An Interview with Barena - Tenue de Nîmes

Thu, Sep 15, 22

Barena Venezia, to us, is Italian tailoring at its finest. More specifically, Italian soft tailoring. The kings and queens of sprezzatura craft garments that exude a dressed-up yet nonchalant look. A look that we adore. It perfectly represents the Venetian 19th century workwear and dress code - elegance, even when working on the land. We’re sure you can imagine how excited we are that the brand has produced an exclusive two-piece suit for us! In light of this release, we wanted to write an in-depth piece to give you a deeper understanding of the brand and its core philosophy. Luckily, the two head designers of Barena, Massimo Pigozzo and Francesca Zara, were so kind as to answer some questions to give us more insight. 

Barena Venezia was founded in 1993 by Massimo and Sandro Zara - Francesca's father. Before the brand's inception, Sandro had over 30 years of experience as an entrepreneur in the textile industry. During these formative years, he fell in love with old Italian tailoring fabrics. Spurred on by his new interest, Sandro started visiting the archives of old, shut-down mills in the areas around his hometown of Venice. Here he uncovered original patterns and stitching books that would eventually become the main source for Barena's collections. In the late 80s, Sandro and Massimo decided that they wanted to create a brand to which they could apply this old knowledge whilst also catering to the needs of a contemporary wardrobe. To how one balances paying respect to these old workwear garments whilst also innovating, Massimo said;  

"I find it quite natural and spontaneous to use old work garments for a contemporary wardrobe. Essential pieces from Barena's collections are utility pieces, even when they are blazers or suits...I always think about the practicality of use in both formal and classic clothes. In everyday wear, practicality is fundamental. I am not talking about an added pocket or a gusset on a blazer; what I mean is to have a comfortable approach in the making of the garments, like using stretch fabrics of which the weight is not too heavy or too light. Whoever works or has worked practical labour knows that ease of use is a fundamental value in clothes; this is why our garments are always made with congenial fabrics to its functionality" 

Massimo Pigozzo - Co-founder and Head of Menswear Design at Barena

As Massimo mentioned above, Barena doesn't only achieve functionality in their garments through design but also through their choice of fabrics. The brand adheres to what they call; a fabric-first ethos. This has led to the development and utilization of materials that can be found nowhere else. By breaking the rules, the brand has been able to distinguish itself from its contemporaries and cement itself as a creative, but also a technical force to be reckoned with. Francesca elaborated on this approach;  

"No rules while creating. On the contrary, we conduct experiments which have unexpected results that are often pleasantly surprising. Since the beginning, we have broken many common rules on how to use fabric, taking us where we are now."  

With these two strong core values, the brand started defining how men dressed in Italy from its onset in 1993. In an age wherein sportswear was extremely popular, Barena was able to rejuvenate the love for sartorial fabrics and garments. Slowly but surely, their sprezzatura style started taking over Italy, inspiring a new wave of dressing that fashion outlets later coined 'soft tailoring'. Since its arrival, it was clear that the style was there to stay. At the time, though, Barena only had a menswear line. This changed in 2010 when the brand extended into women's wear, with Francesca as head designer.  

"The start of the women's wear came from my strong desire and conviction. For this reason, helming Barena's extension has been extremely spontaneous and natural. A new journey. In the beginning, I wore almost every piece of the men's collection, adjusting length by rolling up sleeves and pants since I was in love with men's wardrobe and oversized pieces. I was totally with the men's wear collection but ready to start the women's."

Francesca Zara - Head of Womenswear Design at Barena and daughter of Co-founder Sandro Zara.

With a women's line added, the brand now fully encompassed the 'baro' culture. As you would expect, the same philosophy for the men’s collection was applied the women’s collection. The constant practice of these cornerstones is a large part of the appeal of the brand - it feels genuine and authentic. You can tell that it draws so much from its own culture whilst also contributing to it. Whereas some brands follow endlessly ongoing trends they have no real connection to, Barena taps from a source that will never dilute or fade. We believe it's safe to say that this dedication and loyalty is part of the Venetian spirit. Do what you please, but we know our own strengths and will stick to our guns. With a strong connection to this spirit and to the working-class environment must come a strong notion of purpose. Barena's purpose is clear. Massimo confirmed this by saying;  

"My interest is in clothing. I don't like to use the word fashion, it is too generic, and its concept is against what I do with Barena. Fashion is never lasting. It has seasonality."  

Despite focusing on clothing and not fashion trends and other antics, over the years, Barena has developed into more than just a clothing brand. Not only have they become global representatives of Venetian culture, as we mentioned earlier, but they have also become representatives of values that can resonate with anyone, regardless of their culture or country. The brand teaches us lessons we can apply not only to our wardrobe but also to our lives. This might sound a bit meta and somewhat complicated, but, in actuality, it is simple and crystal clear. When asked about this, Francesca said; 

"I am pleased that you feel that Barena is not only the highest quality in garments but also in relationships and life. Life time and work time are one thing, it is all part of our lives. Good healthy principles of quality should apply to everything, life and work."

As a brand that carries and expresses simple yet strong values and draws their inspiration from history, it must come as no surprise that the brand also wants to leave a legacy for the next generation. Whereas most would like to leave a grand inheritance for the rest of the world, which, of course, is a very noble gesture, Barena remains seemingly humble and, as always, faithful to itself. But, we believe that this humble cause can be practised in a much broader sense than Massimo lets on.  

"Barena will always stick to the soft-tailoring part of the collection. Apart from this, what I would like, influence-wise, is an honest and sincere approach to doing things. In Barena, the sense of quality is not only defined extrinsically by fabrics and shapes; our collections are built by looking for a democratic and minimalistic approach. I see other collections with excessive designs that are unnecessary for the garment. My way of building a collection is natural and honest. I hope to pass on this stylist signature that will always be part of Barena."   

The humbleness and strong dedication to their values are, to us, what defines Barena. Massimo and Francesca's approach to their collections is true and straightforward, but still carries a very poetic meaning. Remain composed, know what you are and never let yourself be distracted from your purpose and what you love to do. We could ramble on about this for another couple of paragraphs, but we believe that Francesca perfectly sums it up - just do what you love. 

"Clothing in my life means a lot, is not only my loved work, is also from were I have the strongest urge towards culture, history and life in general." 

You can view our Barena Venezia collection including the collaborative 'Dusty Blue' suit here.

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