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  • Writer's pictureMikelle Drew

28 Days of Black Fashion History: Scott Barrie

One of the first black designers to make his mark in American fashion, Scott Barrie, with his innovative style of draping, was known for designing sexy, often risqué jersey and chiffon dresses.

He began his formal design career in 1966 after attending the Philadelphia Museum College of Art and the Mayer School in New York. However, as a child he knew he wanted to be a designer. Born Nelson Clyde Barr in Apalachicola, Florida, Barrie began making clothes on his grandmother’s sewing machine when he was 10. “I practically grew up under that machine, pedaling the thing for her.”

His design business began in his New York apartment with a makeshift cutting table and sewing machine. But once larger stores like Henri Bendel and Bloomingdale’s began placing orders, he moved into a workroom on 7th avenue and the Barrie Sport label was formed. Throughout the 70s, he established a devoted young clientele who loved his modern and inventive use of jersey. He would also design fur, loungewear, accessories and dabble in costume design as well, creating clothing for film and the Joffrey Ballet.

A chiffon tunic designed by Scott Barrie. Ebony, 1969.

Beverly Johnson in Scott Barrie, photographed by Francesco Scavullo, 1974.

Beverly Johnson in Scott Barrie, photographed by Francesco Scavullo, 1974.

In the early 1980s, Barrie shuttered his label and took on design positions at other companies. He would later move to Alessandria, Italy to work for the Italian design house Krizia and Japanese firm Kinshido.

Barriesport nightgown, photographed by Neal Barr for Harper’s Bazaar.

Though Barrie died of brain cancer in 1993, his contributions to American fashion are not forgotten.

Once they were acknowledged, and recognized, they had a moment and ran with it, like they were running for the Olympic gold medals. I think that once they had opportunities to be on a stage, they took advantage and they quietly revolutionized fashion. — Andre Leon Talley, speaking of designers Stephen Burrows and Scott Barrie to the Observer
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