Have You Heard of Barrie? The Chanel-Owned Knitwear Brand is Making Cashmere for The Next Generation
When Chanel’s unlikely love affair with Scotland officially began in 2012, some might have been confused as to why the whole of fashion troupes descended onto Edinburgh for Karl Lagerfeld’s Métiers d’Art Pre-Fall 2013 show. The spectacular destination show at the Linlithgow castle actually came on the back of the announcement that the French Maison added a heritage Scottish cashmere mill to their roster of artisans under the joint name of Paraffection, which already included Maison Michel hatmakers and embroidery experts at Lesage. Founded in 1903 in Hawick, Barrie was a knitwear factory specialising in production of cashmere garments which worked with Gabrielle Chanel during the 1920s. After acquiring the mill in 2012 and injecting a whole new life to the company, Chanel launched Barrie as a standalone brand before assigning a member of Chanel’s own design team the role of artistic director. Still in his twenties, Augustin Dol Maillot was presented with a big task of changing the public’s idea of the heritage name and steadily shift the conservative direction of Barrie’s identity. In his second collection for the brand, for AW19, he extended the offering onto menswear. But instead of creating a totally separate pieces, he curated the women’s selection in a slightly more masculine way. Dol Maillot continues to work on the sporty side of Chanel today, but his goal with Barrie is to create a new world of cashmere, and provide a full wardrobe that appeals and communicates to a younger generation of luxury shoppers.
When we meet him at the opening of Barrie’s new retail venture, the designer talks us through his latest, SS20 collection which continues some of previous ideas and introduces some new ones. Contrasting stitches and familiar silhouettes create trompe-l’oeil effects of cashmere looking like other everyday materials. A blue twinset with subtle rips references a denim Canadian tuxedo, while bandana print dresses present a classy nod to noughties fashion. There’s a clear sensibility of a youthful approach – this isn’t just a story of a designer trying to appeal to a new audience. Dol Maillot is aware of what this generation dresses like because he’s part of it. At the same time, the brand’s offering continues to respect the more mature members of the customer base, with classic knits and a core collection of cashmere staples scattered throughout each collection. In his own words, this is still a “work in progress,” with plenty of space for change in the future. However, the French designer also looks back to the brand’s Scottish heritage for inspiration as he references traditional emblems and graphics of thistle flowers in a playful way. You can even get a cashmere bucket hat at Barrie, in a cheeky nod to contemporary streetwear culture.
As part of the brand’s expansion, Barrie also just moved from their small space inside the Burlington Arcade and opened a new shop on London’s Conduit Street. Across two levels and 140 square metres, a wonderful cashmere haven holds a teleportation feeling of taking you into the depths of Scotland. Even the stairs leading to the basement are covered in a soft tartan patchwork carpet, in tribute do the brand’s hometown. There’s a definite chalet vibe about this place, with granite stone swathing the floor and heavy wooden panels popping up throughout. Allowing the best of tradition to live on while audaciously incorporating forward-thinking ideas of what cashmere can become, Augustin Dol Maillot’s Barrie is a name to watch and invest in right now.
The new Barrie store is now open at 55a Conduit Street in London.