Head of menswear Ian Bergin explains what makes this enduring brand appeal to every generation
Barbour menswear in three words is practical, rugged, iconic. Our young customer wears Barbour in their own way; our lifestyle customer loves the fact that we’re a British company associated with the countryside; and our traditional consumer still wants value, quality and tough, serviceable garments.
Barbour is a beacon of consistency in a fast-paced modern world. There’s a solidity and a sense of values driven through the business from the Barbour family. Barbour really is a national treasure – there’s a huge sense of satisfaction in being a part of that story.
I learned many things that I still use today from Sir Paul Smith. I worked my way up from his shop floor and was there for 12 years. His motto is ‘never assume’, and he always used to ask, ‘Are you looking hard enough?’ Later, I ran my own business and created brands with friends.
The Barbour offices are just as practical as our designs. Our workspace is industrial in style because we work with a lot of garments. Decisions are always made by looking at the clothes themselves, not illustrations or mock-ups. We have a large work table that we can all sit around, where we cut patterns or discuss garments.
We regularly refer to our archives because we have more than 300 jackets dating from 1910 to the present day. We reinterpret ideas from the past for a modern customer. For example, our waterproof, breathable garments are true to our brand DNA – the wax and the quilting – but offer a modern way to wear Barbour.
Fabric innovation is so important. An example is our new ‘dry wax’. Normal wax is a mixture of hydrocarbons (wax) and oil, which is pushed into the cotton. ‘Dry wax’ is simply that – there’s no oil, so a different effect is created. The finish is stiffer and it looks authentic due to its aged look. It’s also hard-wearing and water-resistant.
We’ve made motorcycling garments for more than 100 years. In 1936, they were pulled into a brand when we began supplying racing suits for the International Six Days Trial. This brand, Barbour International, has the same DNA as Barbour – wax, corduroy, tartan, metal zips and studs – but the garments are designed to suit motorcycling. There are stand collars and straps that work with helmets, belts to bring in the garment for warmth and pivot sleeves for ease of movement.
We have big plans for the future. We’re working on a combination of rugged motorcycle-style clothing with sportswear fabrication, and creating a sharp new capsule collection called Sport. It’s an exciting area.
My creative heroes come from many spheres. I admire Paul Smith for his flair, and [Nike shoe designer] Tinker Hatfield personifies creative thinking. Dare Jennings is a great entrepreneur: he created Mambo in the 1980s and Deus Ex Machina, the Australian bike brand.
Our summer collection has all the usual Barbour favourites in lighter, washed wax cottons, alongside more technical waterproof, breathable pieces, plus summer polos, crew-neck jumpers and accessories. My favourite is the Heritage Washed Bedale jacket –it’s a summer take on one of our most famous pieces.
I love the British seaside in the summer – from the Northumbrian coast to Norfolk’s resorts. I like walking in the Lake District or Peak District before the crowds arrive, watching the mist evaporate over the valleys. I also enjoy eating that first chip out of newspaper on a cool summer evening, and a gin and tonic in the garden.