When Sandro Zara founded Barena in 1961, he did so as a reflection of his surroundings. The attire of the local Venetian people had inspired Zara to create clothes that captured this rich, worn in look that was characteristic throughout his homeland. When Massimo Pigozzo joined the project twenty years, Barena entered into their current, more thorough period, with more innovative designs and a wider array of textiles running throughout their collections. Sandro’s daughter Francesa began working with Massimo a decade ago, at a time when Barena was beginning to garner more attention on the international stage.
Since then, Barena has become increasingly more popular and fun to watch, as they continue to riff off their signature “soft” sportswear style, continuously challenging our assumptions on what Italian tailoring truly is. We had a chance to speak with Francesca and Massimo about the Barena spirit, their designs, and why it’s a good thing that they’ll never change.
ACL: Barena is a brand steeped in tradition, what was it that drew your family to the garment industry back in the early sixties, and could you talk a little bit about how Barena was founded?
Francesca Zara: My father started selling fabrics and since then fabrics have always played an important role in our lives. After starting his company, my father worked together with my mother to start their first company on their own. Together they started to produce handcrafted pieces driven by a strong passion and wish to make it happen. Barena was born twenty years ago as a project whose inspiration came from the hunting and fishing world and more precisely from the Laguna of Venice.
ACL: Going off that, the Barena name is derived from the term “baro,” which translates to “salt-water lagoon,” as a reference to the Venetian landscape. Aside from this name, how much of an influence does Barena’s Venetian surroundings have on the brand?
FZ: Venetian surrounding have had and will always have an influence on our collections. This is where my father, Massimo and I grew up and where we love to be from. Of course now we are more contemporary but the approach stays the same as the origins. The shapes have changed but the elegance continues to be one of the rural and marine world.
ACL: I understand that many of Barena’s designs are influenced by the clothes that local fishermen, hunters, and farmers wore in the sixties and continue to wear today. Could you elaborate on this approach?
Massimo Pigozzo: This is true only concerning our influence and inspiration. We don’t do reproductions, rather we capture the taste, the sense, and the details. We don’t really take inspiration from the sixties, our style today is a balanced mix of tradition and modernity.
ACL: Where else did you pull inspiration from for this latest collection?
MP: More so than where else we pull inspiration from, we would talk about our prevailing minimalist attitude. We have the desire to make things simpler every time, a matter of fabric/cut, and really nothing more. We don’t enrich designs just to make them ugly.
ACL: All of Barena’s products are produced in Italy, how important is it to you to keep production based in Italy?
FZ: Production in Italy is more than important. It is capital, essential. It is a reason for pride, no matter how difficult it is to keep costs reasonable.
ACL: Are your fabrics sourced locally as well?
FZ: Yes all of our fabrics are produced locally.
ACL: How have you seen the Italian menswear scene evolve since you got started in this industry?
MP: Made in Italy no longer only means beautiful tailoring but has also come to represent a way to make clothing, specifically sportswear by putting together classic fabrics with new shapes, and cuts. This is what we have been doing with Barena since the beginning and what many others are doing nowadays.
ACL: Barena’s designs have become increasingly desirable over the past few years as men have gravitated toward the casual tailoring look that your brand does so well. What do you think it is about “soft” tailoring that has made it so popular to this current generation both in Italy and abroad?
MP: Soft tailoring is important. It allows you to dress elegantly without being formal and allows you to dress informally without being sporty. There is also tailoring that is not necessarily tight but has a softer edge, for example we also use very stiff fabrics like heavy Melton wool but with super light shapes.
ACL: What’s your favorite piece from this latest collection?
MP: Rather than talk about my favorite piece I’d talk about my favorite fabric which for me is Formentera. With this particular fabric we are able to make very different styles from coats to jackets to sweater.
ACL: When you set out to design a collection, what’s the first step that you take? Is it always the same, or do you begin each collection differently?
MP: There is not a planned first step. It’s all about brain storming and pulling from out memories, it all starts there, in the archive of our memories. The approach is always the same: to do what we like, not necessarily what can be sold. It is a very free way to work.
ACL: Barena is a brand that features clothes for men as well as women, how does designing for men differ from designing for women, and vice versa?
FZ: Our men’s and women’s collections, from a philosophic point of view are on the same wavelength, which allows them to grow together.
ACL: What is your vision for Barena in the future? MP/FZ: In the future Barena won’t ever be commercial, meaning there will always be the same calligraphy, the same personality as there is today. The continuity we have given thus far will still be there in the future.