Who made the cut (and who didn’t) was the buzz of London Fashion Week, not only because Monday night, 17th September, saw the unveiling of a new vision at this revered British brand founded in 1856, but also because in the past, Burberry has staged huge shows.
This season, the location (an old mail-sorting facility, south of the River Thames) stayed a closely guarded secret until the invitations were couriered across London. All anyone had heard was: “The guest list has been culled”. Many of those usually invited wondered if they would get in this time. Talk about Fashion Fear.
Who scored a seat? Fashion’s powerhouses: influencers, editors and store buyers, this putting the emphasis, deliberately, on those looking at the clothes, as opposed to those preening in the front row. Why was this particularly surprising? Because the new creative director is Riccardo Tisci who, in his old job at Givenchy in Paris, was particularly associated with a Kardashian klieg-light level of celebrity. Yet here he was, asking us to turn all eyes on the rigour of silhouette instead. The strong message: the time has come to turn the focus back to a more rarified luxury. Though it must be said clearly - Kendall Jenner was on the runway, along with supermodel Natalia Vodianova.
What everyone present at the show was hoping for was a cleansing of the palate. Burberry had become a bit “busy” of late. That there would be a renewed emphasis on the sleek and chic was demonstrated, as the show began and roof lights opened, letting in the light of a particularly beautiful London autumn afternoon, while also, metaphorically, signalling a new dawn. Curtains and wooden panels slid and moved all over the vast arena, turning it into a series of intimate areas where everyone felt they were in the best seats in town. A mention must go to the seats themselves; beige-on-beige armchairs and padded benches (in the past, those seated behind the front row have been braced on tiny fold-out camping stools). Overall, the atmosphere spelled “refinement” even before we saw a single outfit.
The music started as a beat, beat, beat, almost like the human heart, as anticipation mounted. First out were 17 shades of beige, in a sophisticated offering of daywear centering round the hallmark trench coat. Tailored jackets were precise and grown- up, yet teamed with fluted floaty skirts, which fell to the knee and were topped with seductive silk blouses. This style note was further emphasised in the models’ hair, which was pulled back tight and wrapped in Burberry scarf “buns”; a look far more traditionally Parisian-chic than London. What the show seemed to underline was the power of combining slick European sophistication with British cutting-edge creativity and heritage. But then, the designer is an Italian, who has long worked in France and is now discovering England, after all.
Accessories included a lanyard holding a British passport, a bitter-sweet nod perhaps to what lies ahead as Britain becomes an isolated island post-Brexit, when we may need to keep our ID papers closer at hand. But otherwise, the look was robustly international.
The famous Burberry check? Here, Tisci had to balance things carefully, given that the former creative director Christopher Bailey - who was much-loved - waved goodbye last season, with a hymn to inclusivity, by reimagining the classic beige, black, white and red check in a rainbow colour palette. Tisci paired things back again in a much more muted manner, choosing to showcase the check only on the most distinctly lady-like shapes; a slither of a silk blouse tied at the neck in a floaty bow, a coat, worn shrugged over the shoulders.
He saved his playfulness for the new interlocking B Burberry logo. For Tisci is also a king of streetwear. It is he who, in his past, pioneered the sweatshirt as a status piece. His first Burberry show mixed both women’s and menswear and it was with the latter that he put emphasis on the edgier street pieces; their lettering and patch pocket detailing seeming to riff knowingly on the lions of contemporary art. Tisci is also fashion’s most famous goth. His is a dark, subversive vibe and half-way through the Burberry show, out came the moth-dark pieces, almost as if he were saying, “I can do what you want if I can also do what I want”
What to want?
Try on the new super-high Burberry pumps in punched croc-effect, or throw on the new trench, which comes paired back to its essence, or heavily adorned with golden rings. For men, no question that the “hurry and buy” is the umbrella + cycle lock waist belt; surely the most sensible luxury accessory in a while.
Where to buy?
The Regent Street store is worth (re)visiting. It is the Burberry mothership, yet it too has been honed down and cleansed so that only the absolute lead pieces are in stock; the ultimate Burberry shoe, the ultimate checked shirt, the ultimate trench.
As for the bag, for women, Tisci offered little purses worn on belts around the waist (it would be vulgar to describe them as “bum bags”). However if you can’t fit all your necessaries in one of those, there’s a backpack option, (not shown on the runway but available in store) which is shaped like either a furry, huggable bunny or a bear.
But look carefully. Both Tisci’s bear and bunny bags come complete with claws. His take on Burberry? It’s elegance - with bite.