Slim Barrett is an internationally recognised artist and jeweller, winner of the Martini Rossi Excellence in Design Award,and De Beers Diamonds International Award. Acclaimed as a design leader, his work is in the permanent collections of Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Ulster Museum, Belfast and the National Museum in Australia.
His jewellery has been exhibited worldwide in museums such as Le Pompidou in Paris and the Museum of Modern Art, Japan, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Royal Festival Hall in London.
Many designers and fashion houses such as Chanel, John Galliano, Versace, Dior, Vivienne Westwood, Karl Lagerfeld, Liam Hodges, Ungaro, Rifat Ozbek, Katherine Hamnett, Richard Tyler and Montana have commissioned his jewellery. Barrett’s diamond jewellery was selected for the prestigious ‘Diamond Divas’ exhibition, starring magnificent jewels of royalty, the rich and famous, and Hollywood stars, at the Province of Antwerp’s Diamond Museum.
His high profile roster of clients includes many famous names, such as Beyonce, Victoria Beckham, Lady Gaga, Cara Delevingne, Bobby Gillespie and Colin Farrell. Slim Barrett jewellery regularly features in leading international fashion magazine editorials such as Vogue, Love, V magazine, Interview, Numero and Harper’s Bazaar. His statement pieces are continually seen in major advertising campaigns, including Disney, Harvey Nichols, Moet & Chandon, Lavazza, Levis, Morgan's Rum, Walker's, Universal, Pirelli, Virgin, Cannon and Rimmel. Movie commissions for jewellery include ‘Young Victoria’, which won an Oscar for costume.
Alongside his jewellery, Barrett undertakes consultation work and commissions for three-dimensional artwork. Clients include the Kuwaiti royal family, Ascot, Levis, Elle Style Awards and Phillips. He was appointed research fellow at London University of the Arts to undertake the design and production of advanced prototypes for a nanoscience project. Numerous worldwide exhibitions have focused on Barrett’s objects; these include the Museum of Modern Art in Japan, Le Centre Pompidou in Paris, Salon de Mobile in Italy, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Royal Festival Hall in London.
Slim Barrett was born in Co Galway, Ireland. He moved to London in 1982 having studied Fine Art at GMIT where he undertook four art foundation courses that were focused upon Bauhaus principles. During this time he would experiment with materials and create a constructive framework upon which work would be undertaken.
Barrett was a pioneer of the deconstruction aesthetic of the 1980’s in London. His early pieces were all hand-made; taking new sheets of metal, he would deform, burnish and embellish it with texture, creating a unique metal surface that he would often combine with salvaged materials including old clocks, bullet shells, and – most famously – he created brass chainmail which he used to make body armour, and as drapery for his objects. Alongside these couture pieces, Barrett was creating minimalist collections made from hand blown glass.
In 1983 a chance meeting in a café in Camden proved pivotal. That day, Barrett’s girlfriend was wearing his glass jewellery when it attracted the attention of a businesswoman who introduced him to a couturier to Diana, Princess of Wales. The princess loved his work and in turn he was introduced to Bruce Oldfield, the fashion designer who commissioned a collection that attracted buyers leading department stores, such as Harrods and Harvey Nichols.
During this time he shared a studio with Jimmy Choo, the shoe designer, and Judy Blame, the uber-stylist and accessory designer, within the former Metropolitan Free Hospital building in Dalston, east London. It was while he was in Dalston that Vivienne Westwood commissioned Barrett to design the Sovereign’s Orb pendants which he produced in 3D and low relief. Fashion designer, Antony Price commissioned a collection of baroque crowns and tiaras for his catwalk show, which were later purchased by the Victoria and Albert Museum for their permanent collections, and overnight Barrett became the acknowledged ‘king of crowns’.
