The Upper Tynesider moved from London to NYC a couple of years ago. He works in 'creative media', but he can't really explain what that means. He has a two bed apartment filled with Anissa Kermiche vases (his girlfriend's choice, not his), drinks Stella, misses fish and chips, covers the rent on the tail end of a H-1B working visa, and he still doesn't understand what healthcare insurance co-pays are. He likes workwear, and the 1917 Coldcut remix of Eric B and Rakim's 'Paid In Full' . He has a small dog that he refuses to give an Instagram account. He likes beanie hats. He likes video games and memes about Sunderland FC. And he lives in the city's hottest neighbourhood that doesn't exist: the Upper Tyneside.
It's an imaginary pocket of New York City that's been slowly built, collab-by-collab, under the steer of Barbour's ongoing partnership with Noah, a label that's managed to retain its brand of the moment tag for quite a lot of moments now. In an age of superfluous collaboration, this might not sound like anything that exciting. But Noah x Barbour isn't a straightforward generic NY-LON romcom in which American streetwear brand meets British heritage brand and a baby is born and then later put up for adoption on Depop. Barbour x Noah has melded American and British sensibilities, and capitalises on a long tradition of New Yorkers taking country into town.
Take the main body of the most recent collab (which is out today, by the way). It's a range of reworked Bedale and Beaufort jackets. That's it. But Barbour, a brand that's captained from the quiet Tyneside town of South Shields, has seen its house signature piece varnished in shades of 'wine', 'nicotine' and dark navy, the latter of which is the closest to the outfit's more traditional offering. Then, there's an alternative, heavier, Upper East Sidey classic (that's the Beaufort) in 'tan', 'brown plaid' and 'pink tone'. It still feels very Barbour.
And yet, it still feels very Noah. Though founded in 2002, the New York outfit was relaunched in 2015 by Supreme's former creative director Brendon Babenzien and interior designer Estelle Bailey-Babenzien, a wife-and-husband team that has successfully mixed old school prep with a touch of sustainable punk rock and more than a shade of that rural utility that seems to permeate cities in America's northeast. Which sounds a world away from South Shields.
But look closely, and preppy American workwear isn't so different to the stuff of Barbour, a brand that's been co-opted by everyone from gruff Yorkshire farmers to mid-Noughties indie kids to Henley boys that are inexplicably all called Freddy. It has universal appeal. And, during their third partnership, Barbour x Noah feels like its created something totally new; an amalgamation of British and American cool that has long and winding roots. This sort of cool isn't a sudden flare up.
"I think the Barbour x Noah collaboration, now in its third season, works because Brendon [Babenzien] is very respectful of Barbour’s purity and heritage," says Ian Bergin, Barbour's director of menswear, footwear and accessories. "He works with our classic styles, fabrications and prints so that the result is something unmistakably Barbour but with touches of the streetwear approach to branding and colour. It brings together streetwear cool with Barbour classicism."
Look too to the campaign. New Yorkers – proper, real, no patience for slow walkers sort of New Yorkers – pepper the images in outfits that could, really, outfit any countryside pub in Little England. Lu Apointe, a DJ and Noah employee, smoulders in front of a white bricked building wearing a waxed jacket, cargo trousers and a grey letterman hoody. Techno farmhand, if you will. Tasny Kaschak, editor-in-chief of Hotel Life, walks a Very Good Boy by New York stoops while shoulder robing a pink tweed jacket. Real Housewives of Hackney Wick. And Daniel Emilio Soares, owner of fruit and veg store Alimentari Flâneur, is side profiled against a rare spot of New York greenery in a brown, working, practical jacket; a pillar of the village community, but just on the Lower East Side.
Altogether, this mash-up is seamless. But more importantly, it feels new. Collabs don't do that very often these days. And though finding an apartment on the Upper Tyneside is impossible, it is, perhaps, New York's most fashionable neighbourhood; a place where expat Brits live, miss fish and chips, and keep memories of home in the pockets of a bright pink waxed jacket.
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