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“The seasons are over,” announced designer Christopher Bailey backstage after an epic SS16 show featuring Alison Moyet on vocals, a 32-piece orchestra tastefully sheathed in Burberry (black lace for the ladies and black suits for the gents) and a front row that included Benedict Cumberbatch, Sienna Miller and Kate Moss. Oh, and some clothes.
Quite good clothes, in fact. This was a strong collection, big on gold military detail — crested insignias, braiding, gold-trimmed button holes and embroidery — that had been developed with Hand & Lock, the British manufacturer that makes accessories for the Queen’s Horse Guard. Having staged an extravaganza in Los Angeles in April, it was a subtle acknowledgment of Bailey’s continuing relationship with heritage materials and British manufacturing.
The designer’s emphasis on the more trans-seasonal pieces meant a lot of black, and a lot of heavier outerwear: duffles, pea coats and capes. These were paired with lighter, silkier, lacier layers; white cream silk slips and structured gowns in golden macrame. The word here, again, was “ease”: at this point I yearn for a designer to describe their silhouette as rigid and unforgiving.
Arguably the lack of seasonal distinction is largely Bailey’s own doing. He launched a click-to-buy initiative in 2013, whereby clothes could be bought directly from the shows and delivered within weeks. The label’s digital drive (it shared a preview of the entire collection with 100m Snapchat users on Sunday) and its focus on ecommerce has forced the pace of production ever faster.
But there was another interesting shift here. For this collection, with its flat easy footwear, simple knits and nylon monogrammed backpacks, Bailey had borrowed some of the ideas he might more usually do for Brit, Burberry’s more accessible diffusion label (there is also another slightly higher-end brand, London, that focuses on more classic pieces)
By mixing up a more high-low offering at Prorsum (the more directional, expensive Burberry merchandise), one wonders if Bailey is experimenting with a new way of thinking in the industry (as seen at Marc Jacobs last week) that is seeing diffusion brands being slowly assimilated into one. It would be a welcome development: I can’t stand that Marks and Spencer practice of issuing a million micro-labels under stupefyingly unhelpful names.
I know what you really want to know, though. What did Alison Moyet sing? “All Cried Out”, “When I Was Your Girl”, “Whispering Your Name” and “Only You” — she sang the lot in a belted black trench with gold accents. And she was awesome.