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It’s been six months since Burberry first unveiled its new look under the creative direction of Riccardo Tisci. The Italian designer’s debut in September enjoyed a largely enthusiastic critical reception and the show helped reboot the reputation of London fashion, bringing with it a swell of buyers, models and editors who might have otherwise swerved the city. Tagwalk, the online fashion search engine, reported that Burberry was the second most watched show of the entire season and that London Fashion Week enjoyed an 11 per cent boost in web traffic overall.
Tisci’s Burberry has been a boon for business more generally, but what of the brand itself? In its half year results, released in December, Burberry reported results in line with expectations. Yet aside from a few special projects, product drops and early collaborations, the first collection is still to arrive in store. The transition has been a long one, especially considering that Christopher Bailey’s final “ready-to-buy” collection went on sale last spring.
Meanwhile, the shareholders are impatient for growth. Perhaps they should bear in mind that Gucci had to sit out a similar waiting period before Alessandro Michele’s designs hit retail. The Kering’s brand’s growth was quite small to begin with. But, oh, just look at it now.
Can Burberry pull off a similar success? Certainly, Tisci threw absolutely everything at his second show, which united the disparate themes of what he considers quintessential Britishness and delivered looks to suit everyone, from the ladies and gentlemen of the aristocracy to the city bankers and the kids on the street.
The show, called “Tempest”, kicked off with the News at Ten soundtrack and an early Nineties broadcast about the rise of rave culture. And then the dance beats started pumping and the ravers arrived. They wore faux-fur coats, off-the-shoulder corset tops, parkas, puffa duffels, sneakers and tracksuits. They were followed by a series of more “grown up” looks — a beige interlude of deconstructed trenches, embellished car coats, pleated skirts, printed shirts and crystal-strewn pumps. The chapter-style storytelling was much the same as last season, but the product lines were more developed. In particular, the eveningwear had been invested with some fine Tisci touches, as one would hope of a man who is a whizz at haute couture.
Show 106 eclectic looks and you’ll surely find something to suit every taste. Tisci wants Burberry to be a lifestyle brand, and he’s not leaving anyone out. “I have been thinking a lot about England as a country of contrasts,” explained Tisci of his melting pot of influences. “From the structured to the rebellious and free. I wanted to celebrate how these elements coexist.”
So, why chop the collection into chapters? Why not mix it up? Tisci explained: “I know that different people are looking at the collection from different points of view,” he said. “Much of it was a mash-up, and we used the same fabrications, but the brand is broken down into different styles and price points.” He wanted each chapter to speak directly to each group.
I liked it. It had energy and humour, and though it was at times slightly overwhelming, it was spiked, like the soundtrack, with big hits — I especially liked the faux-fur lined duvet quilts with a silk print illustration (a carry-over from the pre-collection), a black duster coat with oversized patch pockets and the tweedy car coat worn with driving gloves. I’m a big fan of Tisci’s more sophisticated leanings. The streetwear leaves me slightly confused. I liked the green duffel coat, and tailored tracksuits, but I’m not persuaded the sneakers are enough to lure that all-important youth demographic quite yet.
In spirit however, the show was a fine one. Tisci, who arrived in London from Italy as a teenage student, remains enamoured of the city as he found it in the early Nineties, at a time he thinks that the culture was more “free”. In some ways he is perhaps stubbornly nostalgic about the liberties enjoyed by Thatcher’s children, but his enthusiasm for that era and his enduring affection for London is infectious. Lord knows, we need some love right now.
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