WWD.com/fashion-news/fashion-features/barrett-building-with-women-s-line-483035/

Neil Barrett is a slowly but surely kind of guy.

It took him eight years to perfect his men’s wear operations and image, and now he’s building his women’s business with the same patience.

Indeed, for those ladies who aren’t too thrilled by frilly frocks or retro reruns, Barrett offers a sexy take on his staple men’s wear tailoring that is proving a valid alternative.

After two years of full-fledged women’s collections, Barrett is considering a runway show in February, possibly in Paris.

“The line is maturing as a collection for real women that is feminine but men’s wear-driven, with fitted blouses or bottoms made from shirting and suiting fabrics such as chalk stripes, poplins, sharkskin and oxford,” said Barrett, who headed Prada men’s wear until 1999, when he branched out on his own.

Already Barrett’s line is carried in 160 sales points worldwide, including Steve in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Relish in Washington; Blake in Chicago, Browns in London and Lane Crawford in Hong Kong.

The designer proudly states that his men’s wear has morphed into a 52 million euro, or $72 million at current exchange, business, without advertising or a major public relations office. Now, the women’s line accounts for 30 percent of sales, but the company expects its volume to reach that of today’s men’s sales by 2011.

Barrett’s spring highlights include vests of all lengths and colors; leather pieces, from bombers to shrunken blazers in soft napa, distressed leather and suede; finely spun knitwear; Mako cotton jersey basics, and lacquered jeans. Tailored details such as skinny lapels, cuffs and vests are often inserted into dresses.

Wholesale prices range from $125 for pants to $153 for knitwear to $512 for suits.

The British designer is also working with an undisclosed top architect to develop the brand’s first store concept.

The blueprint, which will meld ultramodern elements with natural ones, will be unveiled with the opening of Barrett’s flagship in Seoul in February.

Next summer, a Barrett outpost will open in Los Angeles.

In June, the designer doubled his Milan headquarters but is already in talks to acquire another 4,500 square feet to house the increasing collections and staff.

This story first appeared in the September 20, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“We’re growing so fast that we don’t fit anymore,” said Barrett. “In January, we want to present the women’s collection a week after the men’s, so we’re working on production and deliveries.”