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Helen Barbour on 125 years of a British classic

Drapers speaks to Helen Barbour, vice-chairman of Barbour, as the heritage British brand launches its 125-year anniversary celebrations at Pitti Uomo

Helen barbour (3)

Helen barbour (3)

What is Barbour doing at Pitti?

We’re launching our 125th anniversary at Pitti. We started with a big event at London Fashion Week Men’s. We always do Pitti but we’ve done a bigger event this year for the anniversary.

Why is Pitti so important?

It’s the main international fashion event. We come for both seasons and it is good to be here. Italy has always been a really strong market for us. In the 1990s the market boomed and was literally off the charts. The Italians have always been real supporters of the Barbour brand.

How is the UK market?

We’re doing well. We’re very fortunate that we can look at our sales figures and ask: what recession? People love the brand.

Why is the brand successful and current in today’s market?

We’re not ridiculously priced and the quality is really good – and people know that. If they’re going to spend their money on something, possibly they want to spend it on something with longevity, quality and durability, and they see Barbour as a good way to spend their money, perhaps.

We’ve evolved with the times. Everything we’ve done and developed as a business has been organic, and is a reaction to what’s happening in the market. We’ve been very careful. It’s a very large company, but it is just my mum [Dame Margaret Barbour] and I who own it. We can make decisions and we know intrinsically what to do. My mother has been in the business 50 years, and I’ve grown up with the business. You get to know almost instinctively what’s the right thing to do for the business.

Are men are shopping differently now?

Personally, I think men’s grooming and their appearance have become so much more important over the past few years. With social media everyone is looking for the best selfie. There’s so much opportunity for you to be seen. Men are more conscious about how they look today.

Our men’s range has developed a lot since we began. It’s a little more trendy, attractive and on point. I think that’s down to the fact that it wasn’t until the late 1990s we used designers. My mum and the MD used to design stuff themselves. Now we have a full men’s, women’s and accessories design teams.

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