Power house

Neil Bar­rett on his new Milan base

Wallpaper - - March - Por­trait: Piotr Niep­suj Pho­tog­ra­phy: al­berto strada writer: dal Chodha

An in­dus­trial shell with style.’ That’s what Bri­tish de­signer Neil Bar­rett was look­ing for when he needed a new head­quar­ters. He set up his name­sake la­bel at the turn of the mil­len­nium, after al­most a decade work­ing for Ital­ian megabrands Gucci and Prada, and he ini­tially bought a small stu­dio big enough for a team of five. But, by the end of 2016, he was head­ing up a global fash­ion brand with a staff of more than 80, who found them­selves spread across seven dif­fer­ent build­ings on Via Savona, in south west Milan. It was time to find big­ger quar­ters.

Bar­rett found his in­dus­trial shell with style in a for­mer power plant on Milan’s Via Cere­sio. It then took two years for ar­chi­tects Bar­bara Ghi­doni, Marco Donati and Michele Pasini – of Stor­age As­so­ciati – to turn this 538,200 sq ft build­ing into an HQ. Its vast, white foyer de­buted as the back­drop to Bar­rett’s S/S18 joint menswear and womenswear show last June.

The ar­chi­tects’ brief was to cre­ate some­thing that was clean but with warmth – not a stag­nant mon­u­ment to min­i­mal­ism, but a space in con­stant mo­tion. Here, Bar­rett and his team work on a cease­less flow of col­lec­tions that takes in menswear and womenswear, sports­wear, ski and gym clothes, plus a newly launched chil­drenswear line, as well as re­tail con­cepts and op­er­a­tions. Noth­ing sits still.

The ar­chi­tects used the foun­da­tions of the power plant like a skele­ton, plac­ing a num­ber of boxes within it. Both sides are flooded with nat­u­ral light, thanks to glazed façades – the orig­i­nal wooden frames have been re­mod­elled in black alu­minium. Across two large floors stand banks of glass-pan­elled of­fices, set away from the front win­dows; two cubed meet­ing rooms with thick glass fronts hover on iron beams. In­side sit cur­va­ceous chairs and ta­bles in ex­otic skins by Paris­based hus­band and wife team Yiouri and Ria Au­gousti.

‘The con­cept was to cre­ate holes of light and el­e­ments that give the feel­ing of graphic ar­chi­tec­ture,’ Pasini says. ‘It made sense to use fewer ma­te­ri­als and a re­duced colour pal­ette in a space that will change over time.’ Strik­ingly, the edges of the colos­sal con­crete walls have a bumpy, ar­ti­sanal grain, tem­per­ing the build­ing’s sever­ity. ‘This is a space where the team will work and the brand will de­velop, so we wanted to cre­ate a kind of soft­ness. The walls will age over time. It’s like an ar­chi­tec­tural in­ter­ven­tion,’ adds Pasini.

‘The larger studios can also be com­part­men­talised de­pend­ing on the work­flow,’ he con­tin­ues. With the pre­ci­sion of an ar­chi­tect, Bar­rett sub­tly di­vides the space while over­see­ing is­lands of ac­tiv­ity. At the height of the sea­son, the de­sign floor is sec­tioned off with large move­able grey foam board, onto which re­search, technical draw­ings and fab­ric swatches for each cat­e­gory of the col­lec­tion are pinned. ‘It’s about hav­ing ev­ery­thing on show dur­ing the sea­son so ev­ery­one can be more au­ton­o­mous,’ says Bar­rett.

Ev­ery­thing is kept within eye­shot. ‘I dis­like hav­ing to ask peo­ple for in­for­ma­tion, so I’d rather be able to find it my­self. And I find that works bet­ter for my team, too, so you can ac­tu­ally ap­ply what you have in your mind to what you are do­ing.’

Fuss is kept well hid­den. Fine slits that hover un­der­neath the ceil­ing con­ceal air-con­di­tion­ing units. The brand’s archives are stored in­side deep cup­boards dis­guised as walls. Com­puter and phone ca­bles are sucked into the cen­tre of desks and plugged di­rectly into cus­tom-made boxes that cover sock­ets on the floor. Wear­ers of Bar­rett’s tai­lored clothes come to him for this very same re­straint and rigour. ‘The con­cept of hid­ing all the func­tions came from Neil’s at­ti­tude,’ Pasini says. ‘He likes to have ev­ery­thing clean.’

When de­sign­ing, Bar­rett puts to­gether tight colour pal­ettes and fab­ri­ca­tions, edit­ing as much as pos­si­ble down to the work­ing es­sen­tials. The ma­te­ri­als used through­out his HQ re­flect that, too – the graphic shadows that trip across the walls and floors as the day passes bring to mind one of Bar­rett’s iconic neo­prene sweaters or in­tar­sia knits. ‘There are more win­dows than there are walls – so the light brings the build­ing to life,’ Bar­rett says. ‘At any time of day, you can look from any di­rec­tion and you will find a beau­ti­ful frame. The ar­chi­tects have trans­lated my de­sire for geo­met­ric per­spec­tives, that ir­reg­u­lar bal­ance.’∂

‘There are more win­dows than there are walls – so the light brings the build­ing to life’

above, in the meet­ing rooms at neil bar­rett’s new hq are arm­chairs, ‘pea­cock’ side ta­bles and an ‘eva’ vase by ria and yiouri au­gousti

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.