cinnamon and camel. In wools, cashmeres and gabardine, these garments added up to a solid, succinct and succulent addition to women's dress for next season.