In 1989, Barrett moved to Camden, where he opened an art gallery, exhibiting artists including Grayson Perry, Duggie Fields and Andrew Logan alongside his jewellery and objet. Throughout the 1990’s Barrett’s work was much sought after internationally. As his business grew so too did the use of new materials; precious metals, gemstones and diamonds, which brought him much attention when he was awarded the De Beers Diamonds International Award for excellence in the design of fine diamond jewellery. A diamond tiara designed by Barrett entered the Guinness Book of World Records 2000.
Across the years Barrett has quietly developed his aesthetic without hesitation or compromise, forming an extensive and continuous body of work. He continues to create limited edition pieces of idiosyncratic individuality that are now highly prized and collected.
“Taking in the scope and beauty of Slim Barrett’s archive catalogue is like wandering into a medieval- fantasy couture world built around precise architectural lines. In his Clerkenwell studio, the Irish born jewellery legend works on fearless metalwork that reveals his background in fine art and sculpture.”
Dazed & Confused
“There was a wonderful roughness and rawness to Slim’s early jewellery, perhaps the product of his great energy and his determination to master whatever techniques he needed to create a particular effect. He forged his own way regardless of current trends, following his own whim and artistic yearnings. The iconography and themes were familiar but his style – slightly surreal slightly punk – was distinctly his. Working largely in copper and brass, he incorporated found objects, experimented with molten silver, and set glowing cabochon pastes to create pools of colour. There was something about the hand-drawn lines and rough-hewn forms that perhaps particularly appealed to those stranded in the urban environment of central London, perhaps a glimpsing of wildness, romance and legend. Many of the forms and motifs still current in his work originated then: as has been commented on before he is not a jeweller who produces for a single season, but develops his ideas along a continuing path. It all makes for a distinct and recognisable body of work, spanning three highly successful decades and now as familiarly evoked in gold and diamonds as in the silvered copper of his early days.”
Claire Phillips – Curator 20th Century Jewellery – Victoria & Albert Museum
“You may or may not have heard of Slim Barrett, but you’ll have certainly seen his work. The man behind Victoria Beckham’s miniature wedding crown, Diana’s famous jewels and numerous notable collaborations with Chanel, Versace and Galliano (to mention a few), usually prefers to keep a low profile. Fine artist and master metalworker Slim Barrett is one of the most established and acclaimed jewellery artists in fashion, having frequently been published in almost every major fashion magazine since the eighties and working with a high-profile roster of clients on a regular basis.”
“...Slim Barrett, the jewelry designer whose fame has spread by word of mouth as far as Hollywood, started the tiara craze.”
Suzy Menkes, International Herald Tribune
“These days Barrett’s anti-nostalgic attitude is in demand. …All this attention is long overdue...”
“Slim Barrett burst onto the British jewellery scene 30 years ago with large, sculptural work made from unorthodox materials. Bronze, copper, oxidised silver and blown glass were fashioned into assured pieces with a startling punk aesthetic.”
“ Slim Barrett is certainly extraordinary and refreshingly full of artistic integrity in a world which is, after all, an industry. His work is exotic but it is not always extreme. It is certainly very wearable and comfortable. There are many things that you might like to give a friend or a teenager, but mostly you want to keep everything for yourself.”
The London Illustrator News
“ Much of his work maybe avant-garde but never uncomfortably so. His pieces would look at home in most settings; his jewellery is comfortable to wear. This may read like a lot of contradictions, but it all gels together to make Slim and what he does rather unique.”
The Irish Sunday Times
“ The easiest way to place Slim Barrett in fashion history and he already has his own niche - is to say he began the chain mail & tiara revival years ago. However, most fashion writers will not leave it at that and he has been lauded for his genius and even compared to Yeats “ in a time warp.” I would describe his fertile imagination and versatility as being closer to Cocteau, but I don’t want to embarrass him.”
“The Irish jewellery designer Slim Barrett is the only British winner in the Year 2000 Diamonds-International Awards. Barrett’s prize-winning design was “Cascade”, a chainmail-necklace of 336 diamonds that can fold up into the palm of one hand, valued at £500,000.”