“Our cashmere echoes the reality of the scenery”: Barrie are redefining cashmere between Paris and Hawick
By Alex James Taylor | Fashion | 9 March 2022

In many ways, the remote, historical Scottish town of Hawick couldn’t be much further from Paris. And yet the two locations have held a close bond ever since the 20s, when the Barrie knitwear mill began completing orders for Gabrielle Chanel, realising the Parisian designer’s iconic designs in luxurious, Scottish cashmere. Since then, the two brands have been intertwined, sharing an unwavering commitment to the finest fabrics and meticulous artisan craft.

In 2012, Chanel acquired Barrie, forging a deeper relationship that has since seen Barrie launch its own namesake line, designed by artistic director Augustin Dol-Maillot, who joined Chanel under Karl Lagerfeld at an early age. Between the Paris studio and Hawick factory, a totally unique creative conversation forms a vision that combines Barrie’s soft fabric and artisan craft with a contemporary runway vision: think trompe-l’oeil denim-cashmere and knitted bucket hats. At the forefront of contemporary cashmere design and innovation, Barrie are pushing their singular savoir-faire to new limits.

GALLERYBarrie SS22 / photography by Adeline Mai

Alex James Taylor: Your new SS22 collection is inspired by the joy of the outdoors and the Scottish countryside. I’m interested to know what you thought of Scotland and its landscape when you first visited, and how you hope to translate it through the collection?
Augustin Dol-Maillot: The first time I set foot in Scotland I immediately felt and saw what I had imagined from the research I had pursued and iconography I had seen through the years. I think Scotland is a very real place, true to the image it reflects. There are no artifices and the beauty of its landscapes is even more incredible than one can imagine. The landscapes are pure and raw, tough and soft at the same time. It’s exactly what we are trying to reflect through our clothes, our technicity and raw craftsmanship. Our cashmere echoes the reality of the scenery.

AJT: Can you talk us through some of the ways you mix Barrie’s heritage with your own contemporary vision within this collection?
ADM: I love the combination of great tradition and a very fast-moving vision of changing fashion. Our studio works closely with the factory, our creativity pushes the boundaries of technical possibilities, and the innovations feed our creativity. The Barrie factory, which has been active for more than a century in the Scottish Borders, is extraordinarily active in making the savoir-faire sustain, while bringing new techniques, such as computer programming, or state-of-the-art knitting machines. 

“I love the combination of great tradition and a very fast-moving vision of changing fashion”

AJT: Are there any unique technical aspects you’ve worked on for this collection or any details you’re particularly proud of?
ADM: For this summer collection, we have played on the aging process of the garments, with a ‘used’ effect on the denim pieces, strategically designed holes and fringes that mimick the natural evolution of a denim piece you’ve cut yourself or worn over time. We also played with mending on the ‘darning’ pieces, something  you can see on cashmere garments that are passed from generation to generation, which is to me as much a testament to durable fashion as a mark of love and care.

AJT: The cashmere denim has become something of a signature for you and Barrie, can you tell me about the thinking and process behind that?
ADM: Denim is timeless both for Barrie and the collective unconscious. I wanted to transpose it to the cashmere repertoire, with everlasting pieces that you keep for your whole life – in a version that’s more comfy as well as more luxurious. The Barrie denim pieces are a cashmere and cotton mix, and entirely thought as trompe-l’oeil; seams, pockets, buttons are there to respect the fit and spirit of a classic trucker jacket, jean, miniskirt or cutout shorts.

AJT: Having been at Barrie since 2018, how have you and the brand evolved in this time? What are the main differences you see between then and now?
ADM: The relationship with the factory is one of our biggest points of evolution. The conversation has gotten more fluid, we have learnt to speak the same language and we constantly try to push each other upwards. We have been able to identify a continuous thread, creating a DNA through every collection. There was also this Covid episode – from which we are still evolving – that accelerated this already growing trend of being comfortable in our clothes on a day-to-day basis. Knitwear, and especially cashmere is a choice for comfort as much as a will to buy more durable and precious pieces.

“I think Scotland is a very real place, true to the image it reflects. There are no artifices and the beauty of its landscapes is even more incredible than one can imagine.”

AJT: What feelings and emotions do you want each collection to conjure?
ADM: It’s about the softness and the emotion that the hands of our manufacturing team translates, rather than the technicity and the mechanical aspect of the manufacturing process. Also, there is always this notion of duality between  feminine and masculine codes represented through an opposition between the delicacy of the colours and patterns taken from the masculine register. We always try to create a certain stability and balance in-between colors and shapes. We also look for this balance between tradition, craftsmanship and contemporaneity: to reinterpret the traditional Scottish codes in order to adapt them to our own era.

Shop Barrie here.
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