Barba Napoli Factory Visit
Barba Napoli is one of the most well known and highly regarded shirt manufacturers in the world. If you appreciate hand-sewn details and a feel for the quality in every stitch, Barba is the brand for you.
In 1960s, Antonio Barba opened a small design studio in the suburb of Naples, based on his big love for the symbol of classy men: the shirt. Impeccable production, following the rules of the Neapolitan tailoring school, was appreciated among those who wanted to wear tailor-made items. Initially, his shirts were made exclusively for a selected clientele among the Neapolitan elite.
Due to its craftsmanship, cut, refinement of fabrics and attention to details, Barba grew rapidly in 1980s and 1990s. Since year 2000, Antonio's sons Mario and Raffaele set themselves a new objective – to develop an international brand, representing a total lifestyle for both men and women. The production of jackets, coats, trousers, knitwear and a wide selection of accessories became an expression of the authentic Made in Italy, a fusion of style and manufacturing.
Few weeks ago, we paid a visit to their new headquarter, set in Arzano - the heartland of Neapolitan shirtmaking - and talked to younger Antonio Barba, the son of Raffaele and the grandson of Antonio Barba the founder.
Tell us a little about your background, and your role in the company?
I have been in the company since I was 15 or 16 years old. Barba Napoli is simply a part of my DNA. Working as a commercial director for Barba, I am traveling a lot. Because of that, I am exposed to trends and stores around the globe, always on the lookout for what could be interesting for the upcoming collections. I then bring those experiences back to our design team.
In Scandinavia, we are familiar with classic Barba shirts models, such as Culto and Dandylife. Tell us about your production process and design details as well as your other models?
All our shirts have minimum of four handmade steps. This is to stay true to the Neapolitan tailoring school. Then we have our different models. Classic shirts are not pre-washed and the fit is either Slim fit (black label) or "Europa" regular fit (white label), made of finest fabrics such as Thomas Mason. Culto is often pre-washed with soft collar and cuffs made in either dress or semi-sporty fabrics.
Dandylife is always pre-washed with no fuse collar and cuffs with casual fabrics such as denim, oxford, linen or printed rayon. The body is between slim fit and regular fit, and it leans towards fitted body. The latest addition is the Journey model that does not crease and is great for travel. It often come in unwashed, classic shirt fabrics, for those who travel in work, but want to stay sharp.
You started with shirts, and then expanded into a total look including jackets, coats, trousers, knitwear and accessories for both men and women. What can we expect from Barba Napoli in terms of new product lines in 2023?
I have to say that we are very pleased with our total look. Initially, we made 100% shirts. Then we made 80% shirt and 20% other items. Nowadays, it is 50-50%. For the 2023, we are making wide choice of fabrics in jersey double breasted and in single breasted jackets. These jackets made really good results for our company lately. In addition, many new leather coats, shirt jackets, field jackets and other products that will be launched as well.
You have flagship stores in Rome, Milan and London. How do you define difference between the British, Italian and Scandinavian market for your brand?
Our London store opened just before Covid. We were unlucky with the timing but the store prevailed, and the business is growing rapidly attracting those who want something different from British style. We sell more leather coats, jackets and knitwear In London, than in our Milan and Rome stores.
While there are small differences perhaps in the choices of color for colder and hotter climate, the Barba customer is quite similar. This is because the customer who visiting London store today will be in Milan tomorrow. The day after tomorrow, the same customer will shop at our Rome store. People are travelling again and we are already thinking about new flagships in key locations, to be where our customer is.
If someone wants to start building a shirt collection, which three shirt models or types would you recommend starting with?
I would certainly recommend to start with a classic white shirt, then perhaps a denim button-down shirt and a casual light blue oxford shirt. The world is moving from casual to a contemporary classic style. People want to dress up again and be comfortable or sporty at the same time. Barba Napoli is offering shirts for every occasion.
Finally, what’s your personal philosophy on style?
I am representing the contemporary classic style I just mentioned. There are few young people who dress like this today but I personally find it great, to wear tailored denim with a nice shirt and a blazer.