As the menswear market transitions from the joggers and hoodies that dominated pandemic wardrobes to more presentable sportswear, ‘elevated basics’ are the new buzzwords. And few can do well-priced elevated basics like designer Robert Barakett.[PICTURED ABOVE, The Robert Barakett Team: Jeff Block, Nelson Suriel, Robert Barakett, and Alan Victor.]
He started his career as a finance major intending to become a stockbroker; it wasn’t until he visited a friend’s sportswear factory that he found his true calling. “The energy of the factory floor just got to me,” he confides. “I felt I’d finally found my passion; I was immediately hooked.” So he signed up for as many fashion classes (textiles, patternmaking) as he could fit into his junior year at university and took a first job in Montreal with a company that made better women’s apparel. “The company paid unwavering attention to detail and used the best Italian mills. It was a perfect entry into the luxury business.”
Through the mid-1990s, as casual Fridays gradually became casual every day, Barakett sensed a void in the market for premium sportswear, particularly knits. He started attending the fabric shows in Europe and began focusing on menswear when he started his own brand in 1996. He vividly remembers doing his first NYC trade show (The Collective at The Plaza) and making his first sale to Shaia’s in Birmingham. Since 2016, Barakett has been part of the Jack Victor group.
“I’d known the team at Victor for years and it was a great partnership from day one,” Barakett maintains, noting that Jack Victor is no longer just a suit company but rather a complete collection with James Watson now on the creative team overseeing Jack Victor luxury sportswear.
Asked about supply chain issues since the pandemic, Barakett admits that mills have had problems getting raw materials, containers have been stuck in ports, workers spaced apart reduced production capacity, and many factories now have labor shortages. “But challenges considered, we’ve still had 95 percent on-time deliveries. We source from Peru, Turkey, Italy, some still in Asia, where ever we find the right factory. Whatever it takes, we find a way…”
A quick review of Barakett’s fall ‘22 collection reveals numerous wardrobe staples: simple styles in beautiful fabrics and neutral fashion shades that work together, go with everything, but are far from boring. The secrets: special washing techniques, unconventional pairings of yarn size and knitting gauge, collars that keep their shape, the addition of a single design detail to add just enough newness without looking contrived.
Soft, comfortable, subtle, sophisticated, Barakett’s pieces at surprisingly affordable retails are the ones guys turn to most often. The collection is carried by 130 specialty stores including Nordstrom, Von Maur, Rothmans, Khakis, John Craig, Oak Hall, M.Penner, Halls, Mr. Guy, M.Dumas, and The Clotherie. Says Barakett, “Each store brings its own perspective, thereby enabling their customers to discover new brands among a curated offering. This is why, I believe, the independent menswear stores will continue to make a comeback.”