Barena Venezia, a small, family-owned company has significantly influenced the way men (and women) dress in and outside of Italy over the past twenty-seven years. Before “sprezzatura” and “soft tailoring” became go-to terms for fashion editors, Barena was showing men how to dress casually and with class utilizing sartorial fabrics for rather sporty, workwear garments.
The brand’s history reaches all the way back to 1961 when its founder, Sandro Zara, got his start in the fashion industry. Zara, a Venetian entrepreneur, began his career as an agent for a textile company. Over time his curiosity, in particular for traditional textile, led him to visit the archives of old closed-down wool mills in and around the lagoon areas of Venice. He uncovered original patterns and stitching books, which eventually became the main source for Barena collections - including those from Lanificio Cini, lately acquired by the company.
In the late 80s, Zara met Massimo Pigozzo and appointed him as Barena’s creative director, a role he still holds for the menswear. The two decided to develop a full collection of menswear, officially founding Barena Venezia in 1993.
The inspiration for Barena traces back to the style of the rural inhabitants of Venice: in fact, Barena derives its name from the term “baro,” which in Italian translates to “emerged lands”—a reference to a key feature of the Venetian landscape where both hunting and fishing were practiced by a slow sailing on a “Sanpierotta”, the flat-bottom boat depicted on the brand's recognisable logo. “Nothing inspires us more than life by the sea and the lagoon” says Pigozzo.
The brand grew significanly season after season, extending to womenswear in 2010 when Francesca Zara – daughter of Sandro – became part of the family business and Barena Women's creative director.
Meanwhile, Barena maintains the fabric-first ethos it was founded upon. Pigozzo and Francesca Zara build each collection from the ground up, starting by looking for interesting materials and then basing their designs off the fabrics they find, often using original early-20th century patterns from the now rich brand archive.
“The main concept comes from the past, in the 19th century where the workwear dress code was: ‘elegance even when we are working the land.’ In fact countrymen were working the land wearing three-piece suits: blazer, pants and a vest called a “panciotto,’” Francesca Zara said. “I find it difficult to characterize the collection any more than that: it’s not sporty, not classic, not casual—it’s a mix of all of them,” Pigozzo said.