As British brands go, there can be few, if any, with a following as eclectic and famous as Barbour. Its waxed coats and jackets are the Queen’s familiar country staples and her look is emulated by pretty much all the royals, including stylesetter the Duchess of Cambridge.
It was Princess Diana who first brought the brand to the attention of the fashion world in the 1980s. In 2007, the likes of Lily Allen and Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys upped the cool factor when they began to wear waxed Barbour jackets for rain-sodden performances at Glastonbury and other festivals. Ever since, the Barbour has regularly been spotted on celebrities including Alexa Chung, Fearne Cotton, Daniel Craig (in Skyfall), Holly Willoughby, Jack Black, Tinchy Stryder… the list continues to grow.
Founded in 1894, the company began by selling oilskins to fishermen. Today, the fifth generation of the Barbour family still owns and runs the business from its South Shields headquarters, where the classic wax jackets continue to be manufactured. Chairman Dame Helen Barbour became head of the company in the late 1960s following the death of her husband, John Barbour, from a brain haemorrhage aged just 29. Her daughter Helen, vice chairman, has pioneered a number of collaborations, including with designers Bella Freud and Temperley, to ensure the brand maintains innovation, edge and surprise. There are ranges for men, women and children and, alongside the iconic waxed and quilted jackets, full clothing and accessory ranges offering distinctive, easy, quality-at-a-glance, off-duty style.
Available in High Street stores including John Lewis, House of Fraser, Fenwick and Topman, Barbour has 10 of its own shops in the UK (there’s one in Beverley), and is stocked in more than 40 countries worldwide including the US, Germany, Holland, Austria, France, Italy, Spain, Argentina, New Zealand and Japan.
Form meets function is an ethos that could have been invented for the brand. The Barbour design team is constantly sourcing new technical fabrics as well as new design influences so that its clothes continue to evolve to suit modern life.
“Collaborations are always something exciting for us as a brand,” said Barbour’s head of womenswear, Paget Billingsley. “It’s interesting to see a mix of the Barbour brand fused with another to create something new. We always make sure we have easily identifiable Barbour branding and detailing to reflect our Barbour heritage and DNA.
“Each season the design team sit down together and have a lot of fun going through our in-house archive and deciding what our focus is for the upcoming season. We use this as a basis to develop new designs with a nod to our Barbour DNA. We all live quite hectic lives. It’s important to us that we design clothes that work for us and our customers’ lifestyles.”
This season’s inspiration came from the British coastline and, to showcase the soft yet rugged marine shades and textures, the team headed down the coast to the old smuggling village of Staithes.
“The location shoots bring the collection to life and support us as a tool to help customers envisage the wider Barbour lifestyle,” said Paget.
As well as a troupe of professional models, Barbour enlisted the help of lifestyle bloggers Bonnie Rakhit and Sinead Crowe, who were photographed exploring Staithes and its winding streets, cottages and cafes. Bonnie runs the Style Traveller blog covering places to shop, eat and sleep when on your travels, while Sinead runs Love Style Mindfulness, a blog created to inspire readers to share their experiences and style.
“One of my favourite parts was just walking around the narrow, cobbled streets with the amazing handmade fudge we picked up from Cobbles fudge and ice cream shop,” said Sinead.
The two bloggers also popped in at Dotty’s Vintage Tearoom. “I loved everything about this place, from the vintage memorabilia, old school radios, neon lights, colourful lampshades hanging from the ceiling to the granny blankets and mismatched bone china tea sets your coffee and cake is served on,” said Bonnie.
So, what to expect? There are flattering silhouettes in outerwear, with waxes, quilts and waterproof styles with nautical signatures, plus fishermen-style chunky jumpers, checked pattern shirts and nautical prints taking inspiration from the North East coastline. All the encouragement you’ll ever need to plan that winter mini break.
The Coastal Collection is at Barbour.com.