The retail authority: Anita Barr

From premium department stores to Portobello Markets, this Brit buyer knows good design

Time Out

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While most of us just dream about it, Anita Barr is living the fashion fantasy. In her role as Harvey Nichols Group Fashion Buying Director, the Britain-born decision maker works with design’s leading heavyweights, but she’s not above launching new designers and supporting emerging design at London’s famously cutting-edge department store. We caught the working mum in a moment’s break from her judging duties at the International Woolmark Prize British Isles awards to talk natural fabrics, fate and first-thing-in-the-morning cuddles.

Shop talk

What set you on your current career path? And what do you love about your job?

Anita Barr

I have been working in retail now for over twenty years. My career started out at Harrods where I had the opportunity to work my way up from a sales associate to a buyer. I then spent thirteen years at Selfridges throughout its most transformative years before securing my dream job as the Global Fashion Director for Harvey Nichols. I love every aspect of my job from presenting new retail concepts to launching new designers and watching them evolve.

Where do you live and what do you love about it?

I was born and raised in East London, but now live in North London with my family. The city has so much to offer; we love catching up with friends over brunch at Kenwood House, but if I’m looking for a bit of me time, I head to Portobello Market for a wander around the stalls.

What does your daily uniform consist of?

My look is quite androgynous. I wear mostly black, white, grey and khaki. If I wear colour it will be a blush pink or a soft blue, nothing too bright. I don’t tend to wear much print or pieces that are too girlie or overtly feminine. My favourite brands include Rick Owens, Haider Ackermann and The Row. I love pieces that have a point of view.

What does a garment need to be in order to make it into your wardrobe?

I don’t own anything that is made using synthetics. I only buy items that are made from natural fibres and materials.

Aside from fashion, what do you collect, and why?

Being a minimalist I don’t have a passion for collecting memorabilia as such, however I love collecting books. It’s something that the whole family enjoys; we collect literature across every genre and the kids love reading. We’ve built quite a library now.

Reality aside, what is the app you would design to help you out in everyday life?

I need an app to deal with reality! It’s a struggle to get the perfect balance between home life and work. If there was an app that could magically find the perfect combination and balance I would download it immediately.    

What is the daily ritual you can’t do without?

Morning cuddles with Farrah, our youngest. She has a way of finding her way into our bed in the middle of the night. 

Where are you escaping for summer holidays?

This year we are going to one of the Greek islands.

If you weren’t working as a buying director, what would you be doing?

I think it was my destiny to always be in fashion in one form or another. 

Anita on fashion and art

“Having just seen the cruise collections for SS16, it’s inspiring to see how designers reinterpret iconic artwork and draw on that inspiration to create timeless pieces. J.W. Anderson looked to Ben Nicholson, while at Paris couture week, Viktor & Rolf literally sent a model down the run way in a framed dress. There is a fabulous exhibition on at the moment in the Bower Museum called YSL Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal that echoes this trend. I love how intertwined art and fashion is.”

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