The Quietly Luxurious Brand Inspired by the History and Culture of Venice

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Barena SS20 Spring Summer 2020 Italy Venice Francesca Zara
Barena Spring/Summer 2020Photography by Alice Neale

Born from the Venetian lagoons, Barena is the minimal Italian brand you need to know about

  1. Who is it? Founded in the 60s, Barena is an Italian label based in Venice
  2. Why do I want it? Quietly luxurious clothing inspired by the history and culture of its home city
  3. Where can I find it? Barena is available at the brand’s website.

Who is it? For those unfamiliar with the brand, Barena is an Italian label hailing from La Serenissima: the floating city of Venice. Founded in 1961 by Sandro Zara, Barena draws on both Venice’s history and culture. Proposing simply designed wardrobe essentials, the brand is marked by the luxurious fabrics it employs in its collections – again nodding to Venice, which has been an important Italian centre of high-quality fabric production, specifically velvet, since the mid-15th century.

Today, the label’s womenswear collections are helmed by Zara’s daughter, Francesca, who describes Barena as being “part of my spirit and a central part of my family’s culture”. While she’s a part of her family business now, this wasn’t always the case: after reading literature at university, Zara moved to New York and then Copenhagen, working as a textile designer and a consultant for various local architecture firms.

In 2007 though, Zara (junior) decided to return home, joining the Barena atelier and designing her first suits – which is how the brand’s first women’s collection came to be. Fast forward 12 years, and we arrive at the label’s Spring/Summer 2020 collection – previewed here, exclusively on, in line with Milan Fashion Week.

Why do I want it? For this collection, Zara chose to delve once again into the rich history and culture of Venice, as well as the region’s outstanding natural beauty. “Much of the inspiration can be traced back to the Venetian lagoons,” she says. “From the tides to the colour of the water we are surrounded by awe-inspiring nature and culture here in Venice and this always finds its way into our designs. The Barena woman is strong and confident, she is understated and chic; the collection reflects this.”

Led by the tropes of men’s tailoring but not masculine, the clothes are simply and elegantly cut, rendered in muted tones such as sky blue, light cream and rich terracotta. And while it’s not “masculine”, there is a real sense of strength to the collection, which is precisely what Zara strived for. There is a quiet luxury to the clothes too; the result of what Zara refers to as fatto bene (which means well-made in Italian).

When it came to shooting the collection, it seemed only natural to capture it in the place that inspired it. Teaming up with emerging photographer Alice Neale, who is based in London, they headed to Burano, Torcello, photographing the clothes in and around the Venetian lagoons. “Sometimes we forget the beauty of the places where we are from, familiarity can numb us to the beauty we once cherished,” says Zara. “In this shoot we gave these places a new lease of life and recaptured their endearing charm.”