Welcome back to the tenth feature from the Collective Series by The Idle Man. Where we meet up with interesting men who either work in the creative industry, or we just admire the work they do. Styled in our most recent collections, drops, and written in the words of our Editor Georgia Jackson, read the full feature below as we believe it's more about what we do, rather than what we wear. This feature was shot at the Barbour HQ in South Shields with the Director of Menswear & Accessories, Ian Bergin. To shop the products Ian is wearing just simply click the images.
Meet Ian Bergin, the man behind the designs of menswear at Barbour, as Director of Menswear & Accessories Ian envisions his own creations for the two season releases which Barbour has each year. After drawing out his designs, he then watches his ideas come to life making their way to our wardrobes. Ian has been involved with Barbour for nine years, designing and creating each seasons clothing for menswear, boyswear, footwear and accessories. Ian has been in the fashion business for the majority of his career, sharing one of his career highlights was working on the designs for Paul Smith as a brand director.
For 125 years and passing down five generations, Barbour is a staple brand when it comes to British fashion. Starting out as J. Barbours and Sons, the brand has never lost the essence of its heritage. Keeping true to its core family business, espousing the unique values of the British countryside. From their traditional wax jackets which are still to this day manufactured in Simonside, South Shields, to their footwear and accessories becoming more popular than ever. Ian has taken in the history of Barbour and since his time at the company, he has weaved many creative designs which have always remained true to the brand's heritage.
Surprisingly, even though Ian has achieved a very high role in the fashion industry with a respectable brand, fashion wasn’t always where the fashion forward designer’s heart always lied. After studying Politics at University, he worked as an electrician in Buckinghamshire, after paying off his student debts he had a turn of fate when looking for a proper job, falling into the hands of Paul Smith handling all footwear. After his time at Paul Smith, working his way up to a Directorship role, he was head-hunted by Barbour, and from there his career has fallen into place ever since.
Taking the pencil away from his latest sketch, Ian is sitting down with The Idle Man to discuss what it takes to do his job, sharing how he enjoys spending his down time, and of course, his love for Barbour.
Q1 : What does your role in terms of manager at Barbour mean?
I’m in charge of the whole of the menswear grouping in terms of products, accessories and footwear for men and women. It’s quite a complex thing to keep moving and now the business has evolved and delivers on multiple drops a year with lots of different transitional collections just to feed the whole kind of market demand. My job really is managing all that ensuring we have what we need when we need it.
Q2: Do you think it’s important for your international market to keep that British Heritage look? Is that what the international market is buying in to?
Yeah I think so. When you think of any brand you have an instant image in your head of the type of product, look and feel. In our case [it’s] a lifestyle that our brand links within the heads of most people whether it’s Barbour or Barbour International. So yes it’s very important.
We’re lucky as a design team in many respects because over the past 100 years [we’ve built] quite an iconic DNA. Our DNA is wax so people really associate that with us as an iconic fabric, [in the same way] the colour olive, the tartans in the lining, etc. We don’t have to put the logo anywhere on the garment. You know from looking at those elements it’s a Barbour jacket, the three royal warrants on the label tells you it is. It’s important to try and create that in every collection because people don’t tire of it they just need a gentle move on, so you reimagine it.
Q3: Is it harder to keep things as a traditional brand with a heritage style relevant without going down the paths of following trends?
Having a commercial range that’s relevant to people is different from following trends and following fashion really because most brands stand for something. So you have to stay fairly close to that core otherwise you’ll see us as doing something which isn’t relevant to the brand and people don’t accept it as easily. We’re most successful as a business and a company when we stick closest to what we are kind of known for and associated with.
What we tend to try and do is work with collaborators to stretch what Barbour might mean and how we might be perceived. But obviously trends differ now, you have this huge Parisian catwalk trend pushing in from the top into menswear and then you have sportswear pushing up the other way. It’s a really exciting young mix of stuff which is great but that’s not really Barbour.
Q4: What are the key pillars which consistently inspire Barbour?
In terms of inspiration we do use our archive, we have about 300 garments in the archive, we use them occasionally for the type of look and feel that we’re looking for. In terms of general inspiration, we look at fabric companies, we look at trends of fabric, but we tend to stick to wax and quilt and then waterproof and breathable.
In terms of seasonal inspiration we don’t really use trend websites or anything like that. We tend to look at those key five focuses or coast, country or motorcycle and look to see how we could move things forward.
Q5: Is there a collaboration which you’ve enjoyed the most or stands out?
I think you enjoy them all, some more than others, it’s just what suits your personality. One of the collaborations which I think the business learnt the most about place and time was Tokihito Yoshida, which was a while ago now, about ten years ago. That really moved things forward for us, in terms of how people saw us in regards to fit and in terms of a price point that we could sell at if we had the product right. That was a good learning curve.
Q6: Where did your personal interest in fashion come from?
I walked past Paul Smith’s store and they had a note in the window saying they wanted help. Then I met Paul and I ended up with Paul Smith for 13 years. I worked in the stores looking after the footwear and then I became a store manager and then became manager of all the stores, including the one in New York.
I decided then I wanted to do it myself, sort of prove it to myself, so I set up a business with two colleagues from Paul Smith, and Paul was really supportive of that. We set up a little business called Three Fold Design. I remember we were one of the first distributors to import Canada Goose, and we couldn’t sell it. No one wanted to buy it, everyone said ‘who wants a badge on their arms that big’, times have changed.
Then I came here to Barbour after they had a conversation with me and I thought I’d quite like to do that because I’ve always been a fan of Barbour. I brought my first Barbour in the ’90s. I think like anyone else I was a fan of someone who works there.
That’s a bottled history.
Q7: Fashion is such a bubble which you can get trapped in, do you think it’s important to have different hobbies or interests aside fashion and Barbour?
It’s quite an intense industry currently to work in so I think you have to have balance in your work. I think there’s an unhealthy culture in the UK of working long hours. I’ve always found that most value in the business is when you work in teams in the normal day time, that’s when you come up with ideas that matter, that work, that are commercial or creative. In the long run I think working very long hours just wears you out, it wears everybody out and you lose your enthusiasm. So doing other things in your life whether you’re into walking, running, sport or the gym is great, I think these are good to balance things off.
Q8: What’s your favourite part of your role, What do you enjoy the most?
I think I’m best at and enjoy creating what I’d refer to as a concept. That’s creating an idea with a real idea of who I would sell it to and looking at how you create a design package. Creating a product from scratch and packaging it and then hopefully it will be a success is really rewarding. We have a saying in the business, ‘start with the end in mind’. It’s a common sense thing, you have to have a vision, so those are the exciting parts of the job.
Q9: How do you describe your own personal style? Do you think men should have a staple to their wardrobe that they can build upon?
We have our own gentleman’s essentials and that kind of thing like Levi’s 501’s, a Smedley, a Sunspel and a Barbour jacket. I think it’s a really healthy time for menswear because you can mix it up and I think there’s a real sense of expression.
Most of us revert back [to a time] when you really enjoyed that fashion or clothing the most. I’m outwear obsessed so at least two coats on at one time, with a bucket hat, that’s my reset. If I’m shopping online, like most guys I will buy another Chambray shirt to put on top of all the other Chambray shirts that I have. So I’m quite classic in that sense.
Photography by Cal McIntyre, shot at Barbour in South Shields.