Although perhaps not quite a household name in the US, Barena Venezia is nonetheless very well known within fashion circles.
Indeed, for those with an interest in good quality clothing, the name Barena is synonymous with a certain kind of simple, practical, Italian unstructured tailoring.
While many Italians are understandably proud of their nation’s fashion achievements – and are of course well aware of the international renown enjoyed by the big name brands such as Gucci and Prada – you may be surprised to discover that most Italians have never heard of Barena.
This is pure speculation, but I’m going to hazard a guess that if Barena has seen greater success abroad than it has at home, this may in part be down to a combination of the early-career overseas experiences and the marketing skills of the founder’s daughter, Francesca Zara.
Ms Zara spent time in the US and Denmark before returning to Venice around 15 years ago to take the helm of Barena’s womenswear collections. Her homecoming coincided with Barena achieving much greater international success. Sure, this will in part be due to Zara junior’s undoubted talents as a designer, and those of Massimo Pigozzo who oversees the menswear side of things. But during her time abroad, Zara likely also gained an understanding of what makes North Americans and Northern Europeans tick when it comes to clothing. Such insight could prove highly profitable to a savvy niche-brand such as Barena.
But I digress.
Founded in 1961, Barena takes inspiration from Venice’s rich history as an important maritime city-state, and more specifically the workwear of its seafaring populace. In fact the name Barena itself comes from the Venetian dialect and refers to areas of semi-submerged marshland that are endemic to the lagoon. While the brand stresses that it is not in the reproduction business, many of Barena’s items have a distinctly classic workwear/sportswear look that no doubt testifies to their origins in well researched, revived and modified historical designs.
Although billed as a heavyweight shirt, I’m going to call the “Pasubio Stino” a lightweight jacket. Certainly that’s how I’ve always worn it: over a dress shirt, t-shirt, or light sweater. I probably wouldn’t wear it with a shirt and tie though, as I suspect I’d risk looking like the school janitor or sales staff in a 1970s hardware store.
Fairly typically of Barena, the overshirt features a simple and clean design and is made of a good quality natural cotton fabric (actually 98% cotton, 2% elastane) that was dyed a mid-tan color after the garment was assembled and stitched. While it can be combined with pretty much anything, the color looks particularly good with white, olive green, navy, and grey.
There’s also a nice military green version of the jacket, but the store didn’t have my size. Similarly, it comes in blue too, but although the shade offered is quite dark, I thought it might look too similar to all the vintage French work shirts that have been around lately. Not in itself a bad thing – as they are undoubtedly nice items – but I’ve just seen too many of them of late. Instead I thought that the beige gabardine added a fresh twist to this particular look.
Materials and Construction
Made of a heavyweight fabric, the Barena overshirt was quite stiff when I first bought it, and consequently it hung rigidly for the first few weeks. A few washes later and this problem was largely resolved. Indeed the jacket will probably go on improving as it adapts to my body shape with further wear.
The jacket features large black mother of pearl buttons – adding a touch of class to its otherwise quite simple, workwear look – and was made in Italy, as indeed is the case with all of Barena’s garments and the fabric they are cut from. Overall, the heavy duty cloth, strong stitching, and high quality buttons inspire confidence that this jacket will keep on going for a long time to come.
Sizing, Cut and Fit
I’m typically a Euro size 48. Of course, sizing always varies somewhat between brand, but the jacket was really too big on the shoulders and sleeves, so I had to have it adjusted by a tailor. Do bear this in mind if you set out to track this particular item down online.
That said, I would not assume that Barena sizing is generous across the entire product line. In my experience with some of their unstructured jackets and overcoats, the fit has been slimmer or smaller than expected.
Aside from the on-trend Cuban collar (is it still called a Cuban collar if on a jacket?), the overshirt is really all about pockets. Nice big pockets.
Already after just a few wears, the pockets had started to take on a looser, more lived-in shape – and they will undoubtedly look even better once the fabric has stretched a little more with use and they begin to hang down like an old sow’s mammaries.
Having said that, I generally prefer more rounded pockets, rather than the angular, clipped corners sported here. But its a minor detail that I’m more than happy to forgive in the light of the garment’s numerous other charms.
Finally, one of the jacket’s more unusual details is the internal patch pocket that echoes the external chest pocket – the shape of which is visible on the outside of the jacket due to heavy stitching.
All in all, Barena’s Pasubio Stino overshirt is a simple, nicely-designed and well-made item that is only likely to look better with age. My tailor was more excited about this garment than others I’ve taken him in the last year or so. When I asked him why he liked it so much, I was hoping he was going to point out some particularly advanced construction techniques or a skillful bit of stitching. Nope – he just digs the cut and color.
And you know what? So do I. Unfortunately, so too does my wife. Which considerably reduces the chances of me getting to wear it when I want to.