Barbour White Label Spring/Summer ’21
Heritage Craftsmanship Meets Japanese Sensibilites
Words: Ali George Hinkins
When it comes to heritage outerwear brands, there aren’t many that rival the reputation of Barbour, the British label founded by John Barbour in the North East of England in 1894. In its lifetime, Barbour has amassed such a devoted following that there are various diffusion lines exclusively tailored to certain countries; one of them being their White Label, a range that is specifically designed for the Japanese market. The Japanese are such serious consumers of Barbour, partly a result of the attention to detail synonymous with the brand, that they devoted a line to them. For their Spring/Summer ‘21 collection, Barbour’s renowned craftsmanship meets a refined Japanese sensibility. Heritage sits at the forefront of the range, combined with an effortless minimalism synonymous with Japanese style.
The resulting ensemble is a complete wardrobe to outfit the wearer, from long sleeve polo tops and collaborative Mr Slowboy t-shirts to archive-inspired outerwear. Design cues such as waterproof fabrics, reissued archive pieces and an iconic, unmatched style are a fitting interpretation and homage to the British-label, while remaining in a lane of its own. As previously mentioned, White Label continues to pursue its collaborative relationship with artist and illustrator, Fei Wang, colloquially known by his Mr Slowboy tag, on a range of graphic t-shirts featuring exclusive artwork. The illustrations are a playful juxtaposition to the heritage-indebted pieces that form the majority of the Spring/Summer ‘21 delivery. Each figure depicted by Mr Slowboy dons their own instantly recognisable Barbour jacket complete with bellow pockets and metal studs.
Nestled away in South Shields, in the North-West of England, an area known for its industrial and manufacturing history that dates back to the 1400s, Barbour’s physical archive provides endless inspiration for enthusiasts and visiting designers. With a reputation such as Barbour’s to uphold, outerwear forms the backbone of any collection, and their Spring/Summer ‘21 range is no different. With such a rich archive to delve into – 127 years and counting – further reinterpretations are made to iconic outerwear silhouettes, such as the Bedale and Beaufort, which both come unlined making them slightly cooler and better suited to warmer months than their traditional, heavier counterparts. Designed by Dame Margaret Barbour and released in 1980, the Bedale jacket was initially meant for riding horses due to its shorter length and lighter weight, but you’re as likely to see it in a backstreet in Harajuku as you are on the bridleway in Cheshire. For White Label, the SL Unlined Bedale jacket is cut to a slimmer and more modern fit while retaining the silhouette and design characteristics of the original, such as lower bellow pockets and handwarmer pockets.
When the British icon was founded in 1894, John Barbour’s aim was to outfit fishermen, sailors and mariners to protect them from the unrelenting British weather, particularly in that part of the Isles with the proximity to the North Sea. Before Barbour popularised the use of waxed-cotton in protective clothing, garments were frequently made using oilcloth, on the whole, an inferior material that was prone to cracking, as well as being less waterproof and breathable. Five generations of Barbour later, the brand has transcended its workwear roots and become somewhat of a cultural icon that has been adopted by people from all walks of life – devote fashion-forward Japanese consumers to country dwellers. On public perception alone, their reputation as a heritage brand is undisputed, but they are holders of the three Royal Warrants for supplying waterproof and protective clothing to the Royal family. Shirts, knitwear, trousers, accessories and more are now in as much demand as their coveted outerwear pieces.
When it comes to style, the Japanese are fanatic, wholly devoted and – controversial comment incoming – the most style-conscious population on the planet. With this in mind, Barbour’s White Label, which debuted in 2019 under the name »Made for Japan«, is specifically tailored to the Japanese. White Label combines well over a century’s worth of traditional heritage and modern, slim fit silhouettes crafted using the same authentic construction that prides all Barbour garments. As opposed to mainline Barbour products that place an emphasis on heritage wear, White Label, commandeered by Ian Bergin, formerly of Paul Smith and longstanding director of menswear, footwear and accessories at Barbour, is more interested in the crossover with urban wear hence a move towards slimmer and boxier cuts. Bergin understands the pressures that come with working for a company with such a history, but recognises an untapped sector that is calling out for recontextualised Barbour products that pay homage to the brands archive.
Barbour White Label SS ’21 is available at HHV: Barbour White Label | HHV