As part of the Brand Spotlight series, we caught up with Ian Bergin, Design Director at one of the the most iconic British brands, Barbour, to talk about deep-rooted brand values and challenges of keeping brand heritage and reimagining designs for the modern world.
Initially a brand synonymous with country living, Barbour has now expanded to extensive lifestyle collections – how do you maintain the connection with the label's heritage roots?
"Barbour was established in 1894 by Scotsman and entrepreneur John Barbour. The brand has always stood for ruggedly constructed, serviceable clothing, which in its purest form is design through function and to meet the rigours of its intended end use. We stick to these values in everything we do as we continue to evolve our offering as a brand."
Tell us about your artistic process – do you have a defined starting concept for each collection or does this develop over time?
"Barbour has two main seasonal collections per year – spring/summer and autumn/winter. Each season, as part of our design research, we revisit our archives (we are lucky to have access to the Barbour catalogues right back to 1908) for inspiration for new stories for our collections. For spring/summer 2017, we have taken fresh stories from our country, tartan and military heritage to create new collections. For Barbour International, the inspiration comes from our motorcycle history, which goes back to 1936."
Are there any particular themes that run throughout your creative work?
"A nod to our archive and bringing intelligent subtle design to a wide customer base."
How would you describe the Barbour aesthetic in three words?
"At Barbour, we often talk about wit, grit and glamour, and for me, this sums up the aesthetic. It’s about resilience, determination and the desire to succeed whatever challenges and obstacles are put in your way, but at the same time doing it with a sense of humour and not taking yourself too seriously.
Our customers know exactly what to expect from Barbour – the clothes will always be of the highest quality, practical and fit for purpose. Many Barbour jackets have been passed down from generation to generation and they become a part of family life and evoke memories of events and times in a person’s life. Our brand stands for something real. Beautifully crafted rugged clothing is at its heart as it always has been since 1894."
Iconic pieces like the wax jacket have now been reinvented with a modern twist – what's the most challenging aspect of reimagining these items?
"The beauty of Barbour is its timeless classic style and sense of freedom. It can be discovered and worn by all ages in many different ways. Our customers choose to wear the brand for many reasons – whether it’s for shooting or equestrian activity, working in the country, urban living or looking good at a festival, there’s a choice of styles and designs to suit all requirements.
Along with my team, I design for this wide spectrum of customers. This gives us the opportunity to develop collections that remain true to our roots, but depending on the customer they are aimed at, we can design a product that is cut to a more fitted shape with more intricate details. The term ‘heritage brand’ can be a bit of an overused term, but there’s a deep pride in our history and in our expertise throughout our business and that’s very addictive and motivating when you join this type of brand. It’s great to be a part of something where there is a genuine feeling of public affection."
What’s your style essential for the spring/summer season?
"A light waterproof breathable jacket for those inevitable spring showers – we’ve just developed a range called Weather Comforts specifically for this purpose, so that you’re never caught short in the unpredictable English weather."