Fall collections are starting to finally trickle into stores and one that’s caught my interest is this new collaboration line between Barbour and Norton & Sons. Barbour ended their arrangement with Japanese designer Tokihito Yoshida last season (though Yoshida purportedly checked out well before that). Given how celebrated that line was, I’ve been curious to see where Norton & Son’s Patrick Grant will take it next.
The pieces are actually quite nice in person, but you would never know it from looking at websites. The problem is that none of the line’s good qualities come through in photographs. Whereas Yoshida’s jackets had complex designs and unique details (some would say “fakakta pockets”), the new incarnation is extremely simple – almost to a fault. There are few things that would capture your imagination if you were just scrolling through pictures in an online store, so you really have to try these on in person to see whether you’d like them (I know Barney’s is carrying the line this fall, but I don’t know which other brick-and-mortars).
The strength of the line is in the fabrication. The jackets, for example, have a real heft and sturdiness to them, and the materials make for nice, rugged silhouettes. There are also details, such as hidden layers underneath plackets, that sometime reveal themselves as folds in the lapel. Additionally, the low-gauge knitted sweaters are remarkably thick and warm. Some are a bit rough, such as the Shetlands, while others are quite plush, such as the rollnecks. You would never know any of this from photos though, and so far, all the online marketing has been fairly poor. The lookbook seen here gives the best view of the collection, but there are only four images and one is cropped from the chest up (who made that decision?). Photos from online stockists are worse, as they look like they were taken out of utility-wear mail order catalogs.
Not everything in the collection is great. This waxed coat, for example, is a bit too stiff and columnar to be flattering, in my opinion. On the other hand, the Barra jacket (available in sandstone and navy) would look nice with a pair of jeans or some beat up corduroys, and the Guernsey-inspired pattern on the Baleshare crew knit would do well layered underneath … well, a Barbour jacket. As with much of the line, that sweater unfortunately doesn’t photograph well. You can’t see the pattern in many stock images, and Oki-Ni (the one place where you can appreciate the pattern) for some reason pulled the sweater so far down that it looks like a women’s knit (in reality, the hem can stop at the hips, like a regular men’s sweater). My guess is that the poor presentation will result in every piece making it to end-of-the-season sales, and at half off, some of these will be great buys.