Bonnie Bing

Men's designer Barber says he just likes the 'good stuff'

Scott Barber has his name on all of his clothes, and it's not because he's been to camp. The Scott Barber label has been around since 1994, featuring shirts, slacks, sweaters, knit shirts and jackets that are sold in 450 stores coast to coast.

In Wichita, Gentry Ltd. is one of those stores, so Scott was in town recently for a trunk show.

In my opinion, the best thing about menswear is the fabric. And Scott loves beautiful fabrics. He's particularly well known for his stylish shirts, and some men have a dozen or more of them.

It's not surprising he's a guy who knows men's fashion. "The biggest change I've seen in the business? It would undoubtedly be casual dressing in the workplace," he said.

And he took full advantage of that shift in menswear. His timing was dead on.

As a suit salesman, Barber saw the decline in suit sales and noted that men wanted and needed high-quality clothing that fits the business casual category.

He started his own company ready to fill that niche. "That change is what drove our business," he said. "We had a tailwind. Business casual was all anyone was talking about."

That trend may have been largely responsible for his early success, but now he attributes it to knowing what his customers want.

"I am my customer. I'm 54 and I like good clothes," he said. "Our customer has an Ivy League mentality and wants a comfortable but trim fit."

Looking around the store, it was easy to pick out Scott Barber shirts even though the look is best described as classic.

Scott designs all the prints, which gives his shirts a signature look.

"The fabric is woven exactly to our specifications," he said. "We specify yarn size, weave structure, everything."

The designer, who looks much younger than his 54 years, beams when he talks about his wife and two children.

And this is one family man in the fashion business who is not interested in doing business in New York. "I live in Fort Collins, Colorado. What I do, I can do anywhere. It's a small, independent company," he said.

"My idea was that there was this guy out there with a need for clothes, not a suit, that would look good, feel good and last a long time."

He says he's devoted to independent specialty shops such as Gentry Ltd. "I like coming in and hearing what the customer has to say. I take suggestions very seriously."

When he's not working he skis and sails with his family, but he also loves sports cars, motorcycles and airplanes.

His next project is a Scott Barber watch. "I want to do a watch and not charge $5,000 for it, but more like $500," he said.

"I think this watch thing might be fun. I just like stuff," he said, smiling. "Good stuff."