For some people, clothing is something they wear and discard with not much thought put into it. Yet for many, clothes have their own language that they communicate in fabrics and textures, in color, design and in the craftsmanship of a well-cut piece. For those people, clothes are an art form, a way to express their uniqueness, personality and style with pride and attention.
Sharam Sharei, founder and president of the high-end stores Barcelino, falls in the category of people who see clothing as art. This is evident in the quality of the materials he chooses for his Italian suits, and in the way they are tailored and prepared, following the strict guidelines of high-fashion design couturiers.
The founder of Barcelino started his professional trajectory out of his love for fashion and style. He majored in economics and received an MBA from the University of California in the early ’70s. Instead going back to his native Iran for a government job, as he was supposed to do, he decided to pursue his love for fashion. He took a course in merchandising at New York University and design and color classes at Manchester School of Design in England. He opened his first store on Union Street in San Francisco in 1972 and has been growing ever since.
Barcelino prides itself on the quality and exclusivity of its designs. “We want to make sure our clients know, when they shop at Barcelino, they buy exclusive merchandise,” Sharei says, “unlike designer labels that are present in almost every high-end store.” The company invests in the quality of its clothes, not in labels that add no value to a clothing item. “The client is paying anywhere from 30 to 50 percent higher price just for the designer label,” he says.
Barcelino has been offering exclusive designs for more than 30 years, and its philosophy of quality and craftsmanship has remained consistent.
When you buy something at Barcelino, you know you are not going to see 10 other people wearing the same garment. Seventy percent of the menswear sold at Barcelino is designed in-house and produced in Europe, mainly in Italy. “You will not find our clothes at Neiman Marcus or Macy’s,” Sharei says. “We only offer our designs at our Barcelino stores.”
The fashion industry has changed dramatically since Sharam Sharei opened his first store. A trend toward casual clothing has taken root. “Look at Mark Zuckerberg,” Sharei says. “On the day Facebook went public and he became the world’s youngest multibillionaire, he wasn’t wearing a tie, let alone a jacket.”
There is still a place for well-tailored clothing, however. The difference in Barcelino stores is that, although they follow fashion, they do not follow trends.
“We are not a trendy operation,” Sharei readily admits. “We present a contemporary image that is acceptable internationally, whether you’re in San Francisco, Tokyo or London. All in good taste – that is the concept of the Barcelino brand.”
‘A Custom House’
Another change the industry has sustained is the explosion of e-commerce. Although the store has a sophisticated website to showcase its products, customers still have to shop the old-fashioned way by going into a brick-and-mortar location. “We are a custom house,” Sharei explains. “The customer has to touch, feel and try the garment.”
Finding the right fit cannot be done via the Internet; it can only be achieved by trying on the clothes. “When you are in our stores,” he says, “you might try three different garments in the same size and only one might fit – perfectly.” To guarantee immaculate fitting, Barcelino carries some suites in up to 16 different sizes; there is definitely not a one-size-fits-all mentality at this high-end retailer.