Barbour International T-Shirts: Nigel Vallis

Last up in our Barbour International T-Shirts series we caught up with Nigel Vallis, to discover more about his motorcycle-inspired designs for our AW17 collection and how you can join Nigel as a Barbour International t-shirt designer...

September 14th 2017
This Autumn/Winter 17 we’ll be introducing you to the three artists behind our Barbour International T-shirt capsule collection, finding out what influences their graphic style and the ideas behind the final designs.
Lastly we met up with Nigel Vallis to discuss how his love of biking is demonstrated in his Barbour International T-Shirt designs and what other exciting projects he is working on. Find out what Nigel had to say…
You are an avid biker, how has that passion resonated into your work as a designer?
I love Motorcycle culture, I always have. From being a kid growing up near Mallory Park in the Midlands and being surrounded by an engineering family and bike manufacturers I was fascinated by motorbikes, road bikes and racing bikes.
Later on, I would go to race weekends and that’s when I was inspired by the advertising and graphics around bike culture. I love the simple approach to the garage signs, workshop manuals, film posters and tank badges. One or two colour prints and hand-drawn signs that could always be read from a distance, it is a no nonsense, direct, fit for purpose approach.
In particular, how did your love of biking manifest itself into the graphics on the t-shirts for the AW17 Barbour International T-Shirts collection?
I think the fact I like vintage bikes and brands and their simple approach has shaped my graphics. I’ve also loved working with the Barbour International archive, they’ve got such a rich history in making clothing for Trials riders so there’s tons to work with. I think by putting a new spin on the archive images you can create something great.
Taking inspiration and knowing the bike culture over the years, the kind of t-shirts that bikers want to wear and by designing tees you’d want to wear yourself means the collection will celebrate Barbour International’s heritage whilst staying true to Duncan Barbour’s vision of the brand.
Nigel wore his design B.Intl Cruise T-Shirt.
Tell us more about you and your work – you are in a band as well as being a designer – is that correct?
I’m now based in North Nottingham but work wherever the brief takes me. Works really exiting, I'm lucky that I’m doing something I really love and projects come along that are just great.
A while back I worked on a Barbour, Triumph and Down n’ Out Cafe Racers collaboration, customising a Thruxton R, it was great. From initially designing the branding, labelling and the t-shirt prints with the Menswear team at Barbour through to the way the bike looked. It looked old school, with modern rideability. I work on branding and packaging as well as photography and film making, as it’s important to me to be able to produce good stuff in different mediums.
I’ve been in bands for years, I love bands and records, there’s always an album on in the studio. I started playing the drums at 7 and I’m currently the drummer in a Neil Young and Crazy Horse tribute band, The Welfare Mothers, it’s so much fun. Some fellas play darts or golf, we make a racket! 
What motorbike do you currently ride and what bikes have you had in the past?
Day-to-day I ride a Mongrel, it was built by my mates at Mutt Motorcycles in Birmingham. For all of my banging on about vintage, sometimes it’s great to ride something you know is going to start in the cold and rain first time and get you to where you need to be in style!
A mate and I have just finished restoring a 1959 Thunderbird. We’ve also acquired over the last year-or-so a Bantam, an IHZ Russian Motorbike and side-car and a Triumph Tigress. All projects, all boxes of bits that’ll keep us occupied in the workshop for years to come I expect! 
What was the last great motorbike ride you went on and what was your most memorable ride and why?
We recently took the Thunderbird to the Malle Mile, now that was a great weekend. We entered it into the hill climb and the sprint.
It’s a real social thing, meeting up with old mates, racing and watching every kind of motorbike, (vintage and custom built) being raced flat-out off-road. And when yours pretty much stays together that’s a great feeling, that’s what it’s about for me.
Are you working on any personal design projects at the moment that our readers would find exciting?
The next project on the bench is the 1967 Russian Motorbike and sidecar. We’ve decided to convert it into a right hand drive so we can ride it. It’s a case of remaking the sidecar frame and then with a bit more welding we should be well on the way. The side car has a real Russian space programmer look about it, so I'm thinking 60’s space!
What is your design process when working on a brief such as the one from Barbour International?
I think it starts with looking at the brand, their heritage and putting ideas together that celebrate their approach to apparel. It’s really important to create newness to move things on but also to create stuff that sits well with the brands history.
I think knowing the end consumer is important too or knowing who you want to target. I then work on a theme or story that holds together the designs and put down loads of ideas - be free with ideas, they are key as the simplest can be real winners. 
As you know we are giving our social followers the chance to design the graphics for a t-shirt that will be available exclusively in House of Fraser – what are your top tips for designing a motorcycle inspired t-shirt print?
It’s about celebrating a great brand, Barbour International are the real deal so you need to create something that tells everyone who sees your print that! Simplicity for me is the way to go because the bike culture isn't about being flashy. Be free and create something you’d be proud to wear to a bike meet or race day, when its old, battered, faded and thread bare you’d still want to put it on!
Find ou more about the competition here and shop the T-shirts.