Neil Barrett was born in Devon into afamily which, over the generations, has divided its talents between military service and military tailoring. Inheriting the tailoring gene, he enrolled at London's Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, graduating in 1986.
Barrett's career displays a pacy and impressive trajectory: he was menswear director of Gucci before launching Prada menswear in 1995, at the age of just 30. Now 40, he has had his own label for the last six years, and also boasts a high-profile collaboration with Puma that has pushed fashion's fusion with sportswear to new extremes. Through this relationship, he has dressed the Italian football team -- on-pitch and off.
Based in Milan, Barrett has earned his reputation as one of the most innovative and independent talents in contemporary menswear. Such high standing comes with a select fan base of A-listers with taste -- among them Brad Pitt, Ewan McGregor, Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo. Unlike the big labels, he hasn't got the cash to pay the stars to wear his clothes. They simply choose his designs because they understand the point of what he's done and love them.
Such widespread admiration is the hallmark of all his collections. When it first appeared, Barrett's Prada menswear label was considered not only groundbreaking but also the most desirable menswear brand of the late Nineties, because it was accessible, flattering and beautifully cut. Those garments were about perfection.
The Neil Barrett label is produced with sharp, quality design and detailing, with a signature lived-in, battered appearance -- the result of fusing classical tailoring with directional technology. Barrett instinctively understands what men want from their wardrobes: that it isn't about changing clothes every week -- it's about loving favourite pieces and wearing them to death. Enquiries: www.neilbarrett.com
> THE FIRST RULE OF DESIGN IS... always follow your instinct
> I FIRST STARTED... by following the family tradition of tailoring
> I GET MY INSPIRATION FROM... my surroundings
> IT IS IMPORTANT TO BE AN INDIVIDUAL BECAUSE... it drives you to achieve more in life
> I FIRST REALISED I WANTED TO BE A FASHION DESIGNER WHEN... it turned out to be the easiest subject I studied
> THE MOTHER OF INVENTION IS... Rei Kawakubo, founder of Comme des Garçons and the most inventive of all designers
> A GOOD IDEA... comes to you when you least expect it
> SPORTSWEAR IS... a word generically overused to describe anything not tailored
> THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WORKING FOR A LARGE COMPANY AND MY OWN COMPANY IS... responsibility
> INNOVATION IS KEY BECAUSE... it inspires
> UP CLOSE, MY DESIGNS... come to life, the attention to detail and proportion can be appreciated
> MEN LOOK BEST... when they appear not to have tried too hard
> I'VE ALWAYS BELIEVED... in pushing myself
> THE KEY TO DESIGNING AN ON-PITCH FOOTBALL STRIP FOR THE ITALIAN TEAM IS... understanding what they want
> THE BEST WAY TO RELAX IS... sleep
> MY FAVOURITE PERSONAL FASHION MOMENT IS... my first L'Uomo Vogue cover with Prada, shot by Bruce Weber
> THE SECRET OF SUCCESS IS... believing
> THE ESSENCE OF STYLE IS... being natural
> MY PERFECT HOLIDAY IS... sun, beautiful surroundings and friends
> ALWAYS... appreciate what you have
> NEVER... whinge about what you haven't got- just make it happen
By Joanne Glasbey