Dame Margaret Barbour

Chairman, J. Barbour and Sons

Dame Margaret Barbour
[Image: Flickr user Luca Boldrini]]

For growing while staying rooted.


The Company

The 120-year-old British outerwear brand has recently seen record profits thanks to a canny expansion into fashion via collaborations with Adidas and Pantone, plus young designers including Christopher Raeburn.


“To become the best British lifestyle brand.”

Personal History

“I was 28, with a little girl of 2, when John [her husband and then head of Barbour] died, and I was left with a majority shareholding. I set about learning everything, including how to make a jacket.”

Dame Margaret Barbour

Big Challenge

“Fashion. We can’t stray too far from our heritage.”

Big Advantage

“Being a small company, we can move and change quickly. We’ve also been careful and live a fairly modest life.”


Best Marketing Tool

“Our photography. We recently photographed a girl in a ball gown, and she was wearing a Burghley, a long coat. It was shot in Cambridge–there’s a historical purpose to it.”

One Secret to Innovating with Heritage

“Move very, very carefully, and never so far from the heritage that people don’t recognize the brand.”

Strategic Decision

“We’ve started making different shapes. The Chinese and Japanese–their figures are not like ours!”

Why Heritage is Important to Us Today

“Especially when you’ve been through a recession, people tend to buy what they know is value for money and will last. Cheap things may appeal to a teenager, but they’re rubbish.”

About the author

Jeff Chu writes on international affairs, social issues, and design for Fast Company. His first book, Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian's Pilgrimage in Search of God in America, was published by HarperCollins in April 2013.