In many ways, Barbour and White Mountaineering are two sides of the same coin. One’s a British heritage brand, focused on classic and functional outdoors clothing, the other is a hyper-modern Japanese fashion brand committed to offering a utilitarian and urban wardrobe. Same purpose, different audiences. Barbour, even though the jackets can be re-appropriated for a 21st-century style, is about quality and style seen from a pragmatic point of view. Mr. Yosuke Aizawa from White Mountaineering, who used to work for Rei Kawakubo of COMME des GARCONS fame before setting up his own brand in 2006, approaches the idea of functionalism with the help of innovative technology. These two aesthetic schools of thought make the Barbour x White Mountaineering ideal; here heritage and modernity come together in a streamlined and technical collection.
Barbour has looked towards Japan for collaborative partners before, not unsurprisingly the brand has had a hardcore fan base here for decades. Most notably the Tokihito Yoshida collections have furthered the South Shields-based brand’s image as a heritage brand not stuck in a maze of tradition but on the look out for likeminded creatives that can help propel the brand forward. The Spring/Summer 2015 collection, the first in a series of capsule collections, does just that. Intrinsically Barbour, the jackets are still tweaked enough to resemble White Mountaineering. Though the fabric looks like Barbour’s classic wax-coated cotton, Aizawa’s wash and treatment creates a new garment, with added versions of White Mountaineering’s characteristic camouflage. The result is a perfect balance between South Shield culture and Tokyo’s futurism.
What’s your relationship to Barbour?
I’ve been looking at Barbour as inspiration for ages, even when I was working for COMME des GARCONS. When I set up White Mountaineering I was constantly looking for good and strong brands to collaborate with and I think I found that in Barbour.
Did you or your family wear it?
My father was into fly fishing and military uniforms, so there was a lot of Barbour at home. And even if they didn’t all fit me I used to wear the jackets oversized. And the first thing I did once the Barbour collaboration was decided was to open up and check my father’s wardrobe… But by now it was mostly repair kits and membership club cards, and stuff like that. Also, most of his jackets were made for fly fishing and they are a lot shorter in the body to fit with the high-waisted wading trousers, so we couldn’t really use them for this capsule collection.
What was your objective with the collaboration, what did you want to achieve with the clothes?
Barbour has always been big in Japan but it’s often the traditional heritage styles they wear – I wanted to bring a new look, a new point of view on Barbour. In Tokyo, you’ll see the people wearing Barbour with raw denim Levi’s jeans and Alden shoes – I wanted to update that combination. Actually, you can keep the Levi’s and Alden shoes, but wear it with a Barbour x White Mountaineering jacket and all of a sudden it’s a completely new look. Whether you’re in South Shields or Tokyo, people see Barbour as a very classic brand. The purpose was to show that Barbour can be modern and that it can do new things in a different way. Also bringing it to new territories. For example, Barbour is now presenting at London Collections: Men in January.
How do you balance two such different brands?
It’s important not to put too much White Mountaineering design into it and to make use of the Barbour fabrics and details. More than a source of inspiration, it’s about blending White Mountaineering’s DNA with Barbour’s, that’s the secret to a good collaboration. I kept the pockets rounded but added angular and edgy details, which is more in line with White Mountaineering’s technical approach. There are elements of both brands present. It looks like Barbour from a distance but come closer and you can tell it’s White Mountaineering.
How would you describe the SS15 collection?
Though White Mountaineering is very technical, this collab was more about me learning from Barbour. For example, how to work with and print on coated fabrics is difficult. Especially as we also washed and treated them afterwards. I learnt a lot about that process. The print is inspired by the sea coast near South Shields. I wanted to see the environment of the area where Barbour is from. I really liked the breaking waves and the coast line reminded me of back home. We use a lot of camouflage in White Mountaineering so it made sense to come up with a new such pattern but one that was relevant to Barbour.
What are the key styles?
This Wave Mountain Parka – we kept the Barbour feeling and details. It’s waxed and washed fabric, the full camouflage print is very White Mountaineering in this instance. The biggest challenge was to think more about individual pieces as opposed to the full collection. Normally, with White Mountaineering, I have to think about full looks and for it to make sense on a catwalk. Here, it’s such a small collection that each piece really had to stand out and make sense. And maybe you have more ideas to play around with in a full collection, here there’s less ideas but they have to be better and work for more pieces.