MILAN, ITALY [JANUARY 17, 2015] – Neil Barrett’s evolution as a designer has called for a scalpel-sharp edit of anything that got in the way of his pursuit of precise perfection. It’s been an impressively single-minded journey, but ultimately restrictive. That’s why the green-shoots feel of his new collection was so encouraging. In fact, Barrett had gone back to move forward—back to his collections in the mid-noughties, when he found enchanting synchronicities between, say, stockbrokers and skinheads, or punks and the Amish. He used to love nothing more than a challenging hybrid.

The hybrid that shaped the collection he showed today was his tuxedo army from Fall 2006. Today’s first look featured an army bomber in a trompe l’oeil layer over a black coat; the last repeated the same effect in black rayon. In between there were variants on that composite theme—the parka that had khaki gabardine needle-punched to black wool, for instance. But Barrett also experimented with a new kind of composite: 30 percent of the collection was knitwear, with classic pieces, from jean jackets to Crombies, knitted rather than woven to create structured garments of a surprising and seductive softness. This was something new from a designer who has always been about the edge.

Mind you, the edge was still there. It was present in the drainpipe trousers that stopped mid-calf above bovver boots (Barrett’s genetic predisposition to military tailoring aside, skinhead style may well be his biggest influence) and in the bigkaboom! graphic woven into sweaters or appliquéd onto cropped leather jackets. So the hybrid that gave this collection its kick may well have been something that came into being between Barrett’s own past and present. And what comes next? Why, the future, of course.

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