Slim Barrett - the man behind Victoria Beckham's miniature wedding crown, Vivienne Westwood's Orb and Princess Diana's royal jewels - talks Camden, car crashes and comebacks.
Cutting a casual dash, Slim Barrett greets me in his well organised studio, his wife Jules with whom he works closely gets the kettle on as the three of us catch up with the local gossip. Slim Barrett is the man who in the early 80s arrived from his native Ireland and set up operations in Dalston way ahead of the current goings on, he then opened a studio in Camden Town's Crowndale Road and that's where I first came across him. Working to create the jewellery and accessories that have adorned the stylish and famous down the years Barrett's approach to his craft is visionary and this year he celebrates 30 years in the business of creating the most exquisite and inventive signature pieces. His archive is vast and as I enter his domain I notice hanging from rafters and display cabinets - the crowns, tiaras and necklaces he is famous for. Sliding open a draw, a treasure trove of neatly lain out trinkets sparkle, metal broaches molded into striking shapes and necklaces resting in their lined cases. Jewel laced items glisten invitingly and I want to try everything on and of course they let me. His intricate designs draw on his Celtic roots but find a place in our contemporary aesthetic. He's inspired by everything... his surroundings, family and friends alike combined with his own unlimited imagination.
He doesn't do things on a seasonal basis, "I don't have think in that way," he says, "hence the archive upstairs." I'm curious as to whether he revisits his own work seeing as he's got so much of it. "Every so often there's something in the archive," for instance, "there's a collection I did about 20-25 years ago, it's a story from Vogue Homme with Mert and Marcus. Now that I've started looking at it again there are little things I want to add on on, it's all relevant." Slim Barrett is not one to follow trends, of that we're quite sure of. His thought process and passion always take him on revealing journeys. "It's my signature thing," he says thinking about his formative years,"at art college I set about creating a visual language and that's my train of thought." Describing his overall themes as 'Celtic Nouveau' after a previous collection Slim adds, "if I think about it in a roundabout way, it's my background, it's coming to London in the 1980's, it's kind of a mish mash of everything." Sustaining a presence over the last thirty years Slim Barrett rides waves of style over and over again. His lucky break and time honored story begins in a Camden cafe early on in his career resulting with a necklace for Princess Diana. We all remember his work with John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood's 'Orb' and Victoria Beckham's miniature bridal crown in 1999, but Slim's seminal moments don't end there. His creative timeline is like a who's who of fashion, film, art and music. In typical grounded Slim Barrett style he's thinking about his creative life and of those around him, "and if you're happy you make better work," he says. There have been times when Slim faced adversity - a devasting car crash in 2008 laid him up with chronic pain, "I was out for three and a half years, I couldn't do anything." Somehow Slim made a comeback, although he never really went away... now that's positive attitude for you.
Throughout his career Slim has remained true to his original ethos, "I think it's because I sort felt in the 80s you should do something for pure creativity, my son feels the same," he adds, "it's love, it's not necessarily money, but it is business per se, it's what I do, it's me." Slim loves how generations are inspiring each other and excitedly explains how the metal portrait broaches he made for Bros in the 80s are an unexpected hit with his son's mates, he might even recreate them again. It's a real family affair up at Slim Barrett's Clerkenwell bolt hole with his latest campaign modeled by his teenage son and his friends, Jules keeping an overseeing eye on it all,"Jules and I are very much a team, we bounce off each other, we know what each other is thinking a lot of the time, which sometimes very is strange. I mean she's the reason I came to London from a small little town in the west of Ireland. Coming over at that time was eye-popping-jaw-dropping."
Doing commissions, developing his website shop and pondering new idea's Slim Barrett is brimming over with enthusiasm and nothing is out of the question. "I'd love to work with one of the big Japanese designers," he reveals, "it's a whole different mind set, what I like about it is creative conversation." Creative conversation and making things that are relevant in the modern world I note... "After all these years!" Slim laughs out loud.
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