Catching Up With Helen Barbour

by Elise Diamantini

Helen Barbour, vice chair of J. Barbour & Sons Ltd., chatted with me about what’s new, next and if collaborations are over last week while she was in town for New York’s Tartan Day Parade. As one of the parade sponsors, Barbour outfitted the Westie and Scottie dogs that “marched” in the parade in the brand’s tartan doggie coats.

Helen Barbour and Barbour Inc. general manager Tom Hooven at the parade.
Helen Barbour and Barbour Inc. general manager Tom Hooven at the parade.



The best dressed dogs at the New York #TartanDayParade. #BarbourTartan

A photo posted by Barbour (@barbour) on

On the current state of business: Business for spring 2015 is strong and we’ll carry the same themes across the brand for spring ’16. In men’s, we’re doing well with the Laundryman collection of our pre-washed mid-layers. Barbour is an expert in outerwear, but it’s tough to sell waxed cotton jackets for spring. We’re also a lifestyle brand and want people to come to Barbour looking for more, so we pushed our collection of nautical, seafarer-inspired apparel and it’s working. On the Sporting collection: I noticed that this collection needed an update, so I pulled together a team of designers and started by modernizing the men’s line. We created a capsule collection that’s designed for function but looks better and has a nicer color palette. We used breathable fabrics, added functional pockets and designed garments for mobility. We’re now selling it at both outdoor and menswear stores.  

On the future of collaborations: Collaborations for us have become more like partnerships. We used to do a lot more, but our customers are telling us that we do well enough on our own. It’s just not as necessary for us anymore. So when we work with brands like Triumph and Land Rover, it’s more like a synergistic meeting of the minds since we’re all strong brands that represent similar lifestyles.

On what’s next: We’re creating a lifestyle shop-in-shop at Macy’s Herald Square for fall 2015. We’re building it out with our design and fixtures, and staffing it ourselves. We just opened an outlet store in Merrimack, N.H.; we’re opening a full-line store in Woodcliff lake, NJ; and moving our Boston store to a bigger space on Newbury Street. We’re growing, but we’re cautious on how and where: we want to keep the Barbour brand special.