and menswear designer Peter Barton died on Saturday at the age of 91.
He passed away peacefully in his sleep while at a rehabilitation center in Oradell, New Jersey. The cause of death has not yet been determined, according to his wife Phylomena.
Plans for a memorial, which will include a military component due to his service in the US military, are still being decided.
Born in Brooklyn and the son of a tailor, Barton was interested in and loved art and design. He served in the US Army during the Korean War and later began his fashion career as a shoe designer. With a flair for shoe design and manufacture, as well as styling, Barton then ventured into menswear – shirts, pants, outerwear, sweaters and scarves – and many other categories including household items and children’s clothing. He founded his own shoe-focused company in 1954.
Absorbing the world beyond the realm of fashion, Barton was often on the go, seeing what was what and immersing himself in a busy life. His creativity and sense of style were born from this 360 degree vision. Starting out independently with his own office and showroom, Barton went on to sell his designs to numerous department stores. In the late 1970s, Peter Barton’s Closet opened in Fifth Avenue specialty store Henri Bendel for 10 years. He was part of the retailer’s management team. Barton and Nancy Knox then co-founded Renegades Shoes, which was acquired by Genesco Inc., one of the first conglomerates in the fashion industry.
Reflecting his multidimensional life, Barton bought a farmhouse in Umbria, Italy in the late 70s. Frequently flying to Milan, Florence and other European destinations on work-related matters, the designer was able to spend a lot of time on the farm where he grew olives to use for his signature olive oil. Barton retained ownership for about a decade.
Kind, generous and charismatic, Barton always cared about humans, life in general and the world in general, according to his widow. Although the designer officially retired from the fashion industry 10 years ago, he continued to work on beautiful scarves with the Dunlop Weavers, a small, family-owned textile mill in Orland, Maine. “Even though he retired, he was retired but not,” his wife said, adding that he still attends shows in Chicago, Las Vegas and elsewhere.
In touch with Barton every day or two, designer Alexander Julian considered him a mentor. “This guy understood good taste, quality and elegance more than anyone,” Julian said.
Positivity has remained his calling card, even in recent weeks, according to Julian. “He told me he was only going to focus on the good things and not even think about the bad ones because there were so many bad ones. He was positive until the end,” said the Creator.
As a shopper at Julian’s, his father’s store in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Julian first encountered Barton through his collection. Julian continued to buy from Barton after opening his own store, Alexander’s Ambition, in the 1960s opposite his father’s outpost. “I grew up in the business, but Peter taught me to be a three-dimensional person. There are many people in every industry who are absorbed in what they are doing and don’t live their lives to the fullest. Peter did that and was an example to me,” Julian said. “He didn’t really want to talk to me about what was selling. He wanted to talk about a movie, a book, an art exhibition, a new restaurant, a wine. He had a fantastic farm for many years in Umbria. My wife is a gourmet cook and she used to buy his olive oil before I met him.
Italian olive oil was sold at Henri Bendel and by specialty retailer Jerry Magnin. Noting how Barton also made wine on the farm, Julian described how he and his daughter visited Barton in Tuscany years ago. “I can still imagine Peter driving the Autostraddle at 100mph with us in the backseat and him turning around to describe something using both hands in a curve,” Julian said, adding that thrice-married Barton, had lost the farm in his second divorce. regulation.
Barton was Julian’s only board member “because he had gone through everything twice. He always knew what to do in any situation,” the designer said. “He was part of that brilliant generation, who lived in Brooklyn during Brooklyn’s heyday. He was about 16 when he joined a big band and traveled around the United States as a saxophonist.
Jerry Magnin, who ran his own Rodeo Drive store in Beverly Hills from 1970 to 1987, wore the Barton label there. As the first retailer in the United States to buy Giorgio Armani in the early 70s, Magnin cited Bill Kaiserman’s collection as another standout and included Barton in that group that took hold in the 70s. described the mid to late 1980s as the heyday of independent menswear stores before larger stores such as Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus began offering menswear lines only independent stores had developed first. “They were coming in with these monstrous orders, taking them over and kind of getting us out of the way,” Magnin said. “I can’t tell you how many discoveries we made.”
Never without a twinkle in his blue eyes and a smile on his face, the eternally tanned Barton was always visibly happy to see you when you walked into the showroom, Magnin said. Perfectly dressed, the enthusiastic, curly-haired designer was full of brilliant and original ideas too, according to Magnin (whose family had founded the retail company I. Magnin). Not one for suits or sports coats, the designer often sported his own shirts sometimes with one of his scarves. “He really had his own style. His style would be the south of France in the 20s or the Florida Keys, but before that was what he is now,” Magnin said. “It was classy elegance but not too expensive.”
Although Barton specialized in menswear, many of his accessories could have been masculine or feminine, according to Magnin, who described his style as “edgy, traditional.”
“If Ralph Lauren was traditional, it was a bit bolder. For example, if Ralph had a linen shirt, it would be more conventional. Peter’s could be a bit looser shirt that could be a style from Mexico or the Philippines, but still in the traditional vein. Peter had the most beautiful scarves,” Magnin said.
Barton kept large jars filled with European licorice, which Barton recommended as a connoisseur based on an individual’s personal taste. Magnin explained, “I happen to like real licorice, which is extremely difficult to obtain. The stuff you get here is just sugar with coloring and flavoring. I couldn’t wait to get to the showroom to get my hands on licorice [laughs.] I think I got more licorice out of my backlog than he did.
“Open, welcoming and always your friend,” Barton was always keen to show you something and chat, Magnin said. Visitors were never greeted with a sales pitch and a selection of assorted styles from a nearby rack. “He really romanticized his products. If I had to characterize him, I would call him Peter Barton, romantic couturier — with good liquorice.
In addition to his wife, Barton is survived by a daughter, Sophia Bianchi, named after Barton’s mother. With three sons, Bianchi is expecting a fourth child, a daughter in August, the anniversary month of her father’s birth. “Peter found out she was having a baby, so he got to go through it all with her,” Barton’s wife says.
Bianchi later added, “He kept saying he was trying to hold out until August.”