Over the past couple of years, a transformation has been afoot at the niche heritage brand Barrie. Working with two immutable constructs—cashmere and Anglo-Saxon roots—Barrie’s artistic director, Augustin Dol-Maillot, and his team have pushed the knit into new, everyday-wardrobe territory.
“We’re trying to take advantage of the differences cashmere offers to do unexpected things,” Dol-Maillot said during a showroom visit. “We’re taking a material that’s prized for warmth and comfort and trying to give it new structure, shapes and just the right fall.”
A “jean” jacket and a college-inspired varsity jacket were just the beginning. Some astonishing, how-do-they-do-that treatments included riffs on tartans, a lashing of trompe l’oeil, delicately-wrought tops, travel-friendly dresses, double-breasted suits, a check-and-floral tribute to the Scottish artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the occasional foray into the kind of psychedelic lettering that’s making a comeback these days. And, for the first time, men’s wear was part of the mix, spanning trousers and jackets in addition to sweaters and cardigans.
“The thing about knit is that you can’t add on, you have to work everything out in advance,” Barrie noted. “There’s something that feels kind of magic about it.” Indeed, there does seem to be something otherworldly going on. Plus such experimentations in comfort dressing come with a major fringe benefit: if Barrie has its way, we can say adieu to a certain school of “dressing down”—notably the kind one tends to run into on long-haul flights—for good.