LONDON, March 18, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --
In 1894, in the port of South Shields in the North East of England, the very first J Barbour & Sons store opened, and the story of this unique British brand began to unfold. In celebration of this landmark anniversary, Barbour takes a proud look back over 120 momentous years.
It all started with the vision of one Scotsman, John Barbour, who saw an opportunity to supply protective oilskin outerwear to the growing community of fishermen, sailors and mariners who worked in the harsh conditions along the Northumbrian coast. Crossing the border from his native Galloway in South West Scotland to the burgeoning port of South Shields, John Barbour founded his business in the town's Market Place, and J Barbour & Sons quickly established itself as the leading supplier of oilskins in the North East. In the years that followed, John's son, Malcolm Barbour, began producing mail order catalogues that made the brand accessible to more than just local seafarers. By 1917 Barbour's oilskins were famed across Britain and beyond, with orders flooding in from as far afield as Chile, South Africa and Hong Kong.
John Barbour died in 1918 and was succeeded by his sons Jack and Malcolm. By now, Barbour had become the byword for robust, hand-crafted clothing built to withstand the rigours of the outdoors attracting customers from rural communities, with farmers, labourers, drovers and anyone who made their living outdoors looking to the brand for protective outerwear. In 1936, now under the direction of Duncan Barbour, Malcolm Barbour's son and keen motorcyclist, the company widened its reach, with the introduction of an oilskin motorcycling range. This initiative was a resounding success, with the one-piece suit that was made for the International Six Day Trials event becoming the suit of choice for almost every British ISDT team from the 1930s to the 1970s. In 1937, Captain George Philips one of the most celebrated submarine offices of the Second World War, adapted the one piece International into the two piece 'Ursula' suit which became standard issue for Britain's submariners during the Second World War and was the forerunner of Barbour's iconic International jacket.
Over the years, Barbour's principles of quality, durability and attention to detail have been applied to an ever-increasing selection of clothing designed for the practicalities of country living - earning the company three Royal warrants in the process. The first lightweight, short-length waxed cotton riding jacket, the Bedale, was introduced in 1980, and Dame Margaret Barbour's Beaufort design joined the line-up in 1983. Timeless, traditional and tough, these wardrobe staples have gained iconic status and something of a following since their creation, making them just as likely to be seen uptown as uphill. Countless waxed cotton, quilted and casual jackets have followed in their footsteps, appealing not only to those who live, work and play in the countryside, but also to those who aspire to the quintessentially British, effortlessly stylish look that's become synonymous with Barbour.
Since John Barbour's establishment of the business in 1894, the Barbour family has been at the helm, guiding it through five generations of evolution. In 2014, Barbour remains 100% family-owned, with Chairman Dame Margaret Barbour having led the company for over 40 years, and her daughter Helen Barbour, Vice Chairman. The brand is represented in more than 40 countries worldwide, but its headquarters and factory are still based in South Shields where it all began, and where over 130,000 of Barbour's signature waxed cotton jackets are still produced every year.
It's this legacy that continues to drive the Barbour of today, which now offers a broad choice of collections for men, women and children, with a complete wardrobe of outerwear, knitwear, shirts, trousers, footwear and accessories. The Classic, Lifestyle and Sporting ranges stand firm, and are joined by the contemporary Heritage collection, which has attracted a more fashion-conscious customer and hosted collaborations with eminent British designers including Norton & Sons, Alice Temperley, Paul Smith and Bella Freud. The collections inspired by Barbour's motorcycle heritage are presented under the distinctive Barbour International label, which has grown into a brand in its own right, complete with a flagship stand-alone store on London's Piccadilly and more to follow. There's now a Barbour look for every age and lifestyle, but they all have one thing in common: each collection delves into the archive, reimagining a facet of Barbour's rich heritage for a modern audience, and creating the next chapters in the story that John Barbour began, over a century ago.
Here's to the next 120 years.